One of my biggest goals in life has been to get some fiction published. As many writers quickly discover, non-fiction is what pays the bills. With a growing family, I've been highly dedicated to writing the non-fiction that buys shoes and calamari (seriously- I am all about calamari). But with a milestone birthday this year (no, I won't say which one) and still no fiction sold, I took it upon myself late last year to get into high gear with getting fiction out there.
I started submitting short stories to publishers in my late teens, and in those days you had to physically print the stuff out and mail it in. It was tough for me to afford as a student, and I didn't grab much interest from publishers. I gave up in pursuit of non-fiction, and I haven't submitted any fiction again until last last year. These days, it is so much easier with electronic submissions. I had two short stories that I shopped for months, and I kept getting rejections for them over and over again.
One of the stories I believed in with all of my heart. I just believed that it was worth my time and trouble and the dozens of rejections it was getting. I got comments from publishers that it was basically useless, and one publisher actually said "No one wants to read about vampires anymore." I got several rejections because my protagonist wasn't some kind of warrior woman. No, she was just a regular woman without any super powers or astonishing strength. Isn't there any room for that in fiction, I started to wonder? Do all female protagonists have to be warriors or superwomen? Really?
But I believed in that story because it was intricate and extremely detailed and full of truth. I believed in it because I felt it and because I saw something in it that was rich and full and engulfing. I submitted it to various publishers for 10 months and finally gave up. They weren't seeing what I saw. I wasn't going to submit it anymore.
Then, one day, after I had given up, a publisher sent me an email that made by throat catch. I was sitting down with my laptop when I saw what I thought was the third rejection I'd get that day. It wasn't. It was the most amazing email I've ever gotten. It was from a publisher who went on and on and on about how amazing the story was and how lucky they'd be if I sold it to them. I had to get up and walk around because I couldn't tell if I was breathing. Someone else saw what I saw, and they wanted to pay for it and put it in print.
Within a few days, the second story I wrote was accepted by another publisher. Then, two little flash stories that I had submitted were accepted by still another. All four acceptances happened within about a week.
One of the more interesting things was the reactions that people had when I told them the news. When I first start telling people that I had sold some fiction, the first question every single person asked was, "For how much?" I wasn't selling a lamp on eBay. Selling fiction isn't really about the amount you get. To put it in perspective, the other day I wrote an article about how to write fiction, and that sold for more than any one fiction story that I've sold so far. Non-fiction may pay the bills, but it's amazing to know that publishers believe in your fiction so much that they will pay for it and foot the bill for publishing it.
The other question I kept getting when I announced subsequent sales is whether it was the same publisher who was buying it all. I don't know that people understood how insulting that was. No, family and friends, there are multiple publishers willing to pay- not just one guy somewhere who wants to buy it all. WTF?
Being able to sell some fiction has given me a serious boost of confidence for the two novels that I've been working on. It's shown me that believing in a work is a real force, and that if you have a strong piece that you really believe in, it's possible to find a good home for it even when that home seems unlikely. It's possible to find a publisher who sees it for exactly what it is.