Erotica isn't my first genre, it wasn't my first love and it likely won't be my last in the world of words. It's my current passion and the first time I've had any real success as an author thanks to Amazon and indie publishing. I've slogged through different genres in the last sixteen years or so since I started including a SASE in with my double-spaced, Courier font-ed heart's work and mailing it off to editors around the globe. My first submission at a tender age was a second read and was rejected with a handwritten note, 'well done!'. Huh, I thought, if it was well done, why didn't you buy it? Little did I know that thought would define my entire career in traditional publishing.
I spent the next *ahem* many years trying to crack every professional market I came across. Second reads, 'you almost had us', almost always personalized rejections. I readjusted my expectations--something I excel at--and began hitting the semi-professional-but-still-respectable markets and lo! A sale! Ten dollars for a fairly short story. Then a year later, holy crap! Another sale! A hundred dollars this time, and they paid on time and the check didn't bounce, and the editor said my story gave her shivers. I was riding high. I'd made it! This was going to be the turning point and I was soon about to be the darling of the writing world, a shining star at every convention, someone they spoke of when they talked of up-and-comers and rising talent.
That was something like seven years ago. The magazine was online only and was gone shortly after my story went up. I had another story accepted by a semi-pro across the pond, but it folded before they could print me. Then it happened again on my home turf. Then a good friend edited an anthology for pro rates and I sent him my best piece, and even he rejected me, although later he said he wished he'd put me in, that his partner didn't think my story fit. Then I submitted to another across-the-pond professional magazine and after a six-month-wait they responded with a request for a rewrite. Score! I rewrote the story to their specs and sat on my hands for the next year while they took their sweet fucking time getting back to me to let me know I was accepted, I would be in the next issue. I don't think I breathed for the next three months while I waited for the quarterly magazine to come out. Then it did and I wasn't in it. I wrote to the editor, always polite, me, always begging please sir, may I have some more? She informed me that my story was a filler piece for when she needed something to fill in space and she was just going to hold onto it until an issue appeared where she needed it. Naturally this was a pay-upon-publication market, as most of them are. Also naturally, they folded after one more issue, making my wait from submission to market disappearing more than two years with no check.
Six months ago or so I submitted a very short piece online to a respectable editor, in an online forum that allowed everyone to see all the submissions. I read all the other submissions and ten percent of them were better than mine, much better. Lucky for me they needed fifteen or eighteen percent of the pieces, so I felt like I was a shoo-in. Naturally. Naturally.
Pieces weren't accepted based on any standard of quality I could suss out, they were merely hit and miss, this one for its weirdness, this one for a unique subject. I said fuck this, finally and completely, fuck this I'm done. I began to work on a novel because I can't not write, the idea of quitting entirely gives me the wiggins, to quote my favorite Slayer, but the writing was the important part now, I'll have a dozen finished novels in a drawer when I die but I'll have written them because I said I would. Try try again, but books this time.
Then I read an article about indie writing, something I've always been against because I felt that without quality control the written word in the form of story is devalued, which in retrospect is hilarious, because none of those editors wrote to tell me what a shitty job I'd done. I write very well. Some of my stories are quite good. They get rejected for minor things, because twenty of us submitters wrote good stories that month and were put ahead of the hundred poorly-written pieces, but we didn't get in because the top two were unbelievably good stories and three were great stories and they only needed five that month, or because someone in the slush knew the editor, or because the editor had a theme in mind and our pieces didn't fit, or because they needed something with a thousand extra words, or they don't like stories with cars. Some editors will argue this isn't the case, but I've been on that end of it too, and it absolutely is. I've had friends on that side of it and OF COURSE it absolutely is. There are a lot of people in the world, and some of them use their advantages to get ahead, and you would too if you had an in, we all would. Sometimes that advantage is crazy good talent, sometimes it's other things.
I have a toolbox, just like Stephen King said I did. I open it and root around for the best tools, and I better myself by working hard and writing something of a higher quality than what I wrote last week. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a genius writer, but I'm a solid writer, a good writer. I can put together a moving story to entertain my readers, and it will be better than a lot of what they read elsewhere, and it won't be as good as a few, but I'm ok with that. Because thanks to a change of heart with regard to indie publishing, now it'll be read. People will buy it and most will like it, and some won't, but I won't be wasting any more words on themed anthologies with vague-but-rude guidelines expecting me to work my ass off without getting paid so they can tell me no thanks six months down the road. I'm done with please, sir, can I have some more of your rejection slips with half-thought-out notes about how to improve a story that was fine as it was.
I don't have to ask, If it was well done why didn't you buy it? anymore. Because now I've given them the opportunity to buy it, they do.