View Full Version : The impact of previous publications

04-23-2010, 03:43 AM
Hi everyone,
The newbie starts a thread for the first time. I've looked around a bit to see if something was up on this subject. If I've missed it please point me in its direction.

Here is the question.
How much impact previous publication has in the process to get an agent?

To give you a little context, I have come across several opportunities to submit stories (fiction) for publishing; eletronic magazines, short stories contest, etc. Some of those opportunities are not in my favored genre but I'm up for the challenge.
So now I'm left wondering if it's worth the time and effort. I don't want to put energy in something that isn't my novel if it's not going to help me get my novel on a shelf.

How much value previous publication has?
Does it have any value if it's in another genre than the project you're querying?
Should an unpublished author focus on her first project or should she try to get publishing experiences along the way?

I'd like your opinion to help push my pondering toward a decision.
Because right now, I'm in decision limbo on that particular point. ;)

04-23-2010, 11:28 AM
It can help by showing that you can a)write well enough to be published and b) that you are willing to put the time and effort into a writing career.

04-23-2010, 12:49 PM
The answer is a qualified yes it does help.
Qualifed because the publications/contests need to be in venues the agent has heard of.
As an example; publications is a SF/F magazine that is SFWA qualifying is liekly to assist you in gaining the attention of agents that handle a lot of SF/F.

04-23-2010, 01:15 PM
Previous publication by reputable pubs (print or online: reputable is what matters) helps. Whether you should devote your time to pursuing that at the expense of your novel is a different question. Assuming you have limited time (day job, family, etc.), I don't think writing short stories is worth the cost unless you're already interested in writing short stories. Not all writers can write in both forms.

Jim Hines recently did an informal survey that included a question about selling short stories before selling a novel. You can read the results here (http://jimhines.livejournal.com/496760.html). That's just the first of a series of blog posts on the results, and the whole series is extremely interesting; I suggest you read it. In a nutshell, almost half of the respondents sold their first novel with no previous short fiction sales.

Anyway, to me, the bottom line is this: do you have short stories you're possessed to write and flog? If so, go for it. If not, don't waste your precious time that would be better spent focused on your novel. Not having anything published at all won't matter one whit if you've written a great novel.

04-23-2010, 02:37 PM
I think all these arguments are sound. It does help me make up my mind.

I'll read the blog you suggested Terie. Thank you.

As for my time and writing capability, I have a full time job and a half (I teach in college but only 3 hours a week and one term a year) so my time is limited.
But then, I've written a lot more for a lot less.

I think I'll kick the possible publications a little bit down on my priority list without writing them off either.

Thanks again!
(And if others have an opinion, it is obviously still welcomed.)

04-23-2010, 04:34 PM
I think they help if the agent is on the fence, but otherwise, nope. If the agent loves the query, they'll ask for more, regardless if you have credits or not. If they don't like it, they won't ask for more regardless how many credits you have. If they're iffy about the query, and see you have wonderful credits, they might ask for pages just to see, since others have paid for your work so that says something. If there are no credits, it might be enough to put that query in the no pile. There's nothing to give you the benefit of the doubt so to speak.

If you enjoy doing shorts, do them. But don't do them just to get credits. You're better off putting that energy into writing the best book you can. Because in the end, that's what matters most.

04-23-2010, 07:42 PM
Some great responses already, but I'll add that many people sign with agents with no prior published credits anywhere, based on the strength of their manuscript alone. So, if you want to write shorter pieces and pursue publication, and can place them in reputable publications, great.

And it might help you get a few more partial or full requests, maybe, I'm not even sure of that.

But it will make little to no difference in whether an agent is actually interested in signing you. All that will matter for that decision is the strength of the manuscript.


04-23-2010, 10:38 PM
The only thing that will impress any agent or editor is if another editor PAID for your work.

One penny-a-word story in a small magazine counts more than twenty stories placed in a non-paying venue. Perfectly horrible writers churn out reams of crap that go into e-zines all over the Net. All if says is they write a lot. It doesn't say the writing is worth anything.

But even if you've got stories in every print magazine at the news stand, the final decision will be based on the submission that is in front of them.

Granted, it doesn't hurt to have sold pieces to The New Yorker or Ellery Queen! ;) But non-paying venues just don't count on a resume.

04-25-2010, 01:08 AM
Thanks everyone! Your take on the question is very appreciated.

I'l focus on my novel for now and keep my short stories to myself until I can polish them and/or turn them into something else.