I am a big believer in Heinlein’s rules. According to those rules, once a story is written you should keep sending it out until it sells.
I think this makes a lot of sense. First off, writers aren’t the best judge of their work. So if you think a story is rotten and you trunk it before anybody sees it, then nobody has a chance to see if it is really as rotten as you think it is. Second off, you’ve already done the work of writing the story. That work will certainly never generate any money if the story is sitting in your closet under your dirty socks. Unless you plan to rewrite it at some time in the future (which may or may not violate another of Heinlein’s rules, depending on the context), then it doesn’t hurt you to keep sending it out there, while you are working on writing better stories. Even if it only gets you $10, that’s $10 you wouldn’t have otherwise.
So, by this logic, you should never trunk a story. However, I would like to present a few mitigating circumstances.
First, one of the stories I’m considering trunking is the first story I ever wrote. Even if I’m not the best judge of my work, I think I can say objectively that it’s not my best. I have also received detailed comments in rejections that I happen to agree with. These comments point out some major holes. As it currently stands, this story may never be publishable, at least by the types of people I would like to be published with. And I didn’t just decide that before it ever saw the light of day, I gave it quite a few tries (13 tries at the time of this post, to be specific).
Second, postage is not free. Each (snail mail) submission costs some small amount. If I send it to 20 more places before selling it for $10, then I would have been better off just cutting and running now. Now, money is not the only motivation to sell a story, so just because you might lose money doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop sending it. However, this leads into my third point.
Finally, I have my reputation to consider. Okay, that was sort of a joke. But in reality, there are magazines I would be proud to be published in, and there would be magazines I wouldn’t be proud to be in. My goal isn’t to be published just anywhere; if that were the case I would just put my stories up on my own website. My goal is to get into pro markets. I would not be satisfied if a story garnered 200 rejections before eventually being published in some fortheluv magazine for a couple of contributer’s copies. That would tell me that, at least for that story, it was not good enough. I can tell myself that all day long and save on the postage.
The thing is, if I really believed in a story, I would push forward no matter what. Some of my stories I really believe in. There are a few that I don’t. So that makes it a little harder to keep looking farther and farther down the market list.
So should I trunk it, or not? I’m leaning towards yes, but I might need a few more rejections to make up my mind.