I read this piece about “Myths” on Writer’s Beware a few weeks ago: “You can’t get published without an agent, but you can’t find an agent unless you’re published,” goes a common lament among new writers. And indeed, writing pundits and how-to-write books often advise writers to sell short stories before attempting to market a novel. Not only does this help writers hone their craft, the theory goes, but agents and editors will look on aspiring authors more favorably if they’re already published. But of the 247 respondents in Jim’s survey, 116 sold their first novels with zero short fiction publication credits.
Can short fiction credits help? Jim believes they can, and I agree (as long as the credits are in reputable venues). But as this survey shows, they are by no means essential. So if you’re like me and just don’t find short fiction writing congenial, you don’t have to torture yourself.
So while this is good news that I don’t need to hold off on querying until I’ve built my publishing resume, I still enjoy writing short pieces and will continue to do so no matter how it impacts my novel. In fact, I want to more now that I’m told I don’t have to. Miss contrarian that I am.
However, if you dig a little deeper into the article’s links, you’ll notice most authors in the survey are genre writers. The novel I’m currently shopping is mainstream. Literary and character-driven novels must sell themselves on the writing first since plot isn’t the platform on which it stands. If I were smart, I would have written the commercial thriller I just started first. Then I could have used that as my publishing credit for the next one.
Contrarian or not, I’d better work on those credits. Because I’m going to need them for this particular novel.
What about you? Do you think the mainstreamers need the publishing credits more than the commercial genres? Do you strive to build your credits before you query your novel?