Submission Dilemma III

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I haven’t had one of these in a while. The ole do I or don’t I submit dilemma. The C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize is open to submissions of short story collections until April 16. I meet all the requirements. I live in the Southeastern United States. I’m an emerging writer. I have enough stories to reach the 140-220 page (35,000-55,000 word) range. And the manuscript wouldn’t be that difficult to put together, simply cutting and pasting several stories into one file.

The contest winner gets $10,000 and their manuscript published. Sounds great, so what’s my hold up? Like a lot of publishing contests, this one has an entry fee–$25. I have yet to pay to play as a writer. I believe in the old adage that money flows one way from the publisher to the writer. I understand the economics of a lot of publishing these days, especially in the literary magazine industry, is difficult and holding contests with paid entries helps pays the bills. I don’t fault that, and I don’t fault those who enter for a chance to win additional compensation beyond what normally would accompany acceptance in a literary magazine.

The contest fees I’ve seen generally run in the $5-$25 range. While not cost prohibitive, those fees can add up if a writer constantly applies to these contests.

If I’m so opposed, why would I even consider this contest? For starters, it’s the first I’ve seen geared towards collections of short stories. Usually the contests I come across are for a single short story. I have plenty of those still making the rounds with the literary magazines and not a whole lot to show for it. I’m intrigued by the thought of collecting my stories into a single work. That has been a goal of mine from the start, though I had hoped it would be a collection of reprints. I’d be happy with the publication of a collection of original works too!

Also, like I mentioned earlier, I meet all the criteria. How often does that happen?

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if I should fork over the $25 and submit a collection of short stories to this contest.

More Shameless Self Promotion

It finally happened. The Virginia Writers Club got its act together and posted not only the winners of the 2018 Golden Nib Writing Contest but also the winning entries. The collected winners can be found here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I took third place in the nonfiction category. I was happy to get that. I had written my short essay (under 1000 words) for another market, which didn’t accept it, and only put it in for consideration in last year’s contest on a lark. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Having focused on speculative fiction, I’m not sure what other nonfiction markets are out there for this type of essay.

Now as the 2019 president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the club, I’m excluded from participating in this year’s contest. I’m not terribly upset by this, though I am pleased that winners going forward will finally be announced and their works posted, which was supposed to be a selling point of the contest from the start.

Peruse the other winners and see what you think. You can let me know what you think about mine as well. I can take it.

Post #45 – Award Winning Author

11/1/18

I received a call last month informing me I won third place in the Virginia Writers Club‘s Golden Nib contest. The club will officially announce the winners tomorrow night at its annual meeting, which I already planned to attend. Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I spilled the beans early.

I’ve written about this contest before in Posts 8 & 29. Submitting a short story to last year’s contest was one of the reasons I joined the Northern Virginia chapter of the Club.

This year I skipped submitting a piece in the fiction category but submitted pieces in the nonfiction and poetry categories. The nonfiction work is the one that placed third.

I chose not to submit a fiction piece because I considered that a waste. For one, I didn’t want a story tied up for three months while I awaited the results. I also didn’t want to give up first publication rights to anything I have available. I’d rather retain those rights in the hope a pro or semi-pro market wants to buy the story. Lastly, I didn’t really have anything available to submit.

If I remember correctly, at the deadline, all of my fiction stories were out at other markets. I pretty much chose not to withhold anything earlier in the year in anticipation of submitting to the Golden Nib, and instead kept sending out stories to new markets immediately after each rejection.

But I didn’t feel the same way about my nonfiction and poetry. I’ve only written two in the former category and one in the latter. I didn’t have markets in mind for either the nonfiction piece or poem, so submitting them to the Golden Nib contest seemed appropriate.

Now I’m an award winning author! But is that a thing? Third place in the VWC Golden Nib contest isn’t quite on par with the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust. Win those and you truly are an award winning author.

I know other authors tout their award winning status, but I’m not sure I feel the need to do so in this context. I’m not sure it gets me anywhere. It doesn’t help me reach my goal of three pro sales for SFWA membership.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I win first place next year. Or maybe when I win the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust.

Let me know in the comments when you think it’s worth trumpeting an award as an author.

Photo credit: 3dman_eu via Pixabay

Post #31 – Not Submitting Your Best Work

7/26/18

Have you ever submitted something that was not your best work? Maybe you were in a rush to meet a submission deadline. Maybe you knew a piece wasn’t working, but you didn’t want to spend the time to fix it. Or you didn’t know how to fix it then and didn’t want to put it aside for too long. Maybe you needed to meet a word count minimum and added unnecessary fluff to a piece to reach it. Or the opposite is true – you wanted to meet a word count maximum and cut prose vital to the piece.

