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Author Topic: time to first sale  (Read 3216 times)
Listener
Hipparch
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I place things in locations which later elude me.


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« on: February 07, 2009, 04:18:35 PM »

How long did it take you to sell your first piece of fiction?

TIME = from completion of the first story you wrote that you seriously believed could contend for a spot in a publication UNTIL you heard back from the publication that you were going to be in it.
SELL = be published in an accredited market -- vanity zines/sites and self-publishing your own work don't count, but if your work was bought and published in a collection that is primarily sold online or a magazine that appears only online, that does count. Accredited market means recognized by at least one professional organization such as the SFWA. Podcasts count if they meet this criterion. (I'm still trying to figure out if AOMS counts because they read one of my stories.)

I'm specifically asking about fiction because I've sold non-fiction, and my freelance employer is releasing a free e-book this year that I got paid for writing and editing. Mostly I'm just curious.

And on that note... did the stone roll downhill once you dislodged it? That is, once you sold that first story, was there a general sharpening of the upward curve of your sales? Or was it just as hard for a long period of time?
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jrderego
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Writer of Union Dues stories (among others)


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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2009, 07:21:56 PM »

How long did it take you to sell your first piece of fiction?

TIME = from completion of the first story you wrote that you seriously believed could contend for a spot in a publication UNTIL you heard back from the publication that you were going to be in it.
SELL = be published in an accredited market -- vanity zines/sites and self-publishing your own work don't count, but if your work was bought and published in a collection that is primarily sold online or a magazine that appears only online, that does count. Accredited market means recognized by at least one professional organization such as the SFWA. Podcasts count if they meet this criterion. (I'm still trying to figure out if AOMS counts because they read one of my stories.)

I'm specifically asking about fiction because I've sold non-fiction, and my freelance employer is releasing a free e-book this year that I got paid for writing and editing. Mostly I'm just curious.

And on that note... did the stone roll downhill once you dislodged it? That is, once you sold that first story, was there a general sharpening of the upward curve of your sales? Or was it just as hard for a long period of time?

Question 1: 15 years. The first story I wrote that I thought was publishable was 18 years ago, around that same time I also wrote Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw (IB&TGJ was first published in 2005). The thing is, it's relative, the stuff I wrote around the same time I wrote IB&TGJ stinks when I read it now. I can't believe I thought it was publishable when I read it now, but hey, live and learn I guess. What I'm saying is  you have to write reams and reams of utter unreadable, worthless garbage (no matter how good you think it is at the time of creation) and collect your wall full of faceless, nameless "Dear Writer" rejection letters to learn how to write stuff that isn't unreadable garbage, and as you go on it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between the two.

If in question 1 you mean by specific markets, the average for me is about 3 months. Escape Pod occasionally sat on stuff for close to 13 months, and sometimes agreed to buy the same day I submitted it. Other places tend to reply in about 90 days.

Question 2: Yes, the stone rolled downhill thanks mostly to Escape Pod's willingness to buy Union Dues stories from me. But how many other markets have I appeared in? Not many. I still can't land anything in Asimov's or Analog.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2009, 07:37:33 PM by jrderego » Logged

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Also, please buy my book - Escape Clause: A Union Dues Novel
http://www.encpress.com/EC.html
Listener
Hipparch
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Posts: 3176


I place things in locations which later elude me.


WWW
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2009, 07:48:01 AM »

How long did it take you to sell your first piece of fiction?

TIME = from completion of the first story you wrote that you seriously believed could contend for a spot in a publication UNTIL you heard back from the publication that you were going to be in it.
SELL = be published in an accredited market -- vanity zines/sites and self-publishing your own work don't count, but if your work was bought and published in a collection that is primarily sold online or a magazine that appears only online, that does count. Accredited market means recognized by at least one professional organization such as the SFWA. Podcasts count if they meet this criterion. (I'm still trying to figure out if AOMS counts because they read one of my stories.)

I'm specifically asking about fiction because I've sold non-fiction, and my freelance employer is releasing a free e-book this year that I got paid for writing and editing. Mostly I'm just curious.

And on that note... did the stone roll downhill once you dislodged it? That is, once you sold that first story, was there a general sharpening of the upward curve of your sales? Or was it just as hard for a long period of time?

Question 1: 15 years. The first story I wrote that I thought was publishable was 18 years ago, around that same time I also wrote Iron Bars and the Glass Jaw (IB&TGJ was first published in 2005). The thing is, it's relative, the stuff I wrote around the same time I wrote IB&TGJ stinks when I read it now. I can't believe I thought it was publishable when I read it now, but hey, live and learn I guess. What I'm saying is  you have to write reams and reams of utter unreadable, worthless garbage (no matter how good you think it is at the time of creation) and collect your wall full of faceless, nameless "Dear Writer" rejection letters to learn how to write stuff that isn't unreadable garbage, and as you go on it gets harder and harder to tell the difference between the two.

