Traditional Publishing

Why Aren’t You Selling—Enough?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach – Monday March 7, 2022

I went to the bank with a nice big check last week amounting to hundreds of dollars for a short story. That will wake you up. It woke me up. I thought all bank transactions were electronic these days. (A wee joke, but, yes, I received the money.)

I don’t always sell stories for that much, but I’ve been selling steadily over the years—stories if not novels—and I sell to some good publications. I also appreciate glowing rejection letters.

The markets are tough. We all know that. But if decent writers are persistent, they should sell. Personally, I send out stories and even novel pitches every week or so. Do you have sufficient work in your inventory that you can keep on submitting material you believe in?

That’s what you need to do, but not first.

What comes first? If you really aren’t finding acceptances, then the primary thing you need to do is look at your writing. No, I err. The first thing to do is have someone else look at your writing.

Oh, wait. I misspoke again because from my teaching of thousands of students in hundreds of classes over the years, I’ve seen few who know the basics of our own spoken tongue as it descends to the page. So don’t ask them to give you feedback.

The writers I work with in class and in editing their fiction (as well as nonfiction) reliably send me mistake-strewn and weak work. Hooray, that gives me a reason for being. I can hand out better sentences for the would-be wordsmiths.

I thought that might do the trick and we’d all be happy. But noooo. Year after year, I’ve seen the same kind of work, and even from the same writers—oh, yes and different ones.

Then, too, I edit work sent to me by people who’ve actually hired writers to produce specific types of material…badly.

So what’s my pitch? to gain thousands of dollars editing your work? No, not at all because I simply have too much work to do. I’m just asking you to buy The Naked Writer, my composition guide recently out from ‎JP&A Dyson and in its third edition.

You’re frustrated because editors, even if they know little about the subtleties of composition and grammar, will feel uneasy seeing poor positioning of words, poor use of words, weak sentences starts, sentences with connections missing, repeated phrases, the wrong use of adjectives and adverbs, and so on and on, and etc. You surely don’t have all those glitches yourself, but I know from reading hundreds of pieces of work just like yours that you make some of them.

Your work doesn’t shine with the polish of correctness.

I can’t say you won’t make 50 percent of your goofs ever again, because you also have to study the book and retrain yourself, but I’m telling you that with every fix, with every approach to writing that you learn, you will improve and come closer to what you’re aiming for. And that may not be perfection, but you may near the point at which, halleluiah, you will sell. At the very least, you’ll expand your brain and come to know something of what you don’t know right this minute.

I like you. I want you to learn something—I want you to read my book. So go ahead. Take this mad leap and buy the book AND READ IT. Study it even.

You see, you’re looking for the right story, but you’re wrong. You need to be looking for the optimal way to write, and my book will help you do that.

Here’s a one-time, time-limited offer since you all are my close friends: Send a paragraph or two—tops 150 words—via (address your messages "Dear Miki..."), and I’ll indicate two or three problems with what you write. If you have no infelicities, I’ll send you back my sincerest congratulations. Well, yeah, let’s see. And if I do locate a couple less-than-perfect spots and edify you, you truly ought to buy the book.

About the Author

G. Miki Hayden is a short story Edgar winner. She teaches a mystery writing and a thriller writing and other writing classes at Writer's Digest online university. The third edition of her Writing the Mystery is available through Amazon and other good bookshops. She is also the author of The Naked Writer, a comprehensive, easy-to-read style and composition guide for all levels of writers.