Today, I’m thinking I should add another post category called Reality Check. But that might be too discouraging—to me as well as you. Even though I’ve been querying my novel for a while, it took Duotrope to make me say, “What was I thinking?”
I made my decision to seek publication in ignorance. I had no idea how hard reaching my goal would be because I had no idea how many other writers would be in competition with me. Now I know—there are at least a gazillion. And half of them are better writers than I am.
My goal this year was to see a story I’d written published, so I‘ve been using Duotrope to search for magazines I think might accept my work. No easy task that. I can eliminate those who only publish sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, erotica, western, etc. It’s just as easy to weed out some others by their rejection rates. If their acceptance rate is in the single digits—or less—I don’t even bother. Many of those magazines publish well-established authors; what chance do I have against the Joyce Carol Oates of the world?
Duotrope shows a description for each magazine, usually taken from their own website, and often I read this description and think the magazine sounds perfect for my work. Then, I go to the site and read samples of what they publish and my hopes are dashed. It’s either completely different in style or tone from what I write, or “too literary,” or “too amateur.” So those are more mags I can ignore.
So now, I’ve established what magazines I need not apply to, but how do I choose among the rest? One big question is whether I want to receive payment for my story or poem. Of course, searching for magazines that pay even a token amount turns up many I’ve already crossed off. And if my search term is “semi-pro and up” I’m going to see a lot of those names I’ve put on my too-elite-for-me list.
Do I need to receive payment to feel good about having a story or poem published? What if a magazine’s acceptance rate is over fifty percent? Some show over ninety percent! How would I feel about being published in one of those magazines?
I think to answer those questions, I have to ask another. Why do I write? It’s clearly no longer for my own entertainment or I wouldn’t be querying agents with a novel. I want my work to be read. But do I only want to be read? By how many people? If I don’t care about payment, and I don’t care how many people—or who—reads it, why not just publish on my blog? What is my writing worth to me? Questions, questions, questions.
Do you have an opinion to share?
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