My sales to the womags are definitely down this year. I used to sell 2 a month, now it's about 1 a month. I'm forever being asked how many stories I've sold recently (mainly by Himself who would like me to get a 'proper job'). My staple, and rather defensive, reply has been,
"Oh, well, there are just too many writers chasing too few slots."
But is that true?
Would it be more honest to say, "There're better writers than me out there and that's why my sales are down" or "I haven't written as many."?
I was talking with a writing tutor the other day and she came back with some interesting thoughts on the matter. And I have to say, after giving it some thought, I agree.
The 'Too Many Newbies Writing' theory:
Yes, creative writing classes are everywhere now and available for anyone to join. People are clamoring for places. Are they turning out great mag stories the editors are lapping up in favour of us old hacks? Is this fresh blood full of exciting new plot lines and imaginative twists?
Er no. In her experience (and mine from the little tutoring I've done)some students are there only because they bought into the idea that womag publication is easy. They've read Take A Break - Pah! Should be a doddle to scribble something like that! They've seen that advert on the telly/in the writing mags about the writer who joined a class and now has a turnover rivaling JKR. Great! A quick way to make a few quid.
I can guarantee that these students, who make up most of any class, will drop out after a few months. Of course, a few will trudge on relentless, but they'll never quite make it. Well, good on them for sticking with it.
The rest of the class will be the ambitious, truly creative sort who'll improve and go on to publication.
The 1000 or so submissions made per month to Woman's Weekly will be made up of a mixture of these three groups. My point? The percentage of publishable material being sent to mag editors is only marginally greater than it was a few years back. I'll wait for an editor to contradict me on this!
As for the 'Too few slots' theory:
Let's knock this one on the head, shall we? Okay, some mags have closed their doors to fiction. Bella, Woman, Chat to name 3, but how many did they publish a week? One? Maybe 2? And did you ever sell to them?
The good news is, the remaining mags have actually increased their slots. Take Woman's Weekly, as an example. There's the weekly, the bi-monthly and the seasonal specials.
And think how many foreign markets have opened up. When I started writing for publication back in 2000, I only submitted to the UK market, mainly because I was unaware I could sell overseas. Now there's Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Norway, Denmark, India, Ireland etc.
Only the other day I found a fresh market...or rather the market found me as the editor saw one of my stories in another mag and wanted it for her own - yes, I know that comes across as a bit of trumpet blowing there but I have an ego to sustain ;0) Anyway, I struck while the iron was hot and sent her more. She's rejected 2 as being too short for her current needs but is considering the others.
So my conclusion is, yes, there are better writers than me out there and always will be. But my recent failings have been entirely my own. I'm not selling as many stories because I'm not writing as many. I KNOW it's true. Think on!
There endeth today's lesson x