During a fiction-writing class I once took, the teacher advised me to get my name out there before even thinking about submitting a book for publication. Getting my name out there meant, of course, getting my work published in literary journals.
I’m taking her advice. My current goal is publishing ten short stories before I think seriously about polishing and submitting one of the various novels languishing on my hard drive. Why should I put in so much effort, and wait so long, though? Well, here’s what my teacher said, and a bit of my own thoughts on the matter.
- Agents and publishers would be more likely to be willing to deal with you if they knew that other publishers have dealt with you before. They assume that if their colleagues have put up with you long enough to publish you, then you must be professional and easy to work with. When you’re just starting out, you definitely want publishers to think that you are those things. Your actual self-presentation will have to do most of the work here, but being able to say, “hey, these dudes think I’m cool too” won’t hurt your case.
- Not only will previously published work make you look mature and awesome, it will also make your writing look worth reading. If a publisher, who gets hundreds of submissions a day, gets a random submission from someone who’s never been published before, she has to actually read the thing to know if it’s good or not. Which she might not do. If you’ve been published, that means someone liked you enough to publish you, which means you are worth her valuable time.
- It gives you more time to get experience and improve your work. If you’re a beginner, that novel of yours probably needs more work, anyway. Even if you think it’s perfect right now, time and experience will show you how to make it more than perfect.
- Your stories are definitely, definitely going to be rejected, but if you’re paying attention to who rejects you and who accepts you, you’ll get a good sense of where your work belongs. The more you know, the better chance you have of getting something big published, like a book.
Being a beginner myself, I have no idea if this actually works, but hey, it looks good on paper. So far, I’ve got three stories out, and once I hit ten, I’m going to start trying to find a publisher for one of my various novels. And also editing those novels. Because that’s important, too.