Be careful what you put your name on…once published, there are no do-overs

When growing up, my mom and dad always taught me to think about my actions before acting.  They taught me every move has a consequence.  They taught me the value of a reputation.  If you break the law, you’ll be remembered as a criminal.  If you habitually drink, you’ll be labeled an alcoholic.  If you smoke dope and pop pills, you’ll be a druggie.  If on the other hand you do good deeds, help people, are involved in the community, you’ll be thought of as a humanitarian, a philanthropist, a caring person.  If you drop everything you’re doing to be with someone in physical or emotional pain, you’re considered the truest of friends.

The same advice used to get through life should also be applied to writing.  If you can help it, try not to put your name on something you aren’t 100% proud of.

I did that once.  One of my favorite short stories appeared in an anthology I am not 100% proud of.  See, I took on a job as ‘editor’ for an aspiring authors writer’s group I was in. The founder and publisher decided to put together an anthology of the member’s works.  There was no set theme, no cohesion, and, it was a ‘pay for inclusion’ publication for members only.  I cringed inside when I realized too late into the project I had very little ‘editing’ control over the submitted pieces. By then, I’d made a commitment to see the project through.  My reputation was on the line.  The result featured snippets of novels, short stories, some complete short stories, and some errors that would make most editors and polished authors quiver.  While it was a morale booster to those who submitted, the finished work was not what I had envisioned.  My name was on something I wasn’t 100% proud of.  I didn’t get to perform my job the best I should have, the best I would have, if given control of the reins.

Was the experience a bad one?  No, nor do I regret it.  I learned a lot.  I met some really wonderful people.  I gained experience of working with over 20 authors for one project, which was way cool.  I worked on cover design, formatting text, placement of stories.  It wasn’t a complete wash, but I wish I hadn’t included one of my favorite short stories.  Because it was published in this anthology, no magazine or publisher will touch it, even though I gave up no rights.  I’m looking at publishing it as a stand-alone e-book short story, that’s how much I love this southern paranormal tale.

We hear all the time of actors and actresses who say they regret making some of their first films.  Susan Sarandon has stated several times she would like to forget her role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Ironically, that is one of her most remembered and beloved roles.  I’m not going to go so far to say I wish I hadn’t participated in the anthology but I did learn valuable lessons like the importance of determining where your work appears.  Remember, in the publishing world…there are no do-overs, so make sure you do your best to get it right the first time.

13 thoughts on “Be careful what you put your name on…once published, there are no do-overs

  1. Good article. I am proud of all my stories however some people have found them offensive and deleted my wordpress. Do you have any thoughts on the balance between artistic expression and the possiblity of losing some jobs.


  2. You know what… I’ve seen quite a few ebook publishers that would take previously published works as long as you have the rights to it. You should look around. Maybe you can find a snug home for it in an anthology somewhere.


  3. I think this is a very common experience for newer writers. You’re excited about a story and you publish it in a fanzine, blog, etc. Although you may regret not having the sale value, just remember… This isn’t the only story you’ll ever write. There will be others. It’s great to take lessons from experience, but you shouldn’t think money is the only measure of your career.


  4. Wise words, as always. 🙂 Unfortunately, we may not recognize whether our work is as good as it can be until we see it years later, after we’ve had time to hone our craft. But I guess that means we have to make sure it’s as good as we can make it at the time.


    1. Exactly. Sometimes self publishing, ‘pay for inclusion’, isn’t always the best thing to do. So many times, aspiring authors want to see their names in print, they will do anything to get there, even if their work isn’t polished as well as it could be. That’s why betas and critique partners are so very, very important. And if you do decide to go with self publishing or ‘pay for inclusion’, make sure your submission fits with your expectations. So many times, authors submit, not realizing their christian fiction is going to appear beside a demonic murder tale. Scope it out, ask questions. If it’s not for you, don’t submit. There will be other chances.


  5. Oh, this is timely. Thank you for these thoughts. And I do agree. Unfortunately, hindsight is always 20/20 while we try to figure out how to go about our journey to publication.


      1. very true, but like you said, there’s no do-overs in the publishing industry. That the thought alone would give me writer’s block 🙂 Sometimes, the best learned lessons are the hard ones. I’ve spent nine years working on my first novel. Sometimes I wish I knew a little bit more about the process when I started, but then the dream might have seemed unattainable and I would have been overwhelmed with all the stuff we need to know to make our writing sing and then all the business aspects of it too. Sigh.

        But learning it the hard way, could also cost us our dreams, if we aren’t careful.


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