I’m sure the three of you out there (hi, mom) are wondering, “Why hasn’t Mike posted in a month?  Is he dead in a ditch?  (No, mom) Has he finally ordered enough party balloons and hydrogen to launch his lawn-chair dirigible?” (not telling) You’ve been waiting for the slice of chocolate cake that is my blog post for too long. I promised you, cliffhanger style, that I’d continue my exploration into punctuation.  I lied. Too boring. I’ve had way too many interesting conversations and experiences to dig into semicolons.  You can do the research. It’s not hard. Other stuff is hard. Let me explain.

So, what have I been doing? Submitting.

Submitting.  God, I love words. The variety of meanings that a specific word can convey. The multi-leveled subtlety or double-tap straight to the brain. Love it!

What have I been doing for the past month? Submitting. (and writing and editing)

After all the writing I’ve done over the past two years, I realized that I’d submitted almost nothing. The metaphoric trainers in my corner of the ring shouting, “Get out there, Rock!” is my group of trusted writing friends.

“I found a new publisher that’s putting out a horror anthology the next quarter and are looking for submissions.   Anyone interested?  Deadline is in twelve days.”

I had been noodling a horror piece and had written a few paragraphs before I got the message. I dove in.  I got it done. Got it edited. Asked for critiques. Edited again. Edited yet again. And got the submission to the publication in plenty of time.  I still haven’t heard anything back, but that’s alright.

What I wasn’t expecting was the difficulty of submitting the same piece to different markets.  I spent vast amounts of time researching, reading, researching more before I found a handful that might be right. I submitted to all of them and I have started hearing back.

It’s been hard.

I don’t mind a task that’s hard. Usually. I can power through and get something done like the short horror fiction piece for the anthology (and done well if I do say so myself). But like the word, submission, the task was hard in subtle, multi-leveled ways.

First, I assumed that in this brilliant age of lighter-than-air ships and interwebs, there would be a few main places to visit to find the markets. And there are. Kinda.

Submittable is one that many folks recommended to me.  It’s a great site. Free. Tons of markets are represented. But … genre fiction is pretty sparse. There also seems to be a lot of markets listed that appear to be accepting submissions but are actually dead. I guess you get what you pay for.

Duotrope is another. Not free. As of this writing, I used the free 7-day trial months ago but have not yet paid the $50/year subscription.  From memory, Duotrope had much better representation for genre fiction than Submittable. The listings also seemed to be more up-to-date. The thing is, I hesitate to subscribe since I’m not sure how much short fiction I’m going to write and submit over a year.

The Grinder is intriguing.  Heavily leans toward genre fiction. Free.  Some very interesting charts and statistics from member submissions (response times, acceptance ratios). But, like Submittable, there seem to be more dead publications than live ones.

In reality, these aggregator sites are closer to a list of bookmarks you’ve got in your web browser. Every single link needs to be investigated and researched.  And you have to do it for every story.  Even finding a site that accepts the genre of the type of story you write isn’t enough.

For example, the WeHeart Fantasy Press might possibly accept a fantasy story without unicorns if it includes some gothic horror.  The WeNoHart Unicorn Publishing will never accept any story that contains the legendary one-horned sparkle donkey unless there’s also a vegan mad scientist.

Hard work. But it’s the kind I don’t mind.  Time-consuming, often frustrating, but under my control.

Then there’s the other kind of hard. I know that I need to build up the proverbial stack of rejection letters pinned to a nail in the attic. Harden my skin. The publishing industry will chew me up so I gotta be like gristle. I start my mental empowerment routine– dance around the ring, light on my feet, Mickey is rubbing my neck. I’ve got my first fight against Apollo Creed. I hit submit. Then I remember that Rocky got his ass handed to him in the first fight against Apollo. Not be the most inspiring comparison.

The rejections flow in.  Body blow. Uppercut. Rocky’s first fight is more apropos than I intended.

I know. I know. Eventually, after a lot of work on his craft, Rocky beats Apollo. I get that if I follow the metaphor to its conclusion I come out okay.  Hard work, focus on craft, get in the ring and eventually win.

Being in the ring. Taking the blows from veterans of the industry is a wonderful, sickening learning experience.  The personal rejections have been the most heartbreaking helpful. Time to start training.  Voice, originality, and clarity need to be my jump rope, heavy bag, and sparring partner.

Submission is hard.


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