I read the letter of sad, sad condolences. I skimmed the adjudication -- I deflated some. Especially as the prize was $1000 and the idea of being a starving artist has become a little too literal of late.
The next morning I sat down with my tea, pulled the staples out of my submission, and read the story for the first time since I sent it out two months ago.
Crazy thought: I liked it.
It did some good, like, things, with, like, you know, words and stuff -- and pacing, action, image, and so on. Having held myself to the uncaring fires of self-publishing only to have found myself wanting, I was pleased with how it was apparent I had shaped and tempered to be able to write with purpose. It was a story I could be proud of.
In the end, the only conclusion was: There were four stories they liked better than mine.
And I was okay with that.
But why does it feel like an accomplishment that I can feel that way?
Sending away a piece to a traditional publisher, or a contest, they will tell you, "No, we don't want you." They might as well just send back pictures of a brick wall. Run into this again and again and eventually it becomes routine. If you're lucky, they'll even tell you what your problems are, and be overly mean about it.
Self-publishing doesn't have this in-built kindness by being callous. Self-publishing, there's always an out. No, my piece is fine, I'm just bad at marketing. Or ... my genre isn't popular. My genre isn't selling right now. My promo wasn't arranged right. My cover isn't as good as it could be. My font needs to be bigger. I need a better web page...
There are an infinite number of ways to not cope with the idea that maybe your story just isn't as good as three or four other stories.
I never thought I'd say this, especially after months of silence, never to receive word about manuscripts that I'VE HAD SOLICITED -- that's just cruel -- that dread in the belly that all this talent and time has gone to waste ... but maybe those cold-hearted, harpy-clawed, vicious sons of bitches have actually done me a favor.