Monday, 21 December 2009

Good vs Bad Credits

Okay, I have now read further into the debate regarding good vs bad credits on cover letters. This is a slightly different thing to my previous post.

First: a bad credit will not help you. If you've been published in a sucky magazine, I as an editor will more likely cringe than be impressed. By this I mean, a magazine with notorious nitwit editors, or with glaringly bad stories, or with diabolical design, editing and organisation. We all know which magazines I mean. Ahem.

Second: some credits will get you more respect than others. Realms of Fantasy will do your career better than a non-paying market, simply because it shows professional editors have endorsed your work. Conversely, if you're submitting to a bizarro publication, then previous publication in The Dream People or Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens will work better for you than publication by Mills & Boon. It's not that Mills & Boon aren't a professional publisher, but rather that Mills & Boon's catalogue is largely irrelevant to the bizarro market. It doesn't prove you can write bizarro just because you can write bodice-rippers.

Three: don't exaggerate your credentials. Editors can tell and frankly don't care. At worse, it makes you sound like an amateur.

Four: work your way down, not up. This seems counterintuitive to most, but if you want to live off the proceeds of your writing, it's the only thing to do. Submit to the highest-paying relevant market first (i.e., don't submit to F&SF if your work really doesn't fit in with what they publish), which I suggest you work out using the filters on Duotrope's Digest. Then send to the next highest-paying, relevant market, and so on, till the story sells or you realise your story needs more work.

Remember to listen to any feedback editors give you. Many submissions are rejected because they're inappropriate to the publications they're submitted to on grounds of theme, style, subject, etc. Others are just plain bad. Work out and understand which of these your story is. If it's inappropriate, look at who you've been submitting to and who you might better submit the story to in order to avoid wasting more time. If it's bad, then rewrite it or ditch it. Online workshops help a lot in determining both of these things, if you listen to advice.

Finally, don't ever assume you know it all. Practice makes perfect, and practice in our case means writing stories. Or poems. Or novels. So dust yourself after that last rejection, pick up the pen, and start something new. Trust me, you'll be glad you did, even if it's only because you've now got an extra story to sell.

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