Oh, I have tons of those, and when I go back and read stuff I used to think was pretty good, I'm like... *shudder*. Especially my crappy novel (the first one, not Shell Game). I'm hoping it doesn't take me QUITE that long, but I'm up to five years now. Almost six.
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"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

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DKT
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PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2009, 03:34:00 PM »

It took me about 10 years to make the first short story sale. Admittedly, during some of that time, I wasn't writing a lot of short fiction but I did write some. And there's at least one story from about 10 years ago I'm still pretty proud of and wonder if I should try and submit it again.

From when I finished writing "Last Respects" to selling it, it took about 4 months. 1 rejection, and then I sold it to PP. (I don't know if that qualifies with what you're looking for since PP isn't a SFWA recognized pro-sale. I don't think any of the EA podcasts are, although WotF counts them because of the sheer amount of downloads they get.) The first sale is bliss.

The stone hasn't become dislodged, but it's not stuck as good as it was, if that makes sense. Within that two year time-period, I've sold three other stories and reprinted LR once for a sale. I did get solicited to write a story for VF (Saint Darwin's Spirituals), though, and the editors there liked it enough to pass it onto Murky Depths so they could co-publish it at the same time, and pay me. So there have been nice little boosts. But keep in mind that within that same two-year period, I've collected 53 rejections.

So, yeah, I don't know how much easier it gets. I still get a shitload of rejections. I'm still trying hard to improve my game. And despite having a few small sales, the majority of it is steeped in rejection. You just have to keep grinding it out and get your story in front of that one editor who likes it as much as you do.

(And I'm sure you will, because you're a good writer.)
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goatkeeper
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2009, 02:18:31 AM »

I wish DKT would submit something to Drabblecast :-(
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DKT
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PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2009, 04:37:14 PM »

Clearly I need to try my hand at something shorter  Wink
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Listener
Hipparch
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Posts: 3176


I place things in locations which later elude me.


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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2009, 04:50:03 PM »

Clearly I need to try my hand at something shorter  Wink



Sorry. Couldn't resist.
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"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42
DKT
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Editor
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Posts: 4585


PodCastle is my Co-Pilot


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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2009, 04:54:50 PM »

Clearly I need to try my hand at something shorter  Wink



Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Baby  Dave Facepalm  Grin
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2009, 02:10:43 PM »

I started writing novels about a year and a half before starting on short stories, but I'll keep these numbers related to shorts since that's where I've seem some success.

From sending my first short story submission out, to receiving my first notice of sale was about 13 months.  I was busy in that year and wrote 20 more stories, which altogether gathered 125 rejections before the fateful sale to a semi-pro market.

One week and 2 more rejections later, my second sale, this one to a token market.  I don't usually submit to token markets, but I liked the theme of the publication enough that I went ahead and submitted anyway.

I haven't seen the 3rd sale yet, though I have some hopeful prospects.  2 months and 12 rejections have passed since sale #2.
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Rachel Swirsky
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2009, 02:27:02 AM »

I sent a story to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine when I was 13, and again when I was 15 (both were passed up to the editor for no reason I can now imagine). I'm sure I thought they were publishable then.

I didn't send out another story until I was 21 or 22 when I sent out two stories two F&SF which came back with "didn't grab me"s from JJA (one of them went on to be published in Interzone and republished in Pseudopod and Horton's Year's Best Fantasy 2008, though I didn't send it out again for a couple of years). I didn't start seriously sending out fiction until the August I went to Clarion West when I was 23 -- my first fiction sale came November 1 of that year and was SFWA pro.

I sold another three or four stories that year, and then something ungodly like sixteen stories and eleven poems the next year (which thoroughly drained my story reserves in a way that hasn't quite recovered).

So, ten years, two years, or 3 months, depending on what measure you choose.

I find the whole business somewhat odd, sometimes. Figuring out which editors will like your work seems somewhat random. Given politics and aesthetics, I'd always assumed I'd be a fit at Strange Horizons. So far, I haven't been. And there are editors I wouldn't have guessed would like my work for one reason or another who seem to. Who knows? That's why I tell beginning writers not to start picking and choosing who to send to based on their impressions of the magazines until they've been publishing a while; I'm a fairly good critic of my own work, but so far I haven't been a good predictor of other people's tastes.
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Listener
Hipparch
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Posts: 3176


I place things in locations which later elude me.


WWW
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2009, 05:25:06 AM »

Well, I now have concrete numbers -- from my first rejections for my first novel to finally selling a story in a paying market, approximately eight years, and from my first "real" attempts at writing short-stories to selling to a paying market, about 2.5 years. I consider myself lucky to have only had to wait for that short a period of time.
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Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42
AliceNred
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2009, 08:12:10 PM »

I started writing in about four years ago. I wrote to about two and half years. i thought this would give time to polish and have some stories in the bank because a lot of zines like to look at things and not share and it takes a while to hear back.

Since then I have had about 30 things published. Some  for pay for, some not and three anthologies.

I do not send things out all that often about three things every other month. I think guidelines are boring along this all of the other rules, but I do it.

I wish I was a faster and better writer. I wish I was braver too. Although rejection usually does not phase me.




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