Thursday, 28 August 2008

Publishing Credits

This phrase crops up more and more frequently now and although I’ve used it myself, I’m not sure that I like it. To me it implies some sort of publishing promotion: “Publish 150 short stories, 30 short shorts, and 70 articles and you’ll qualify to be fast-tracked onto the novel-publication scheme!”

That’s not how it really works.

Where you’ve published is perhaps more important than how much you’ve published. There’s a big difference, credit-wise, in publishing a story in a vanity-published anthology and publishing one in the New Yorker. Vanity publishing doesn’t ever count as a credit, regardless of how good your work is; self-published titles sometimes will, so long as your book sells a stonking number of copies and picks up a good share of public awareness. Unrecognised courses that you pay to go on don’t necessarily count (although they can be useful); and an MA from the UEA is, as far as I can see, always going to get your work looked at, while not all other MA courses will.

If anyone would like to put some time into working out the details of the credit system I would be thrilled. How many pieces of published flash fiction equal one published short story? Does genre affect the score? And if so, does literary fiction score higher than SF because it’s more artsy, or lower because it’s more pompous and impenetrable? What about competitions: how many times would you have to win your local writing group’s weekly short story prize to earn the same credit as if you won the Orange Prize? And should we offer optional trauma-counselling to those writers for whom the Writers’ Literary Agency made deals with Publish America?


Nicola Slade said...

I tend to think in terms of a Writing CV and when sending out full length mss I made full use of the art of Spin! I would grandly mention 'short stories accepted by.../published in various national magazines including...', 'winner in X competitions...' etc. My Writing CV always sounded/sounds much more impressive than it actually is; although it's true I've had stories published in national magazines, I made it sound as though I'd had hundreds accepted - some, but certainly not hundreds.

Agree that vanity or POD publication isn't really accepted as 'respectable credits' but with magazines, etc, the art is never, ever to lie but to speak the truth - with caution!
(I'm a fiction writer, I can't help embroidering the facts!)

Anonymous said...

Yes, if fiction writers can't put the best-looking gloss on the facts, without actually lying, who can?

And where do online credits fit? The book trade seems to vary wildly as to whether it's wholly below their radar, or known of but completely dismissed, or some account taken of the fact that SOME blogs and e-zines are very consistent and well-edited and have large readerships, even though others are the online equivalent of PublishAmerica. The same seems to hold for sending review copies to the heavy-weight book blogs, too.

Jane Smith said...

I want to know how to include on my writerly CV the list of really witty comments that I think of when it's too late to say them. Because they are some of the very best things I've ever written and someone apart from me should be able to enjoy them!

Tim Jones said...

I haven't submitted short stories to science fiction magazines for about three years, so things may have changed, but in that field it used to be the case that meaningful credits were:

* Membership of the Science Fiction Writers of Amercia, the professional body for SF writers (yes, I know that's US-centric);

* Having been selected to attend one of the major residential SF writing workshops, such as Odyssey or Clarion;

* Prior publication in one or more of what SFWA defines as professional markets, which were (at the time) those paying 5c or more per word - SF pay rates are low!

Below this, publishing credits didn't have much value. In other words, with one or two exceptions, five credits in magazines paying 1c/word did not usually equate to one credit in a magazine paying 5c/word.

If and when I start submitting to SF short fiction markets again, I'll have to check whether these rules of thumb have changed.

Anonymous said...

Have wondered about this too. I assume that any credits in a letter to an agent are simply there as a marker that someone else has noticed our efforts, and it depends on how numerous and influential these people are (publication in a national magazine counting more than small press or local writing competition). They may (?) encourage the agent to look more favourably on our submission, but the credits will only indicate writing potential, not, when submitting a first novel, the ability to tell a sustained and complex story. I think what I'm trying to say is that it's the submission that really counts! (correct me if I'm wrong!)