On Appreciating the Audience You Earn (Plus Some New Accolades)
That beautiful image above came as a surprise in my inbox earlier this month, when the fine folks at Thirty West Publishing (publishers of the audio story-focused e-zine Elevator Stories) let me know that they had nominated my short story “The Murals” as one of their two fiction submissions for the annual Best of the Net awards.
First off, it is really quite an honor and I’m very grateful. I’ve submitted my work to a number of writing awards, and even placed in a few, but it’s another thing for the editors of a publication — who read literally hundreds if not thousands of very, very good stories every year — to single out my work as among the best they published last year.
The feeling of gratitude and validation led me down a thought rabbit hole. Because I also — like so many fiction writers trying to cross the bridge from side hustle to career — put blood, sweat and tears into a novel manuscript last year. I’ve submitted it to several unpublished book contests, and it has placed in a few. I’ve sent it to many, many literary agents, with zero traction whatsoever.
I think the novel manuscript is good. My most honest beta readers who tell me when my work is ‘meh’ think it’s good. And so I’ve been frustrated by finding myself, yet again, stumped at the same point of the book publishing process. It’s enough, after five unpublished novels, to throw my hands up in the air and accept a fine life of writing thought leadership content. After all, what, ultimately, is the point of writing stories with no audience?
But that line of negative thinking is only focused on the audience I want — an audience of novel readers.
I wasn’t respecting or appreciating the audiences I had earned: The type of readers who breath life into a dizzying and diverse array of literary magazines, both online and print. Or the editors at those publications who might one day share my name or recommend me to an agent who can help make my novelist dreams come true. Or the young adult and college-age readers who will hopefully benefit from the upcoming book I co-authored guiding student-athletes on how to develop and manage their brands, now that they can profit from their name, image and likeness.
When I found out I had been nominated for Best of the Net, I felt immensely fulfilled. More than I expected. When I explored that feeling, it came down to the fact that I discovered a depth of appreciation for and gratitude to an audience of readers I had previously been viewing as a stepping stone on a march to a printed hard cover New York Times bestseller.
The lesson can probably be distilled down to a few tried-and-true cliches: Enjoy the journey. Stop and smell the roses. Take a moment to enjoy the view.
Yes, to all of those. It is immensely gratifying to have written a story that made an impact with readers.
Also as mentioned, and something that will certainly be the subject of many future posts when we get closer to the publication date, I’ve co-authored a book with University of Virginia Professor Kimberly Whitler that will be published spring 2022. Learn more about “The Athlete Brand: How to Benefit From Name, Image and Likeness.”
Lastly, The Vultures of Hogwaller — that unpublished novel manuscript I keep mentioning — advanced to the second stage of the 2021 CRAFT First Chapters Contest, which meant it finished among the Top 3% of submissions. Vultures was previously named a finalist — among the Top 5 for all entries — for the Spotlight First Novel Prize (read more here) and made the longlist for the Exeter Writing Prize (see here).