I can self-publish until the cows come home, and I’ve sold a few books. Not a whole lot–just a few, and mostly to friends. It feels like an accomplishment, and I’m not kidding when I say that being able to hold something that you’ve written bound in book form in your own hands is an amazing experience. Not quite as profound as holding your own newborn child for the first time, but it’s definitely in second place.
I’ve published online. I’ve blogged, and am blogging, albeit haphazardly. People have read my words, and responded favorably for the most part. And all that is cool.
But this past week, I had a story I submitted to an editor be selected for publication in an anthology. I feel like it’s my first real taste of success, mostly because it makes me feel professional. I know that self-publishing is for amateurs, and most (though certainly not all!) 99-cent e-books are the realm of badly written smut, but somehow, right now, that doesn’t matter. I took a step into a larger world. I wrote a story, edited to fit the publisher’s guidelines and followed the protocol for submission. I submitted three stories at the same time, and so far one has already been rejected.
I have to say, at first I was disappointed. And defensive, too. The anthology in question is a lesbian anthology, and the publisher said she was looking specifically for relationship with real-life situations, not so much the fantasy type story. Could be long-term or new love, but nothing so “perfect as to be unbelievable.”
I had that. I had a good story about past loves who had moved on, but were still connected the way real former lovers often are. You want things to be amiable, you live in the same area and have the same circle of friends, it didn’t work out in the long run, and there might even be some unresolved, very passionate feelings still hanging on.
In my story, the two women had been in a serious, long-term committed relationship that didn’t work out, and we find out that one of the women is a day or two away from marrying a man. She goes to the bakery where her ex is making their wedding cake, and bittersweet sexytimes ensue on the counter. There is also the creative use of a fondant roller that factors in.
The story was rejected because one of the characters winds up with a man, and the editor said that her readers wouldn’t like that. My first thought was that it wouldn’t be hard for me to change it so that she is marrying a woman. It’s legal where I live, and it’s the matter of changing a few pronouns. But I didn’t.
It’s a real-life situation. Why would it be better if she was marrying another woman and not a man? It almost seemed like reverse discrimination to me. I mean, human sexuality is complicated. I suppose that scenario was the first one that came to me because it’s happened in my real-life sphere of influence, so I know it’s not unheard of. And I made the fact that she’s with a man now part of the reason it didn’t work out with her ex, because it was a real-life situation I was drawing on.
I was going to email her back and offer to change the pronouns. Then, I changed my mind and considered asking why it would be okay for the new fiancé to be a fiancée, but I did neither.
She said “her readers wouldn’t like that.” And she’s the editor. She knows what sells. She knows who is buying her books. So I filed that tidbit away and know better for the next time I submit. I feel like I was able to learn from the rejection and grow a bit. I still feel that readers would respond to the story based on the humanity of the characters, but maybe for another anthology.
There is still a third submission out there and I haven’t heard anything about it. *shrugs*
And finally, I’ve finished a third book that is live and listed, but I’m waiting for a bit to talk about it much more. I’m hoping for a tandem release with a fellow writer-friend, Ann F. P. Blackwood, since our projects are so closely related it’s practically incest to mention them in the same breath.
Currently in the works is a lovely full-length ghostly love story, and another story about an amorous botanist. I have a lot to finish, but a four-day weekend is just not conducive to good writing.
If I’m not in jail for killing a kid before school opens tomorrow morning, I’m going to get back to writing!