In some of my spare time, I try to write Speculative Fiction. I’ve written a half-dozen stories, and every now and then I get people asking me “Why don’t you just self-publish online?” At the most basic level it isn’t terrible difficult, and I already have three years experience publishing this podcast thing. What’s the hold-up?
And my answer is always that I don’t know if I’m good enough to be worth it. There’s already tons of free fiction out there (some of it very good!), and I don’t need to be clogging up the inter-tubes with crap. Of course I think what I write is great, but I’m probably the least qualified person in the entire world to judge the quality of my work. And I can’t entirely trust my friends/loved ones either, as they also have a vested interest in not hurting my feelings. Even when trying to be impartial, simply knowing the author can often make things seem cooler than they would be to a neutral 3rd party.
It’s probably well-known that 99% of authors don’t make crap for money. Almost all of them have day jobs, the money from writing is not enough to support even a single person. We write because we love writing, not because there’s money in it. So why try to get money at all? Why not just self-publish everything?
Because the barrier that is money keeps you honest. If I just put up anything I write, I don’t know if it’s any good. In fact I had a very visceral demonstration of this once… I went back to the first story I’d written about 6 months after I first put it to paper and re-read it. When I’d first written it I thought it was amazing and brilliant and would win all sorts of awards. Upon re-reading it 6 months later I saw how crappy it was, and how much work it needed simply to get to not-being-pure-suckitude. Never had I been happier that instead of simply publishing it online I’d sent it around to get rejected by several magazines.
“Will an editor pay money for this” is a bit of a lower-boundary on quality, for me. I still don’t know if my stuff is good. But if someone is willing to shell out a few hundred dollars in the expectation that they’ll make that money back, it says to me that it is at least not terrible. It is the most honest barometer I know of right now.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying: I just sold a story for the first time! :D I’ll post more when I know more, but it’ll be coming out in Asimov’s sometime in the near future!
(In the tradition of Racheal Acks, above is a picture of all the rejections I’ve received up to the date of my first sale. Not all for the sold story, of course.)