Home » Self-Publishing » My SASE, an SOS Answered

My SASE, an SOS Answered

30 March 2014

From author Aniko Carmean:

I never heard back from that publisher. Not a rejection. Not an acceptance. My self-addressed and stamped envelope was not returned to me. My manuscript inspired complete apathy, and somewhere around four months of waiting I felt sorry for myself. At five months I was angry at the publisher and myself for following the rules and not submitting simultaneously. At six months I realized that this is not a process I choose to repeat. Like most major realizations, the sorts that end in divorce, dropping out of graduate school, or fleeing the country, my decision left me without a plan. Should I keep writing? Was it possible for me to stop, to be a “normal” person who manages to be just fine, thanks, without getting up before dawn and making up entire worlds? Should I continue to submit to traditional publishers, and know that I’d be over forty when I finally finish the rude rounds of silence? Should I curse my muse, whom I call Cerridwen, scream into the cold winds that stream from behind her doorway to the North? Was it my fault that the winter was harsh and cold, was it my angst that brought Cerridwen’s icy attentions far South?

. . . .

Still, there was a symmetry between the harsh winter and my state of mind. I was freezing in the rejection of my call. I stopped writing in the fourth month of my self-pity. I wasn’t happier, although I did enjoy sleeping later. I picked up where I left off with my novel, but it was too difficult, and I spent the fifth month trying to understand what happens next.

. . . .

I dragged out everything I’d ever written. Stacks of short stories, a couple of longer (but not quite novella) pieces, the ream of paper that is the novel the publisher couldn’t be bothered to reject. I was shocked at how prolific I had been, despite having a full time job and only grabbing an hour here or there throughout most of the work week. I started reading those old works.

And something better than a self-addressed, stamped envelope was returned to me: my willingness to live my gift.

. . . .

One of my earlier stories playfully investigated the theme of art as communication, and posited that without an audience (even just one person), that no work of art was truly complete. It was written in 2008, years before I ever thought of publishing. I read it, and fell in love with the faith I’d once had in the power of art. I read it and was surprised at how much my writing has improved in the intervening years and writing workshops, but that’s fodder for a whole other post. I read it and realized I wanted to publish it.

I’m happy to announce that the story is with my editor, Jacinda Little. Over the next three years, I will release everything in my gigantic stack of proliferate scribbling that is worthy of readers. This includes the novels.

. . . .

I need to stop focusing on comparing myself to other writers who are more successful in ways that are not a part of my path. I need to stop feeling like I’m somehow less REAL as a writer because of who publishes the work.

Link to the rest at Aniko Carmean and thanks to Margaret for the tip.


18 Comments to “My SASE, an SOS Answered”

  1. Oh. She’s still there wanting to be a REAL author, huh? Dang.

    • I’m still trying to understand how my conception of “REAL writer” got so far from what matters to me, especially given that I loved my self-publishing experience.

      Hope all is well with you, Julia!

  2. She self-published her first novel, thought she’d try her hand at traditional publishing, and in the end came full circle back to wanting to self publish. Perhaps she’s a bit sad at the wasted time, but she seems to have found herself (and her confidence) in the process which is a happy thing.

  3. “One of my earlier stories playfully investigated the theme of art as communication, and posited that without an audience (even just one person), that no work of art was truly complete.”

    I have a theory that writing can be motivated by a minute for minute transaction between the writer and readers. So, if it takes 1000 hours to write a novel, and 10 hours to read it, the writer will be sufficiently motivated to continue if he or she is reasonably certain that 100 people have read the work. That’s just a rule of thumb – the exact ratios might be different, and will also vary between different writers. My basis for this is that a minute for minute trade off mimics oral conversation, the most basic of (complex) human communication.

    • This is a fascinating theory, Daleo. I know that feeling no one hears is a compelling reason to stop speaking, writing, or sending submission packets. I can get behind the idea that knowing someone has received my transaction (to use your phrase) is vastly encouraging.

      Thanks for putting an interesting thought in my head!

  4. That brought back memories of the 18 months I spent sending off large manilla envelopes filled with a query letter and the first 3 chapters. I thought there was some rule against simultaneous submissions as well: Send one out, wait 3 months, rinse and repeat. When I hear of writers doing this for 10 years I alternate between sympathy and amazement.

  5. Well, it’s a painful growing-up period. You’re afraid to offend, to break a rule, to be thought unmannerly. And then you realize that the people you respect so much don’t respect anyone. Forget the rules, the courtesies, the polite communications. Send the queries to as many people you like, and don’t let anyone have an exclusive for more than a couple of weeks.
    Then, self-publish.

  6. One of the sad stories of traditional publishing, that is hardly ever mentioned, is the thousands of good books that never got published because they didn’t make it through the submission process for one reason or another.

    Now at least there’s another option, rather than just traditionally publish or give up.

    • I often wonder how many great voices and wonderful stories were lost to us because of the punishing process of trying to get traditionally published. How many fabulous writers just gave up?

      • Honestly, my feeling is that even one writer who gave up is too many. I think of A Confederacy of Dunces whenever I consider what’s wrong with corporate publishing. That’s what deeply offends me about it. After years of paranoia and depression (and how much of that was due to rejection letters? Too much), the poor guy killed himself, leaving behind a novel his mother managed to get to the attention of Walker Percy. Who found a way to get it published, after which it won the Pulitzer prize. And now it appears that every time someone buys it for Kindle, Grove Press makes some coin. And they get that title on their list, which is how they maintain that “high-brow” reputation despite publishing stuff like Mad Men tie-ins and the new book that purported to be “Overheard in the Goldman Sachs” elevator but turned out to be both entirely made up and mostly plagiarized besides.

    • It hurts to think of all the great stories that might be held captive by dust bunnies under writers’ beds! I am thankful there is another way to publish. I’d rather self-publish knowing only five people may find my story, rather than know that even one person who needed that story couldn’t find it.


  7. I feel her pain! And I love seeing her eyes open wide.

    How delightful – to become your own ‘independent’ publisher, and not have to wait for that self-addressed envelope.

    That’s what I’ve done, and it’s done miracles for my writing, my self-confidence, and my pay check.

    • Pamela, I’m glad that being independent has been wonderful for you. That makes me smile, and gives me encouragement. May things continue to be amazing for you!

  8. When a commenter on my blog mentioned he saw this over at The Passive Voice, I thought he meant saw this topic, not this post! Until I (belatedly) looked at my site states, I had no idea this was posted here. Thank you all for the encouragement, support, and honest advice!


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