Ten Years of Selling Stories

Somehow I missed it earlier this year, but January marked the tenth anniversary of signing my first contract on a story sale to a professional fiction market. In the decade since, I’ve sold ten additional stories, and at least twice as many nonfiction articles. I write a lot, but I sell a lot less than what I write.

I used to daydream about that first sale. From the time I started writing with an eye toward publishing what I wrote, I would imagine what the thrill of that first sale would be like. It was like daydreaming about winning the lottery. It was fun and exciting to think about, but I somehow thought I would never be a good enough writer to make an actual sale. It took fourteen years of trying before I made that first sale. I lost count of how many stories I wrote, and how many rejection letters I received. And then, I made a sale! And it was no small sale, either. I was paid $500 for that first story. I couldn’t believe it was possible to earn $500 from writing, but I had a check in a my hand to prove it.

My first sale was to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. Over the years, I sold three additional stories to that magazine, and was a book reviewer for the magazine for a time, with a monthly book review column. Edmund Schubert was the editor of the magazine and he was the one who bought my first story. He was a great editor. He worked with me to make the story as good as it could possibly be–certain better than the version of the story that I submitted to the magazine. He set the bar high for all the other editors I’ve worked with over the years.

Back when I started writing, the pinnacle of short fiction markets in science fiction was Analog. The magazine has been around since 1930. Its name changed from Astounding Science Fiction to Analog in 1960, but the magazine is the same. It is known for being a hard science fiction market, and I never thought of myself as a hard science fiction writer. I always assumed Analog would be out of my reach. But in 2010, I sold them a story, my third published story. Eventually I sold them another story, and I wrote two lead editorials for the magazine.

When I began writing, fiction was all I cared about. I never imagined writing and selling nonfiction. As it turns out, I enjoy writing nonfiction more than writing fiction. For one thing, it is much easier for me. It also often pays better than fiction. Over the years I’ve written and sold a variety of articles, editorials, essays, and reviews for various markets, including some entirely outside the science fiction world. I sold four article to The Daily Beast, for instance.

Selling that very first story was a big deal. When it happened, I thought there was a chance I might sell another. But having ten stories in my bibliography seemed like a pipe-dream. I’m glad I managed to sell a little more than ten short stories over the course of ten years. I never imagined I’d sell a story to an original anthology (Beyond the Sun), or have some of my stories reprinted, translated into other languages, and even have one of my stories appear in an audiobook. It’s been a delightful run, and I look forward to what the next ten years brings to my writing.

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