This post, by Jamie Todd Rubin, originally appeared on his site on 12/17/12.
Every now and then, when I write about the vast number of story rejections I’ve collected over the years, I get asked why I don’t self-publish some of the stories that I haven’t sold elsewhere. The short answer is that self-publishing is not for me. To be clear I am speaking only about me and my goals as a writer. Different writers have different goals and different reasons for writing.
I grew up reading science fiction stories and I admired the writers who wrote them. I wanted to be just like them. Most of these writers didn’t self-publish. They went through a process of submission and rejection, until they ultimately started selling stories. Later some of them transitioned to novels. Each of them had to overcome some kind of editorial bar. While this editorial bar is an arbitrary judgement of quality, it nonetheless means something to me. I think of it like trying out for a baseball team. No one just starts in the majors. You play ball in Little League, and work your way up to the older leagues. Then there is junior varsity and varsity ball. Maybe college ball and if you are really talented and lucky, the pros. But who judges that talent? That bar that is set to get the pros is set high for a reason. This doesn’t mean you can’t settle into an adult softball league and have a blast. It also doesn’t mean that settling into such a league implies a lack of talent. It’s just a different path.
When I started out writing, I did so with the intent of being just like those writers I admired so much, and that meant, as much as possible, following in their literary footsteps. I always tried to keep the bar high for me. It wasn’t just about getting my stories in front of as many eyes as possible. It was about honing my craft so that the stories I wrote were good stories, worthy of a position in the same magazines as my heroes’ stories appeared. It meant that I rarely submitted stories to magazines which were not considered “pro” markets until after I made my first “pro” sale.
Then, too, I might like a story I write. I might love it, but I am probably the worst judge of my own stories. Who might be qualified to tell me if the story is any good? It seems to me that a professional editor at one of the major magazines is just that person. They are extensively read within the genre. They know what sells and what does not. Sure, their opinions are their own, but it is the same yardstick that applied to my heroes, so why not to me as well?