When I started writing, I read somewhere that if you wanted to be a successful writer you had to stick to one genre and develop your craft. But, I loved to write everything: poems, essays and short stories. I searched the classifieds in Poets and Writers Magazine, and found places to send my work. My poems were published first – in literary magazines that didn’t pay a dime. Poetry anthologies were next; no money came with those publications, either. At least now I had credits to list in cover letters when I submitted essays and short stories. Editors started to accept these longer works, but payment was always in copies.
I joined a writing group, and met a writer who refused to send her stories anywhere that didn’t pay. Her attitude was contagious. I decided not to give away my writing anymore. I sent only to paying markets that I found in The Writer’s Market and online. That year, an anthology publisher paid me $200, and so did Adam’s Media. Cicada Magazine paid me twenty-five cents a word. It doesn’t sound like much, but the quarters added up to a $1660 check.
Since then, my accepted work has included a rebus, a mystery, a newspaper feature, memoirs, short stories, and devotionals. I’ve written for kids, for teens, for adults. I’ve had success in mass media, religious markets and even some paying literary publications. I’ve drawn on my experiences, and shaped them each into a form that would sell.
Looking back, I see that non-paying markets were stepping-stones. But if I’d been wiser about choosing where to send my work, I would have made money much sooner. My success did not come by sticking to all poetry or all fiction or all nonfiction, nor by writing for only juveniles or adults. It came by believing in myself enough to aim high.
Mary Laufer’s work has appeared in Cicada Magazine, Shoofly, Greenprints, The Imperfect Parent, The Christian Communicator, The Buffalo News, The News-Times, and over thirty anthologies, including A Shaker of Margaritas: A Bad Hair Day, Not Your Mother’s Book…Being a Parent, Herstory: What I Learned in My Bathtub, Love is a Verb, Bombshells: War Stories and Poems by Women on the Homefront, and several volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul, A Cup of Comfort and Patchwork Path. She recently signed her first contract that involves royalties. She plans to finish a middle-grade book and compile a collection of her short stories about women.