Day 13 without the desktop computer. Data Doctors is closed on Sundays, of course, but then I'm usually distracted by football on sundays. Packers have the early game and Cardinals have the Monday night game. Russell's Chargers are on the afternoon game, but he's camping right now.
Anyway, there has been a lot of noise lately on whether semi-pro magazines are worthwhile for new writers to be published in. The issue started when SF writer John Scalzi hammered on a publisher called Black Matrix.
Scalzi has some salient points, which I won't rehash here. That's been done to death elsewhere on the blogosphere. That said, his point about aiming high is truly good advice. Yes, my first two published pieces of fiction were to a 4TL (For-The-Love) market. That happened due to a combination of ignorance and inexperience.
The first story I ever sold was to a small online market, and the one after that, too. Slowly I learned to start submitting to the big markets first, but it was a difficult lesson. With big markets often come form rejections. It's one of the phases of growth as a writer. But then, suddenly I was accepted at a major market, Intergalactic Medicine Show. And you know what? That was the very first market I sent that story to.
What a confidence builder. Since that sale, which pretty much solidified my confidence, I wrote a lot of stories, and I sent those stories to a lot of markets. Most of them drifted from the top down to the market where they finally sold.
The interesting thing is that I both agree and disagree with Scalzi. Some of the stories I've sold were to minor markets, but they were markets I sent the story to on purpose. Sometimes, it's because I have a friend who is the editor and I send a story to the market before it really should go there to give the friend some decent material. And it doesn't always sell there. Other times, I hear of a new market and I like to help bring fledgling markets into being. I don't always sell there either.
I don't mind the semi-pro zines because I have a lot of older material that has already seen the appropriate pro markets and most of these are such that I don't really want to revisit the story. And that's okay. I have made new friends and gained some followers with my semi-pro sales. M-Brane SF in particular has been a very fruitful relationship that started when my story "Road Rage" appeared in issue #1. M-Brane SF was the 24th market I sent this story, starting with F&SF, Analog, Asimov's and Jim Baen's Universe.
I got a lot of feedback over the course of those 24 submissions, much of it negative. Yet, I persevered because I disagreed with the comments, and because I wrote the story, I get to be the one who says the story is right. Christopher Fletcher agreed with me about the story and bought it. He also bought several more, and I got the chance to edit next month's issue for him. Dividends paid? I'm satisfied with the results.
With all that said, there does come a certain level where I won't submit a story anymore. Instead, I put the story away and wait for a new opportunity. That's especially true of my newer work. But then, we all learn as we go. I feel my unpublished work is more valuable today because of the track record I have built up. Regular sales do say something about consistency. Somebody was willing to pay for that work and for me, at least, it makes me aim for the next level.
And yes, sometimes the temptation is great, the temptation of sending a story to a sure thing market. But that's the hardest part of getting better, leaving your comfort zone. There are certain markets that for me are virtually can't miss. That doesn't make submitting there wrong, it just makes submitting there first wrong. Until that can't miss market becomes one of the big three, there is always something higher to shoot for. Aiming low is just cheating yourself. Aiming high and hitting low is nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you aim high with next one, too.