Sometimes a story is jinxed. I learned this disheartening truth after a 340-word humorous piece I submitted, describing my eldest son Henry’s take on his mother’s writing life, was accepted not once, not twice, but thrice by three separate magazines which, ultimately, folded before the story could ever appear in print. Looking back, outright rejection might have been easier to take. As it was, on three separate occasions my house rocked with shrieks of joy, first of the “Yay! I did it!” variety and, subsequently, of the “Yay! I did it AGAIN!” type.
Each acceptance was accompanied by a tentative date for publication or a kind “not sure yet when this will run, but we’ll be in touch.” Each time I waited patiently, my writer’s morale bolstered significantly by acceptance itself. But in each case, as time passed and patience waned, I wound up writing a courteous note of inquiry, SASE provided, only to receive (many months later) a “Sorry, magazine folded” or “No forwarding address given.”
Four years and three strikes later, exasperated and deflated, I filed the story away and forgot about it. But that’s the thing about freelancers. They never really forget. Even if they say they do, they don’t. Somewhere deep inside their scrambled minds, that still-brilliant/still-unpublished idea continues to emit a weak beep, out of sight but never quite dead in the water.
Seven years after filing that piece away, I dug it out again and realized it still had potential. Knowing in my writer’s soul that I should send it out again, I did and – sure enough – it was accepted for a fourth time.
Although grateful for another acceptance, I was disheartened by the monetary aspect of this strange saga. The first market had offered me $20 upon publication. The second one dropped it to $15. The third payment came in the form of a one-year subscription to the magazine. And the fourth periodical (can you guess?) offered me ZIP! At the rate things were going I had no doubt that, had a fifth acceptance come along, I would have been asked to pay THEM for the luxury of publication.
When my piece finally appeared in print, I proudly showed it to my now-grown-up son. After giving Henry a blow by blow account of its convoluted route to publication, I showed him the letter I’d found stuffed within the pages of one of my contributor copies.
“Dear Subscriber,” it began. “We regret to inform you that this will be the final issue of (said magazine).”
“Wow, Mom! Your article caused four magazines to fold,” Henry quipped with a grin.
My piece had seen publication, all right: but just barely! After it ran in 2004, I figured this particular chapter of my writing life had finally ended. But a writer’s world is full of unexpected twists and turns. Eleven years later, after querying Angela Hoy with my tale of thrice-thwarted/four-times-folded publication, I was thrilled to receive the go-ahead for a WritersWeekly feature about my article’s arduous journey. After 23 long years, my little piece had earned me a paycheck at last (She pays $60, which was 3 times higher than the highest offer!)
Experience has taught me that a writer must never give up on a good idea or an awesome manuscript. File it away for a time, if you must. Move on to a new project – or 20 new projects, if necessary – but don’t be afraid to circle back and give it another shot. The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is as valid today as it ever was, and a good idea is always worth pursuing. Just bear in mind that, well . . . sometimes a story is jinxed.
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A freelance writer, piano teacher, mom and grandma, Wendy Hobday Haugh lives in upstate New York with her husband and two cats.
7.625 STRATEGIES IN EVERY BEST-SELLER - Revised and Expanded Edition
At this moment, thousands of would-be authors are slaving away on their keyboards, dreaming of literary success. But their efforts won’t count for much. Of all those manuscripts, trade book editors will sign up only a slim fraction.
And of those titles--ones that that editors paid thousands of dollars to contract, print and publicize--an unhealthy percentage never sell enough copies to earn back their advances. Two years later, most will be out of print!
Acquisition Editor Tam Mossman shares seven essentials every book needs to stay in print, and sell!
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