The first time I sold a short story, it was a very small sale. It was for a tiny little e-publishing company that published on a website and sold compactions through Amazon. I wasn't paid. And I'm pretty sure it was simply someone looking for stuff to sell through Amazon Kindle. It's not a bad site, but I think they would have accepted just about anything given them. But, you know what? I was excited. It made me happy that I'd been published, even if it was a much smaller venue than I'd hoped.
The second time I was published, it was a small writing/drawing job for the office where my mother works. This one, I did get paid for, and I wrote illustrated information pamphlets to be handed out at the office. It wasn't much of a first paying job, as my mother had gotten it for me. Still, it made me feel good to get paid to write and draw something.
When I mentioned this on a forum, and mentioned that my credentials were nothing special, someone told me something that's stuck with me for some time. "A sale is a sale."
This is true. Naturally, when I first started trying to get things published, I submitted things to well-known magazine titles with large reader bases, good sized publishing houses and things like that. Like so many of us, I got rejected. Surely it was the quality of the writing that counted, and not the length of my resume or the fact that I was an unpublished author that mattered, right?
Well, the truth is that occasionally a publishing house will find someone they are very excited about who has never been published, and declare to the stars that they have "discovered" them.
Do not count on this happening.
As heartbreaking as it is, a writer needs a resume. In order to build your resume, please know that there is no shame in thinking small. Poetry contests for county fairs, articles for church newsletters, community newspapers, all of these things and more provide an invaluable source of beginning resume fodder.
No, writing for your church newsletter will not get you discovered by Random House. But, it might get you noticed by someone looking for someone to write for a local newspaper, which might get you work for a small circulation magazine and so on.
I think we all remember the 1990's movie "What About Bob." The "Baby Steps" joke did get worn out. That doesn't mean that it isn't applicable.
Start as high as you want. If you wrote a story that you love, submit it to the biggest, most famous publisher in the land. If it gets rejected, it's not going to get a big "Rejected by..." stamp on it for all to see. There’s nothing to lose. If you get published, that’s great. But, if you don’t, you might want to build your resume and readership.
And, if it's your resume you’re looking to create, don't be afraid to think local, and think small. Eventually, the more little jobs you do, the bigger the jobs will become. Then, with hard work, you just might reach your writing goals.