by Giselle Renarde
It always bugs me when I rant to a friend and they tell me to "look on the bright side." I don't want to think about silver linings when I'm ranting. I just want to rant.
But after a few weeks or months or years go by, I can usually look back on whatever I found rant-worthy and realize I learned something from the experience. That's especially true of business affairs.
Like most writers, I've been on the receiving end of quite a few rejection letters. I've never been one to rant about rejection. When you're a creative, rejection's part of the profession. But it used to make me sad. Of course it did. Doesn't anymore, by the way. If you're just starting out in the writing business and you're wondering if the sting of rejection ever lessens, well, yeah, it does. At least, it has for me.
That said, I don't send manuscripts out to publishers as much as I used to. I was browsing through a calendar from a few years ago, and I found there was a period when I was sending out one manuscript per day. These weren't all novels, obviously. There were lots of websites that published erotica back then. And I submitted short stories to erotic anthologies, when I tend not to do much anymore.
Now I self-publish most of my work. Why, you ask? Not because I can't get published. My work has appeared in nearly 200 short story anthologies. I've been published by 2 of the Big 5, plus Oxford University Press. I'm nothing special, but I have accomplished that much. Did it pay the bills?
Not so much.
Does self-publishing pay the bills? Well, actually, it does. It isn't easy. In fact it's a lot of work. I've had to acquire a multitude of new skills. So the money aspect is a big one, but you know which other factor is up there with money?
I just don't trust most publishers anymore. I've been shafted too many times, by presses large and small.
When I started writing, I submitted work to every call for submissions I saw. I've had poetry published, and an academic paper, and a touching anecdote in Chicken Soup for the Soul. If they were offering money, I could whip up a story. (Although I never was paid for that academic paper, come to think of it.)
Over the past decade I've been published by... you know, I've lost track. Probably a dozen websites, more than 20 small presses, the aforementioned big wigs, Hustler Fantasies. One of the biggest reasons I publish my work myself instead of taking my writing to publishers is that... well, first of all, most of the small presses I used to work with went out of business. Almost ALL the websites closed down.
Of the few publishers who do still hold rights to some of my books, three no longer pay me. And not because my books don't sell! Deadbeat publishers come up with all sorts of reasons for falling behind on author payments. "Oh, I'm so disorganized! I don't have time to keep track of these things! I'm terrible with spreadsheets!"
Alternately, there's: "What are you talking about? I don't owe you money."
Or my personal favourite: simply failing to respond to any email I send over the course of YEARS.
I won't name names because the funny thing about deadbeat publishers is they can always seem to find money for lawyers. And there's one publisher in particular that has been incredibly litigious and very much a deadbeat press, and I can't help remembering being so disappointed, many years ago, when I submitted a book to them... and it was rejected.
A close call indeed.
Giselle Renarde is an award-winning queer Canadian writer. Nominated Toronto’s Best Author in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards, her fiction has appeared in well over 100 short story anthologies. Giselle's juicy novels include Anonymous, Cherry, In Shadow, and The Other Side of Ruth.
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