I'm a geek for word origins (etymology). In follow up to yesterday's post, I started thinking about the words commission and submission. As a writer, I've had exactly one commission. It was nice, my highest per word rate to date (a whopping 2 cents a word). Granted, as a piece of flash, it was only 1000 words (so I earned 20 bucks). Whoot.
Everything else has been via submission. Different world...and more competition.
Basically, the difference lies in the those two words: commission and submission. A commission is an assignment (from words meaning commit and mission); an editor/publisher comes to the writer and requests something. The writer writes to specifications. Hit it big enough, the door will open for a writer to receive more commissions. The pay rate is generally higher (from what I've learned) because the editor is trying to sell the idea to the writer. Supply (the work from that particular writer) is limited.
In the more typical submission model, the writer is trying to sell to the editor. Submission traces its history through Late Middle English and Latin, once upon a time carrying the denotation a letting down. When a writer submits, they take a lesser role. They join the horde trying to squeeze through the door. Understandably, the pay rates are going to be less. (Um, remember supply and demand...more stories=less pay for stories)
Ironically, submission requires an author to be on their 'A' game. There is a horde at the door, and even the worst FTL markets reject work occasionally, regardless of what other POVs may suggest. (You can't bank on Duotrope for accurate numbers, that's for sure...I'm not accepting 50+% of subs to 52 Stitches...no where near that, in fact) Competition brings out the best (and worst). Competition makes those at the top better. It does. (there are downsides to competition, but I'll reserve those for a later discussion)
Maybe, when a writer becomes good enough to garner commissions on a regular basis, it's because all those submissions did their job. Maybe a writer gets better through competition, first at the little mags, growing stronger and making better sales. It doesn't have to be every writers' journey, but it's a legitimate path...every bit as legit as landing a bestseller and then writing sub-par work on commission (as some "pros" invariably do). Pro writing isn't a clear line on the playground; if it was, as I said yesterday, everyone would eventually cross that line. Writing, like all art, will always be subjective.
...so, rant over. Like a said, snow day today. I should say "ice" day because there just isn't much snow. (see the picture from my front door)
But...the ice continues to fall. Ice is dangerous, I 'spose, and I do teach in a rural district. So I'm off to write our family Christmas letter. My wife, luv ya, thinks this should be easy because "I'm a writer". Har. I don't think any of my weird, dark magical realism, horror-fantasy will work in the letter.
If you're still reading, and I salute you if you are, you can roll over to Flashes in the Dark and read "Bleeding the Trees". I wrote it for Northern Haunts (talk about competition...didn't I know other people would write about maple trees?), and then sold it to another market which subsequently folded. As I've said before, I don't really mind giving away flash. Sorry.
It's the story, not me.