I’m likely guilty of most of those.  I’ve rushed stories out the door before they were ready to meet a submission deadline.  I’ve cut words to meet the maximum word count for a writing contest.  I’ve sent a story out I knew needed its exposition rewritten to avoid the dreaded info dump.

I soon may be guilty of sending out a story that is not my best because I’m attempting to meet a word count minimum. As mentioned in Post #28 and #29, I’m working on a novella for a Tor call for submissions. The minimum word count is 20,000. I don’t have any one story that length. I did have three interrelated stories totally about 11,000. The last of the three was a flash fiction piece of only 1000 words. I decided to combine the three and flesh that last story out in the hopes of adding another 9,000 words to meet Tor’s minimum requirement.

I succeeded. The first draft of that fleshed out story came to 9,800 words. I’m currently editing the entire piece, and so far have only added, not subtracted, words. I expect the final version to be in the 21,000-22,000 range.

Here’s the kicker. When going back through the piece, I don’t think it’s my best work. I think the piece is better without the first of the three stories included. However, if I cut that part out, it eliminates 3,500 words, putting me under the word minimum.

What should I do? I could cut the first part and try to add a scene somewhere else to make up the difference. Trouble is I don’t have anything in mind, and the deadline is looming.

I could put off submitting, giving me time to devise further scenes, and hope Tor has another call for novellas in the future. Tor already stopped accepting short stories, so I wonder how much longer it will have calls for novellas.

Or I could submit what I have. I’ve submitted the three stories independently to various markets, all of which sent rejections. I’m not overly optimistic Tor will accept the combined work either. If it doesn’t, I may continue to submit the first part as a stand-alone story and the next two parts as a single story. Given the length of the latter, the available markets will be few. However, as I edit the combined piece, I’ve realized it’s not that bad. I think it will find a home somewhere, even if it’s not my best work.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve submitted something that wasn’t your best work.

Photo credit: blickpixel via Pixabay

Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?

7/12/18

The 2018 Golden Nib contest of the Virginia Writers Club is upon us. Chapter level entries were due by June 30. The winners from each chapter are judged and sent on to the state level by August 13, with the winners announced at the annual meeting in November.

As mentioned in Post #8, I question the rationale for submitting to this contest. On the one hand, there is the chance of being dubbed an “award winning author.” On the other hand, winning means I can’t submit that story to another market, unless the market accepts reprints, because the Virginia Writers Club asks for first publication rights. The problem is the Club hasn’t published the winning stories in years, not even as a PDF on the Club’s website.

One of the reasons I joined the Club last year when I did was to submit to this contest. I feel I’ve gained so much more by joining the Club while the contest has diminished in importance. I’m reluctant to give up first publication rights when there is no guarantee of publication.

When I addressed this issue previously, I noted becoming an award winning author doesn’t get me closer to my goal of being a member of the SFWA. If that truly is my goal, then other possible accolades are irrelevant.

An additional factor to weigh when submitting is the story length. The limit for the Golden Nib contest is 3500 words. That’s fairly short for the stories I write. One thought I had was to write the story I mentioned in Post #22 that fit a specific call for submissions, the deadline for which was the end of June. If I could have hammered that out in June, I expected it to be 3500 or less. That story likely is too specific to the call for submissions to submit to other markets. While I had the story idea, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write it. I focused on my novella instead.

The contest has three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Club member may submit one work in each. So what did I do?

First, I submitted a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve written since high school, and I’ve never submitted it anywhere.

Next, I submitted a nonfiction piece, again, my only one to this point. I’ve submitted this piece a couple of times and received the corresponding rejections. It’s currently out at a market that accepts simultaneous submission, so I decided to submit it to the contest as well. If it’s selected by either venue, I’ll withdraw from the other.

What about the fiction category? I decided not to submit. The choice was made easy for two reasons. I either didn’t have a story short enough to fit, or for those that were short enough, they currently are under consideration at markets that do not accept simultaneous submission. As I mentioned in Post #24, read and reread the submission guidelines.

Let me know in the comments if you think I should have tried harder to submit a fiction piece (i.e. write a specific story for the contest), publication rights be damned.

Photo credit: qimono via Pixabay