Wednesday, February 22, 2012

List any publishing credits you might have

Yesterday, I wrote about how there is no secret handshake or silver bullet that will allow people to break into publishing. The only way in is to write, and write more, and write better, and submit your work until someone buys it.

Here is the colder side of that cold truth: that first sale guarantees nothing. It makes no promise that you ever sell anything else. The list of publishing credits on your cv is a list of past success, and surely something to feel proud of, but it shows only what you have been capable of in the past.

My friend Ferrett was just nominated for a Nebula for his novelette, "Sauerkraut Station." Because my friends are awesome, talented people, this is not the first time I have looked at an awards ballot and seen familiar names and done a dance of happiness on their behalf. But Ferrett is my Clarionmate, someone who feels like a writerly peer (like we went to the same, weird scifi high school or something). He's also someone I have seen work his ass off since Clarion - always writing, always revising, always sending stories out, and - most important - always trying to write better, so this one gets its own kind of happiness. And he talks about this weird realization that he had, after the glee of the nomination sunk in, that, as awesome as "Nebula-nominated writer" is to put on your bio, at the end of the day, it's just another line on your bio. 

Sure, a big nomination like that is the kind of credit that people pay attention to. I've never read slush, but I imagine it is the kind of credit on your bio that gets your story read faster, or perhaps moves you on to the EIC's desk (or e-reader) directly. But it doesn't guarantee a sale. Nothing does. (Okay, maybe a letter that starts out, "Dear editors, My name is Jo Rowling." Maybe.) Even book contracts don't guarantee sales - ask any writer whose series has been cancelled partway through.

Which is a long and rambling way of saying that getting your foot in the door doesn't mean the door stays open. Past achievements should be celebrated, absolutely. Because it is awesome to make a sale, or to get a good review from a tough critic, or to be selected for a Year's Best, or to be nominated for or win an award. Those things are huge, and important, and things to be proud of, always. Always. But the way you sell the next piece isn't by resting on your laurels. It's by writing a kick-ass next story. 

Write. Write more. Write better. Always.

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