Subbing Pro

Slush Pile at Tor

Cory Doctorow by Creative Commons

It’s been a while since I subbed to a zine. A long time. When I wrote crime as Jim Winter, the paying markets were slim to none. and of the few that did exist, most evaporated rather quickly. It’s the sad state of the short story in the modern era, even before Kindle made it possible to publish shorts instantly.

Science fiction has always seemed to be a better bet for short stories. The paying markets are numerous, but the competition is fierce. For a time, I had a system where I would sub to Asimov first and get the rejection out of the way. Why would I want to do that? If Asimov’s took a story, I’d have a big payday. But Asimov’s soon proved that they also turn around fast. If a story is rejected, a story is available. On to the next.

So I took the idea that I shoot high and eventually hit the target. So I subbed to AnalogClarke’s WorldFantasy & Science Fiction. Eventually, I would consult ralan.com and go down the list. Unfortunately, that didn’t work so well. So I haven’t subbed for a couple of years. I’ve been focusing on the Amargosa Trilogy, rebooting Jim Winter, and the Compact Universe novellas. But now I’ve decided to go back to subbing shorts. When I wrote crime, it was the best way to gain exposure even if the webzines paid nothing. So instead, I’m aiming low. That’s not to say I won’t go back to Azimov‘s or Clarke’s World, but I need ot give them a little more reason to look at my work. They have copies to sell, and it’s easier to do that when people are looking for your contributors.

I’ve also started doing a thing called “gray listing.” Certain markets take way too long to respond. Analog has a huge slush pile to go through, and Fantasy & Science Fiction still wants snail mail submissions. All this requires a lot more time and effort, either by waiting or actually shipping the sub. So I decided that I won’t sub unless asked. If they asked, then it’s worth the effort for both them and me. Gray listing, as opposed to black listing, something you do when a market behaves badly.

A lot of writers will ask why, in the age of self-publishing, why anyone would go through all the rejection of subbing to pro, semi-pro, or even non-paying markets? Isn’t that a lot of unnecessary grief? No. Actually, that mentality has made self-publishing what one writer calls a “shit volcano.” There are a lot of really bad books and short stories released, and some of my own formatting and cover efforts in the past have embarrassed me. There is nothing wrong with getting a paycheck and/or some free marketing. Besides, writers write.

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