Time for the 2021 year-end writing wrap-up, which I have been doing for a few years now. You can find last year’s report here.
This year was a big year writing-wise for me because my first book came out. And because of the book, a lot of freelancing choices I made were in support of it and since I was trying to figure out how to help get the book into the world, I did not write as many freelance pieces as I may have liked. But I did get some done and here are the stats:
Here is a breakdown of some pitching stats for this year:
- Pitches/Submissions sent: 37
- Rejections (including some non-responses which I’m counting as rejections): 22
- Acceptances: 12
- Still out/waiting for responses: 3
So, it looks like my acceptance rate for the year is about 33% if I take out the ones I’m still waiting to hear back from, which is pretty good for me but as I’ve said before, it’s a little arbitrary because where I’m submitting matters as there are some places that are tougher than others to get into. I had set a goal to pitch 50 pieces which I did not meet! But turns out that working/parenting/pandemic/promoting a book took up a lot of my time. So it goes and I’m not too worried about failing to meet that one.
More fun facts:
- 22 submissions were short humor/satire pieces (I should note that some of these are submissions of the same piece since if I got a rejection from one place, I would often re-submit to another. (Also, since I find it interesting when others’ share the rejection info on these two sites, I can too: I got 3 rejections from New Yorker Shouts and 5 from McSweeney’s)
- 14 submissions were other nonfiction (essay, listicles etc.)
- Most rejections I’ve gotten on a single piece this year: 9. Still looking for a home for this piece (which is not humor but more of a servicey book-related piece). I still like the piece but may just set it aside for a while to see if I can re-work it later. As a side note, I once had an essay that got rejected over 30 times before it found a home, so I think it’s sometimes a matter of just continually tweaking and looking for the right home/right timing.
- Rejection white whale: For longtime listeners, NYT continues to be my rejection-related white whale, although it looks like only submitted there two times this year so I need to up my game next year.
- I published in 10 different publications including New Yorker Daily Shouts, Electric Lit, McSweeney’s, and several Medium pubs. You can also read more of the pieces I published this year by checking out the news section on my site here.
Writing is not my full-time job. I am a full-time college instructor and that provides the bulk of my income not to mention things like a retirement fund and insurance. This isn’t to say that you can’t make a living writing, people do — I know people who are full-time journalists or copywriters and there are also people making money writing books full-time, but I think it is also common that it’s a mix of income streams. For one example, Jane Friedman broke down her different streams of income here.
I have made some money from freelancing this year, but it only came out to about 2% of my income and the other 98% was from teaching. You may notice that neither of those percentages includes book income on it. That is because the advance I got for my book was paid completely in 2020. Author advances are broken down in different ways with payment typically being spread out in chunks and my chunks happened to come before publication (which was actually a good thing because it’s common to get a chunk paid upon publication but getting paid earlier was nice).
And, because of the way that royalty statements work in publishing, I will not actually see my first royalty statement until next year. And since the majority of authors do not earn out their advance (according to this, only about 25% of authors do) I can’t really depend on seeing money in that statement (and also because of the timing of the release of my book, that first statement will only account for the first month and a half or so of sales). Would it be nice if I eventually earn-out on the book? Yes. Am I counting on it? Not really!
At the end of last year this Tweet made the rounds:
I laughed when I saw it and now think I understand it on a much deeper level, having transitioned to the skeleton side of the rollercoaster.
It definitely takes a lot to release a book in the world and more time spent on the marketing side of the coin rather than the creative output. I completely understand why as a writer today you need to have somewhat of a toe in both these worlds and I actually found it kind of interesting to learn about a lot of the marketing side of things, but it’s also been a lot and I am looking forward to (hopefully) shifting more of my time back to creating new things in 2022.
I wrote a bit about some of the book marketing resources I found here and two authors who I’ve appreciated for their honest posts on the subject of putting a book into the world are Kimberly Harrington and Catherine Baab-Muguira.
One thing I’ve found most helpful through the book process is connecting with other authors who also had books come out. There are a million questions and decisions and feelings and just being able to talk through others who are in similar positions is helpful.
Of course, the downside of writer groups and social media can sometimes be writer envy, which I am not immune to. After reading approximately 1 billion blogs and discussions on publishing a book it has been interesting to realize that every writer is probably jealous of some other writer. The writer who has that thing you are jealous of is jealous of someone else or disappointed in something else.
And of course, the goalposts for success are always moving. For a long time, my big writing goal was to get a piece published in the New Yorker, after I did it then it became about trying to get another piece published there or X number of pieces.
A book was also a long-term goal which I’m very excited to have accomplished this year but that just also means setting the goalposts to another goal. Turns out, goals are endless. That said, I am grateful to have accomplished what I did next year and am looking forward to more writing next year.
I’m still kind of mulling over exact writing goals for 2022. One thing I’m thinking of trying to do is choose a month to do a Twitter joke writing challenge where I write at least one joke every day on Twitter. I know some people are already doing this but I haven’t been and I think Twitter jokes can be both a type of daily writing practice and a good way to sometimes test out ideas for bigger pieces. If you have somehow read all the way to the end and would want to join in on something like this, let me know and maybe we can make it happen!