Tuesday, December 22, 2009

To submit or not? Writers, want to weigh in?

So here's the story. Something has been bugging me and as usual, I've written an essay about it – even though, the entire time I was writing, I doubted it would ever be published. It's an unpopular subject, one which I've noticed the media as a whole has been purposely steering away from. The piece is unlikely to find a home in any paying media venue – or for that matter, even in a non-paying but otherwise relevant literary outlet. I knew this as I wrote, and that was okay. Sometimes I just write not because I know it's going to sell, but because I can't NOT write it, and that's that.

And then along comes a notice on a message board about an essay collection in the works on this very subject. An erstwhile individual is willing, on their own time and not inconsiderable personal expense, to gather and self-publish material on this topic. He or she probably knows that the mainstream media will likely ignore (or possibly even make snarky comments about) the collection, and yet this person is forging ahead. The question is, do I submit?

On the one hand, I typically advocate contributing to projects based not on whether my piece will be showcased in some important venue, but on a melange of other factors. These usually pivot on whether the eventual published piece will deliver something which, as a writer, I feel is important at the moment – sure, sometimes it's the paycheck, but other times it's another reason, or a combination reasons: nailing a prestigious (or long coveted) clip; being involved in a project managed by people I like and admire; getting in on a project which offers an opportunity to interact with new and interesting colleagues I might not otherwise get to work with; supporting a project which a supportive writer-friend has asked me to participate in; achieving some other goal which would advance my career; and finally, sometimes saying yes just because of an indefinable personal meaning regardless of any other factors.

This final reason ought to be enough to go ahead and send in my essay, right? (And hey, there's no guarantee it will be accepted, so I may be ruminating about nothing!). Then again, I'm wondering. It's a self-published project. The proposed editor is neither a writer nor an editor. If it does get noticed by mainstream media, it might be in an unflattering light. Do I care? There's no way to determine the eventual quality of the book, so I'm grappling with the notion of little editorial judgment being applied in the selection, preparation, and eventual presentation of the essays. Then again, it might be kind of fun to have my say among other like-minded folks, no?

So, the question is, should I let this piece sit in a drawer or put it out into the world? Worry whether the rest of the collection may turn out to be subpar, or just take a leap? (Who knows, I could be pleasantly surprised…or disappointed...or...)

I'm curious if any of my blog readers have found themselves in a similar quandary? What did you decide to do? What would you do?


Andrea said...

Well I have no experience in these matters, so my opinion should count for naught, but could you submit your piece and reserve the right to withdraw it if the editorial process leaves you in question of the overall quality of the work as you get into it?

Laraine Herring said...

I would submit it Lisa. If it likely won't find a paying home anywhere, then why not get it out? Self-publishing is its own strangeness -- I understand that as a writer. I also think the industry is changing so much so quickly, and that self-publishing (some form of it) is going to become as acceptable as it is for musicians to produce their own CDs. I like Andrea's idea -- if you're unsure of the quality, reserve the right to withdraw it. I've had numerous pieces accepted in anthologies that were on the premise of "once a publisher is acquired, etc" -- but they never could find traditional publishers, so the work never got out there anyway. Do it. It's the holidays! :-)

Kristy Lund said...

I think I would submit it, especially if you feel you can't find a paying outlet for it.

Or, you could do what Anne Lamott says- get quiet and think of submitting it. How does that feel? Then think about not submitting it to that collection. How does that feel? Perhaps that will tell you the answer. Good luck, and keep us updated!

fullsoulahead.com said...

I like Kristy Lund's advice. Whatever feels more like relief. Do that (if you haven't already done it)!

Lisa Romeo said...

Thanks everyone, for your suggestions and thoughts.
I decided to take a leap and I hit the send button today (just a few hours inside of the deadline, as usual).
Sometimes there is more rhyme than reason to this submitting stuff, you know?
In any case, I'll let you all know what happens.

2KoP said...

Reading this too late to have an impact, but I thought I'd refer you to a great blog post on the subject, just in case you run into a similar dilemma: