Litmags that specialize in disability-related literature

pen and journals

  Photo courtesy of Joanna Kosinska

Online, a creative writer can find her tribe much more easily than is possible anywhere else. The following disability-focused literary publications are readily discoverable and of interest to all, but they’re especially important to writers with disabilities.

I’ll add to this list when similar publications come to my attention. Please let me know if I’ve missed any good ones.

Abilities

Breath & Shadow

The Deaf Poets Society

Disability Studies Quarterly

Exceptions Journal

Kaleidoscope

Pentimento

Snap Journal

When Language Runs Dry

Wordgathering

The Disability Literature Consortium and the blog DISPOET regularly post calls for submissions and other opportunities for writers. They encourage collaboration among artists.

Also of interest

Publishing stories about mental illness and recovery

Publications that specialize in the topics of illness, healing, and the medical professions

The demands of commercial authorhood today

daydreamer

  Photo courtesy of Alexander Solodukhin

Daydreaming fosters creativity. Industriousness, on the other hand, is beneficial for commerce. Rarely is a creative writer equally productive in both modes.

Everyone’s favorite writers’ conferences and how-to-get-published guides gently encourage and inspire. They wouldn’t be as popular if they presented a fully realistic picture of what it takes for an author to succeed commercially—that is, by selling lots of books. As an unfortunate, unintended result, many aspiring book authors are led too soon to believe they’re ready to compete with their idols in the publishing world. I’m conflicted about how to bring this matter up with prospective clients.

The telltale promise that exposes naïve writers every time is, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes for my book to succeed.” They feel compelled to say it, because they haven’t begun to envision and haven’t yet started whatever it takes. Technically, it’s a failure of their imagination. It shouldn’t happen.

My job is to screen out the dilettantes and hobbyists and to coach the thoughtful, devoted, solid professionals who have chosen writing as a career path. Following are some of the questions I try to remember to ask prospective clients when we’re deciding whether we’ll be able to work together.

Takeaway: If you don’t have good answers to these questions, then there’s no need to pitch your manuscript to me. You’re not ready.

How much time can you invest in building your writing career, knowing you’ll simultaneously need to spend significant time earning income? Holding down a day job is not an issue if you have enough passive income or savings to support yourself for more than a few years. Will any of your commitments over the next several years prohibit you from being in the public eye and from devoting a lot of unpaid time to your author platform and your writing? *

Have you already proven you’ll be able to market yourself as an author? Have you developed a following or any sort of name recognition among a sufficiently large group of people who are likely to buy your book? Consider that selling books primarily to the writers in your social circle isn’t an ideal marketing strategy, unless your book happens to be a writers’ manual.

Can you show me articles, essays, or stories you’ve written that were published in journals and magazines or on websites with some traffic? While unremunerative, collecting publication credits can be a quick-start learning experience. By the way, I tell new writers that it’s likely to take sixty submissions to get a first short story or essay published in a selective journal or magazine, including the digital ones.

Do you write a column or blog for a print or online publication? Landing that sort of (typically low-paying) gig demonstrates your ability to network and collaborate with an editor.

Do you have a professional-looking website and an active, engaging presence on significant social media sites? Which authors’ websites are your benchmarks? Don’t think of emulating but learn from the living authors you most admire.

If you’ve made no initial progress on your author platform before contacting me, then I’ll be forced to assume you never will. It takes a great deal of time to acquire the technical and social skills and then to execute a long-term publicity strategy for a career. Many, in fact most, writers aren’t terribly teachable or motivated to work on their techniques for self-promotion, without which their chances of succeeding as a commercial author are just too remote. I’m obligated to choose clients who are prepared to knock it out of the park, not those who have never shown up for batting practice.

I do my utmost to prepare a new client to collaborate successfully with a publisher and with the people who will offer opportunities for good publicity that might increase book sales. The actual work is up to the writer. Some might prefer to find and hire freelancers to help with some of their responsibilities. I don’t recommend delegating tasks, because no one will care more about the success of a book than its author. Usually it’s obvious when there’s no practical possibility that a potential client will follow through on vague promises to hire someone to do the work they don’t want, or don’t know how, to do.

Once a book is under contract, a publisher’s timeline is unyielding. Authors sometimes are asked, for example, to turn around revisions or proofs in as little as two weeks. No one will worry whether those two weeks happen to fall during the author’s annual vacation in the Florida Keys. Grace under pressure is an enormously valuable trait.

I emphasize to new clients the benefit of rolling up their sleeves. If a publishing team begins to sense that their new author isn’t working as hard as they are to launch the author’s book successfully, then the publisher’s staff will shift their focus to another book by another author. Conversely, if an author is going above and beyond anyone’s expectations to generate amazingly creative publicity for a book, then the publishing team will be enthusiastic and motivated, at least to care, even if they don’t have a spare moment to act. The caring part matters. It ripples out. The word spreads. You’ve got to read this one!

Debut authors get one chance to establish their commercial viability. It doesn’t matter whether their first books are self-published or traditionally published. The sales data are inescapable. To the largest trade book publishers, an author was a financial risk who cautiously was given an opportunity to become a profitable investment. If readers didn’t show their approval by purchasing thousands of copies of the author’s book, the record of poor sales becomes all but impossible to overcome. When a book flops, according to the trade book publishing industry’s definition of failure at the time, then commercial publishers won’t invest in the author’s future works. It doesn’t matter how gifted the author is or how much I believe in and like the person. A first-time author is viewed as a more strategic risk than one whose published book hasn’t sold well.

I’ve been through this fantasy-wrecking process with writers who thought they could either a) embark on degree programs, internships, alternate career development, or other major new endeavors while simultaneously building a career as a book author, or b) immediately discard all of their practical plans in favor of a career as a book author, without realizing how slim the chance that writing ever will generate an income sufficient to live on. The illusion of overnight success is the de facto gate beyond which most aspiring authors can’t progress.

These demands might seem unbearable or unfair, but as long as a few good writers are finding imaginative ways to put in whatever effort is required to succeed commercially, they will be the ones setting the bar so high.

How do you plan to manage all of the work ahead of you?

* In case you haven’t noticed, these expectations have an unfair and disparate impact on writers who are not wealthy but desire careers in the arts requiring many hours of labor with little likelihood of financial gain. I already do a lot of pro bono work as an agent, as I’m sure most authors’ representatives do, because we believe in trying to mitigate the existing disadvantages. At least one nonprofit literary agency exists in the U.S. Check it out. Individual publishing houses and arts funding agencies contribute much more to solving this persistent problem.

Literary agencies located across the African continent

postage stamps

  Photo courtesy of Graham Soult


Writers looking for literary agencies in African countries will not find an overabundance of them. To maximize the chances of impressing one of these few agents with your talent, prepare your strategy carefully. Read my 25 steps to finding and working with a literary agent.

Learn how to get your book published successfully by reading Jane Friedman’s advice to authors. If you write short stories or poems, take a look at Ayelet Tsabari’s free guide to publishing in literary magazines.

I welcome information about any other literary agencies located in African countries.


Egypt

Sphinx Agency – Ahmed Ibrahim
Tanany Book Services – Mostafa Tanany


Nigeria

The Lumina Literary Agency


South Africa

The Lennon-Ritchie Agency – Aoife Lennon-Ritchie
Talk To Me Literary Agency – Monica Seeber
Van Aggelen African Literary Agency – Bieke Van Aggelen


Zimbabwe

Chirikure Chirikure


We’ve reached peak vanity (I hope)

Now that we all have a book, a blog, a microphone, or a stage, we are well equipped. We can reach an audience. We can communicate our messages. We are empowered. Someone somewhere is paying attention to us.

Someone, or maybe many people, are paying attention and judging. They’re deciding whether we’re wasting their time and if they should shift their attention to someone more entertaining or intelligent or informed.

No one is assigned to stop us from making fools of ourselves by being unprepared, unethical, or ungracious when we take the stage or publish our work. Our vanity has demanded a means to get attention, and now we have it. Are we ready?

Asa Rodger

  Photo courtesy of Asa Rodger

Heartbreak all around

Sad news of romantic love lost or in jeopardy has come too frequently this spring. It makes me melancholy, and it makes me try harder to rationalize everyone’s emotional reactions in order to pretend that any of them make sense.

loveEach human being, myself included, is a tangle of emotional contradictions. At the moment, I can’t help thinking we’ve gotten the idea of love all wrong—so wrong that we wind up conflicted at every turn. We’ve overcomplicated love. We’ve reinforced a mythology of love that is unnecessarily unrealistic. We’ve insisted that love is about tender feelings for another person, but I’m not sure we’re being honest.

If love is a way of feeling—an emotional state—then maybe it’s more correct to imagine love as the exquisite joy that arises within a person who has been accepted, validated, encouraged, and valued in any number of ways. Who wouldn’t want more of that? The risk of losing such an emotional high is like the prospect of going through detox.

Are we confusing ourselves with the words we use to speak of love? If we were to revise the usual definitions and come up with more appropriate metaphors, could we understand ourselves better as beings in whom a sense of love is evoked rather than bestowed? Should we correctly term love a response rather than an interaction? Maybe love doesn’t have an object.

It’s easy to predict that heartbroken lovers will experience love again. The inevitability of finding new love is part of what makes love look to me more like an enviable state of mind than a relationship between two people.

It’s old news from Psychology Today but worth remembering:

In the world of relationships, the most important numbers to learn are: five to one. That is the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones that predicts whether a marriage will last or become one of the sad statistics of divorce.

The Psychology Today article briefly summarizes some of the research findings of John M. Gottman, whose blog I found just this moment in order to link to the source of the studies. The blog looks like a wonderful distraction.

Tell me if I’m wrong, but Gottman’s research seems to support my purely extemporaneous contention. Grant, if you will, that the feeling or experience of love evaporates rather quickly, or can transform into pain, when the sensation of being regarded positively by another person is disrupted or the scales don’t remain tipped five to one. It can happen suddenly, or gradually over a long period of time.

Try to disregard all the clichés we use to describe it. Might love be nothing more than one person’s response to another’s behavior? Even if the other person’s actions are intentionally supportive, affirming, romantic, manipulative, or seductive, should they be termed loving? Shouldn’t we use separate, more accurate words for the effort and the reaction, the cause and the effect? Would more exact word pictures help us to understand the necessity of working at long-term relationships? Would precision with language allow us to comprehend why some people cannot feel loved? Would factual labeling make true love appear less haphazard and elusive?

Writers ought to be able to grapple with this idea better than I’m doing. What do you think? (That is, those of you who don’t believe it’s better for love to remain mysterious.) I’m open to debate and certainly don’t have the answers. Point me to some relevant research or just give me your thoughts.

Why be honest?

Authors must be asking themselves whether it’s really wise to be honest in their professional dealings these days. The flamboyant examples set by too many untrustworthy public figures send the message that honesty is outmoded, or simply of no competitive advantage. And yet, I continue to judge prospective, as well as current, clients unfavorably if they lie.

I’m a harsh critic when someone fails to live up to promises or when a person implies something that isn’t true in order to secure a benefit of some sort. These days, fraud detection starts on receipt of a prospective client’s query. I commonly hear from writers who already have self-published the books they want me to represent, although they don’t bother to reveal the information in their queries. Presuming their failed do-it-yourself publishing projects might disqualify them, they omit the information and come off looking like liars. The extra few seconds it takes me to discover the book’s publication details aren’t the source of annoyance. It’s the lack of honesty that bugs me.

Posted on my agency’s website is a link to the answer I give authors who ask if I can interest traditional publishers in their self-published books. It’s no secret.

I can’t be the only one who believes honesty is a virtue and its lack a primary indicator of someone with whom I’d rather never be associated. In practice, though, my own honesty when communicating with prospective clients doesn’t always work in my favor.

More than a few authors have complained privately to me that their literary agents set them up with false promises or unwarranted enthusiasm and then failed to find publishers for their books. From the moment I launched my business, I took pains to avoid being perceived as that kind of agent. I’ve been brutally honest about the amount of work involved in getting a book published, but it shouldn’t be surprising that truth isn’t what a lot of writers care to hear. Many prefer the fairy tale, and when given the choice, they’re bewitched by the flattery and bravado of someone less scrupulous.

In the long run, I hope valuing honesty pays off. Whether it does or doesn’t, I’ll choose to align myself with people who are not only talented but whose strong moral character and intrinsic honesty is as apparent in their professional dealings as it is in their writing.

roosting birds

Give it time

Slow down is not advice any writer wants to hear, because the goal of being published is so alluring. Give it time. Learn how to do it well. Wait until the cake is done before you take it out of the oven. The results will be so much more satisfying.

Nine years ago today I started this blog, coincidentally the same year I met David Sanders at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival. This year, his collection of poetry Compass & Clock was published by Swallow Press, just in time for the celebration of National Poetry Month. If you listen carefully, you can hear my old neighbor and dear friend describe the necessity of patience as he explains his writing process to WOUB Digital’s podcast host Tom Hodson: “It’s a book that I’ve been working on for thirty years or so, and these are the poems that have risen to the top.”

Congratulations, David! Salut.

Encouragement for aspiring authors: foolishness will eliminate most of your competition

Aspiring authors eager for encouragement can be glad of one thing, which I can promise will never change: human nature. Most of their competitors—other writers vying to win readers—will fail to capitalize on the opportunities they’re given. They will consider themselves too talented to be overlooked, too intelligent to take advice, and too exceptional to fail.

Day after day, I receive queries from authors whose books were published, either traditionally or nontraditionally, but then languished without appreciable sales. These writers took or were given their chances and did not make the most of them. Usually, they haven’t recognized or tried to rectify the problems that kept their books from reaching or appealing to readers. When it’s too late, they want someone else to repair the damage.

I don’t often hear from unsuccessful authors who know exactly where they stand. I’m contacted by those who are mystified by book buyers’ disappointing reactions to their work. Oblivious to the reasons, these particular writers remain confident that fairytale success will find them if only they believe in themselves.

No amount of testimony by successful authors whose years of struggle and relentless practice enabled their careers will convince a writer who doesn’t want to face the unpleasant aspects of the business of creative writing. The obstacles include endless revisions and rejections, critical scrutiny, meager pay, and a market robust enough to cater to readers’ every whim rather than every writer’s wallet. Unwavering perfectionism, sincere humility and willingness to learn, and the ability to connect with audiences are rare qualities even in the most talented writers. That’s why there are so few success stories, compared to failed attempts, in book publishing. The coincidence of necessary personal and professional qualities is truly unusual.

Occasionally, good writers do recognize how much effort and time it will cost them to achieve the careers they envision, and the realization paralyzes them. They may believe they can’t handle the pressure or the demands on their time, that the market isn’t fair, or that their aspirations are self-indulgent. I have more sympathy for them than for the failed author who is hobbled by a big ego. The fact remains that authors today have more choices and resources than ever before to enable their success. Along with those choices and opportunities goes the personal responsibility to make the best use of them.

Sounds true, you say, but where should a writer who honestly wants to improve seek reliable, free advice? Here are a few good sources.

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman

Online Critique Groups for Writers

A Flowchart For Diagnosing Self Publishing Problems by Morris Rosenthal

Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Lion of St. Mark

  Lion of St. Mark