Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Are writers addicted?

Addiction is never a good thing. People can fall prey to alcohol and drug addictions, gaming, gambling, food, and even social media. When you consume your choice of addictive substance your brain rewards you with a squirt of happy. If you want more happy squirts you must consume more of the addictive substance which provides it. And as time passes more substance is required to achieve those squirts. The cycle can be all consuming, and hard, and often painful, to exit from. I'm not speaking from personal experience. Well, okay maybe a little with social media. But actually ....

... is it possible to become addicted to response from publishers? Yeses to a submission produce a huge surge of elation. And every subsequent interaction around your soon to be publication also gives you a little happy squirt. And then it's reviews and reactions and mentions in the media. More squirts. Even rejections, while giving you a squirt of misery also take on a compulsive aspect. There is something satisfying about ripping off the band-aid. Folk joke about the constant refreshing of their inbox as they wait for replies from the agents and/or publishers they've submitted to.  While we wait and refresh, we obsess about what is happening in the publisher's or agent's office. Have they even read what we sent them? Is it going to committee? Why is it taking so long? I have to keep throwing my hat in the ring to keep my chances of publication alive. I have to keep published to stay relevant. These things are bad enough without having the need for a fix thrown in. If writing is our sole occupation, our main distractions are talking about our work with others, either students or colleagues, or working on more stories to submit. The cycle is endless. And suddenly that 100 rejections thing might not be such a good idea after all. It'll feed that addiction. And while some addictions are definitely worse than others, no addiction is ever a good thing.

Are we addicted to replies from publishers/agents? And if we are how do we stay in the business and not get caught up in the addictive cycle of needing the reply. Of that need for a fix. In an industry where they come few and far between.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The submission ambition that works best for you ...

Did my first gig of the year Thursday last week. Reading to children at an Auckland Libraries, 'Dare to Explore' event, at Three Kings. And what an excellent way to kick things off. It was a warm sunny day. The children were in to it. I was into it. And books were at the heart of it all. Bliss!! :)

I have done no writing over the holiday break. This wasn't the plan but I ended up having a couple of unexpected trips out of Auckland to hang out with family and crikey, where did the time go? Some things are still in limbo too with the Christmas close down and I don't have the heart to move on until I know what's what. Aaand I've been doing a lot of reading (for a variety of reasons, some of which aren't self imposed and can't be put off) and as much as it is crucial to read when you are a writer, it has eaten in to my writing time. It's all grist to the mill though, and when some of the 'reading projects' are over in the next month or two I should be able to slip back into my usual routine. I hope so. I always feel a little lost when I'm not writing. Although I don't think being a little lost is always necessarily a bad thing. It's good to be hungry to write...

I have been thinking more about the 100 rejections thing. Towards the end of last year I lowered my sights to a more manageable 50 rejections but I'm thinking that even this is going to be a bit of a challenge for 2019. Which publishers, what residencies and other opportunities can I apply to this year? Unless I have new material I can't resend things to the same folk who've already seen that ms. Unless I have new projects ready to go I can't apply for this years residencies. But if I'm so busy applying and submitting when do I find time to write? And what is realistic to apply for? New Zealand is a small place. How far afield can I reasonably send/apply for things? Ergo, there is a limit to the list. So I may need to revise things down again. On the flip side I think keeping at this takes an emotional toll as well. How much time can you spend researching possibilities, crafting appropriate submissions, get your hopes up, wait impatiently longer than you thought you would have to and then receive the rejection (or as is the case so often these days, pass the deadline when they say they will respond by if they are interested, and wonder for ages afterwards how hard and fast that deadline is) and by crikey it isn't healthy. The benefit, of course, is meant to be that the more you submit/apply the more chances you have of a yes. But there is a cost, and I think its exponential rather than incremental and should not be overlooked. There needs to be a balance, so it might take a while to find out the submission ambition that works best for you. Look after yourselves people.

I have also been thinking on the perennial question about multiple submissions. Should you submit your ms to more than one publisher at a time? In a world where writers submit to agents first (not so much New Zealand although there is a whiff that we are heading more and more in this direction) this isn't an issue. I think in general agents accept you will be approaching more than one agent at a time. But in the distant past it was deemed the polite thing to send your ms to one publisher at a time. They were investing their time, expertise and effort in considering your manuscript. If others were also looking and saying 'yes' first then their time could have been wasted. When it takes 3 or 4 months for a response - okay. But, as a general rule of thumb, most publishers tend to take longer than they advise on their websites. It might be 6, 8, 9 or more than 12 months. Please respect your own time as well folks. Over the years I have also realised that most publishers here in NZ have particular tastes and publishing niches. Yes there is a risk that more than one publisher will want the same ms, but it is probably lower than you think. And (and this is a big and), what if your manuscript is about to hit a trend? The trends we see are coming at the end point of one to two years lead time on an accepted ms (which might have taken 6 months to a year to be considered and accepted). That one to three years lead time can be swallowed up by one publisher looking at your work who then says no and the trend sails by without you. I think multiple submissions are okay. If a publisher asks that you submit only to them, decide on their suitability for your project. If they rate high then it might be worth the risk of a single submission to them first before moving on to others. If they rate low, send to them last. And if you are only submitting to one publisher before consigning a work to the bottom drawer and starting on a new project you are doing this wrong. See above comment about tastes and niches. And remember, should you have two publishers interested, be polite and professional - the bottom line is that your ms finds the best home.

Well I suspect I've ranted enough for one day. I have an appointment to get to and I bet you have work you should be doing too. Happy writing people.