5 Important Reasons Why Submissions Matter: Exposure vs Pay
If you hang out on social media long enough, you’ll find groups specializing in Open Calls for writing. They always ask you to list a few important things:
- Rate of pay
- Submission fee
- Specifics like genre, word count
These are good things because it will draw the right kind of writers to the publisher hosting the open call. Quite often a debate occurs in the comments of any publisher not offering pay. Many jump immediately to labeling them a scam or question their legitimacy. Some will scoff at the whole “Exposure” aspects. A few leave their disapproval loudly, causing unneeded conflict for the writer seeking to submit.
There’s nothing wrong with the word of caution. Researching any publisher you submit to should be the first task on your list. Once you’ve finished your research (here’s a list of amazing sites for research compiled by Nancy Miller) and feel comfortable with the publisher, it’s time to consider following through on sending in your manuscript.
Pay is definitely a great thing for an author. It’s like a validation of their hard work. It puts an end to the whole world asking you, “Did you get any money for it?” But, what about when the publisher is only offering you a free copy and exposure?
I believe even Stephen King had to earn his fame. JK Rowling had to face many, many rejections of Harry Potter before it was accepted. It’s incredibly rare that any author becomes a raging success overnight.
This is where exposure comes in. There are plenty of tips out there on how to drive exposure to your book (like this one by Ingrid Ricks) , but when you haven’t even written one what do you do then? This is where the exposure these types of publishers offer is worth it.
Allow me to present 5 reasons why submissions matter when you’re looking at exposure vs. pay.
Establish an Author Presence
The single most important reason to submit to publishers who don’t pay is to establish yourself as a writer. There’s more to this than just sharing a post on twitter or a snippet from your work on Facebook. It’s more than adding your words to a Facebook group page. Yes, you will find readers and followers that way, but if it’s mass marketing and becoming a household name you seek, you will need to do a lot more to make that happen. The more you submit, the greater your chances of acceptance become. The more you’re accepted, the more your writing gets out there. Chances are, unless you are the publisher behind the glass wall, you don’t know who else may be submitting their work, too. By rejecting the idea of “exposure only,” you could be losing out on an opportunity to have YOUR NAME in lights with other more well-known authors.
Think about it this way… how many times have you picked up an anthology or collection of stories and seen some names unfamiliar to you? You don’t put the book down because you don’t know who Joe Deeds or Laverne Smiles is. You buy it anyway because darn it, your favorite author is in it, too. You go home and read it. It’s so engaging and captivating you start on the next story before you even realize it. Satisfaction overwhelms you as you turn the final page. The stories stick in your head, and you know what? So is the name of that author you’ve never heard of before.
That obscure author could be YOU.
Wherever you stand as a writer, send your work in as much as possible. Set yourself a goal to submit X times a year. Commit to the number and—to borrow a much overused phrase—just do it.
2. Gain a New Audience
Each time you submit and it is accepted, you have the opportunity to gain a whole new audience. These new readers will recommend your writing to their friends. Those friends will check you out, read your stuff, and tell more friends about them. Joe Deed’s friends will tell THEIR friends and so on, too. Boom! There’s a whole new audience you could have missed out on if you’d never submitted in the first place.
Another great thing to consider is that the audience you’ve reached through this acceptance is one that reads your genre. It’s easy to get caught up in what Jane Friedman describes as the whole “Any reader is a good reader” mindset. In the long run, it really isn’t worth it. You want loyal readers, readers who will buy your book because they truly enjoy them, not just your mom who buys them because it has your name on it, or your second cousin three times removed who really just wants the free book (and all those are great, too). You want an audience who will read the other books you put out past, present, and especially future. Submitting to everywhere will help you find your niche and secure the audience you want. After all, no one wants to be a one hit wonder.
3. Catch the Eye of a Publisher or an Agent
One of the biggest time stealers is the hunt for a publisher or an agent (here’s a wonderful article on how to research agents before querying by J.K. Allen) who will not only read your work, but respond to your email as well. Many of the anthologies being published today are done by presses who also publish books (like OWS Ink). You’ve spent time sending them submissions for their open calls, they already know the type of writer you are. You’ve got that foot in the door, now. They are more likely to consider your future work. Many of the authors OWS Ink publishes, we met through our anthology work. We knew from the anthology if they were open to critique, how much time and effort they put into marketing, and what their audience size was. All things that agents and publishers look at. But maybe you aren’t looking to publish with a small press.
Agents and publishers often work hand in hand, especially if you want to get noticed by the Big 5. They rarely accept manuscripts from writers. Agents are required. And most of those agents know that the awesomeness of the story is secondary to the author’s reach, as far as the big publishers are concerned. Authors who have been published in multiple anthologies demonstrate a willingness to work on a deadline, that they can take criticism, and that they are actively building their audience. And from all that work, you will have built up an audience to also show them.
When you have an established name and brand, getting an agent and a publisher becomes infinitely easier. When you’ve built up your audience, getting an agent and publisher almost becomes a walk in the park. Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, and many more got their start publishing in anthologies and literary magazines. Can you really say you’re better than them?
4. Your Writing (and Your Confidence) Improves
Practice makes perfect. Submitting to anthologies, literary journals, and magazines is great practice for when you submit to have your book published. Working with anthology editors and being open to changing your work will get easier the more you do it. Each publication will have different marketing recommendations and information they provide to each author. Collect those and build your marketing experience.
All of that is great, but the boost to your confidence is amazing! As you send your writing out, even the smallest bit of flash, and it gets accepted, there’s a confidence that comes with each one. It won’t change your overall outlook on your writing (because we all think we suck, even Neil Gaiman!), but it will sneak up on you the more you write, the more you submit. It will be evident in your writing, in your submission process, and in your interactions with those in the inner circles of writing. And that could make all the difference in the world in your work getting published.
5. Build traffic to your own site
Backlinks from reputable sources help build the SEO of your author site if you are posting writing content there. Sending samples of your work, writing guest posts (have you sent us one yet?), collaborating with other authors… all those are key things you can do to gain exposure and build your brand. Whether you want to believe it or not, you are the brand you want people to buy. Your name is the one you want people to remember, exactly the same as Keebler, Quaker, or Campbell’s. They all started somewhere, so must you. Pay through exposure is one really easy way to do it.
The next time you read about an open call that doesn’t offer pay or the pay doesn’t seem very much, take a few minutes to check them out. See if the exposure they can offer is worth it. Check out their pages, look for what else they do. Do they have a website with helpful posts? What is their mission statement? Do they offer more ways to gain exposure than just popping a book up on Amazon? What else can they do to help you on your path to fame? What else have they published? What kind of reviews do they have? There are so many ways to find out if the publishing house is really out there legitimately or not. Trust your instincts. Do your research. And most of all, submit, submit, submit.
Interested in building your writing reputation? Our Write Side accepts guest articles. We also publish two anthologies a year. Keep an eye on our submissions page, as we are planning for 2018 right now.
Stephanie Ayers is the Creative Executive Director of OWS Ink, LLC. She is a published author who recently released a horror collection of her own short stories, The 13: Tales of Illusory, to add to the collection of anthologies her work has been featured in. Check out her Amazon page and get more great advice from her website.
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