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I'm a writer and library worker who wears many hats. I believe a good book and a good piece of chocolate are the keys to a happy life.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a Match: The Publishing Dating Game

Forgive me the twisted cliché, but: Life is a metaphor for Writing.
Ok, not all that original, and slightly over used, but hear me out anyway. In this instance it has to do with dating and getting published.
Being human, most of us will go through different stages of dating in our life time. I’ve identified three basic themes.
1. Commitment Free: These are the people who are just out to have fun. They are very social people, with great aspirations toward pleasure in all that they do. They go out with as many different people as they can, as often as they can, and still think blind dates are interesting.
2. Partial Commitment: These individuals have grown out of the impulse to constantly change companions. They have grown a little weary of the nightlife, but still like to have fun. They’ve learned a few things about themselves and what they like in others. They seek out someone they think is a good match, present their case no holds barred. They feel no real commitment to any specific person but try to be true to themselves. These individuals feel comfortable saying, “this is who I am- take it or leave it”.
3. Full Commitment: Eventually, something awakens inside each of us which whispers: “I want a life partner”. We want to find someone who appreciates us, someone who compliments us, but also someone we can admire and depend on. When we reach this point we begin to realize that it’s not always about take it or leave it. Our own happiness somehow becomes wrapped up in someone else’s happiness as well. Sometimes that means more give than take, but we think it’s worth it.
Now, what does this have to do with getting published?
There are three general types of writers.
1. Commitment Free: These are the writers who like to gamble. They love to write and relish the game. Mostly, it’s about the excitement of the chase, putting ideas on paper, flirting with thoughts, and teasing different markets- tempting published words into their bed. These writers work on the quantity theory. They submit profusely, without discrimination, under the assumption that eventually someone will bite. It’s time consuming and perilous, but some of us like to live on the edge.
2. Partial Commitment: These writers take their work a little more seriously. They have found their niche. They know themselves well enough to know what piques their interest, what most pleases them in their craft. They research markets to find a fit for what they want to write. They may have a few favorites, which they would like to write for, when the right muse hits. They are very focused on staying true to their words, their style and thoughts. They submit moderately and comfortably say, “take it or leave it”.
3. Full Commitment: These writers understand that publishers need to be courted. They are looking for lasting, and mutually beneficial relationships. These writers look at a market and frequently ask: “What can I offer them”, rather than “What will they pay me for my efforts?” It doesn’t necessarily mean being untrue to your inner voice and vision. It does mean looking beyond yourself: taking someone else’s needs into account, helping them be happy and feeling good about yourself as well. It means finding connections that stretch you, that touch parts of you that may have been previously undiscovered. It’s about appreciating what a certain market is trying to accomplish, and wanting to be a part of their vision.
My own writing career has vacillated between partial and full commitment. However, a few months ago, I was hit with a revelation. While going through my contracts and rejections files, I began to notice a trend.
I am more productive and more creative when I put the publisher first.
When I offer a full commitment to the other party, over my own ideas, I am published more often and more satisfied with my work.
Here’s what sometimes happens.
I am struck with a great idea. I spend several hours hunting down an appropriate market for it and determining the angle that will cater to their needs. This results in two hours of research, an hour drafting the query, and a six week to eight week wait for a 50% acceptance rate. When the rejection comes I start the research process all over again and a depressing cycle begins.
Here’s the second case scenario.
I receive my latest market update, or take a trip to the library or bookstore. My eyes fall on a new title that intrigues me. I spend an hour reading the magazine or studying their website, mission and reach. In that same hour I have come up with three or four ideas, which specifically fit that magazine’s needs. It takes another hour to choose one and work up the query. Then it’s usually a four week wait and a 75% acceptance rate.
There are additional bonuses. Once the first article is accepted, the publication knows they can trust me to produce material that they need, and I have a greater desire to make them happy. I also have two or three other ideas already on the back burner that they would appreciate. It builds a lasting partnership.
The analogy is that simple.
To be as productive and satisfied with your writing self as possible, it takes full commitment.
Give it a try! Find a new market which appeals to your inner creativity. Study that market specifically, and then find your idea and submit. It’s taking “know your market” to the next level.
It saves time.
It’s more satisfying.
It puts more money in your pocket.

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