Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Short Fiction Pay Rates

A week or so back, John Scalzi tore into Black Matrix Publishing for their short fiction pay rate of 1/5 of a cent per word.  Black Matrix responded, explaining that this is a “labor of love.” They never implied that they were a pro market, and isn’t a token payment better than none at all? (I believe Publish America uses the same rationalization with their $1 advance.) Scalzi promptly shredded their arguments.

Cat Valente weighed in as a “mid-career author” who writes a lot of short fiction.  Sarah Monette offered a third perspective, including examples of her own fiction which sold for fairly low rates, and a discussion of when and why she chooses to submit her work to semi-pro markets.

Looking at my own bibliography, there are two stories I received no payment for, and at least a half-dozen more that fall into the semi-pro category, whether that’s a $5 flat rate or a penny a word.  A careful reading will also show that this stopped around the end of 2003, after I “sold” a flash piece to a royalties-only e-book that, as far as I can tell, never sold a single copy.

Around 2004, I began submitting only to markets that paid SFWA pro rates (Then three cents a word. ETA: Current SFWA pro rate is 5 cents/word). Not because I was insulted by lesser pay rates.  Not because I felt exploited by the smaller markets.  But because my goal as a writer was to be read.

Publishing in those smaller venues was good for my ego.  Of course it feels better to be accepted than rejected.  But aside from that ego boost, those sales did little else for my stories or my career.  Sure, I could go out and buy a slice of pizza with my earnings.  But almost nobody read my work.

The contributors got their copy, so it’s possible some of my fellow authors glanced at my story.  Maybe.  (Authors, how many of you read every story in every contributor copy of an anthology or magazine?)  Aside from that?  Well, one friend in college did pick up a copy of World Wide Writer, so that’s something, right?  What’s World Wide Writer, you ask?  Oh, right.  They were a tiny startup ‘zine that died after two issues.

I don’t use pay rate as an absolute rule.  Sure I’d rather make $250 than $25.  But I sold a story to Andromeda Spaceways recently, and they pay significantly less than 5 cents/word.  On the other hand, they’ve been around a long time, put out a nice magazine, and have a good reputation and readership for a semi-pro.  There are a handful of others, publications that pay less than pro rates, but have earned a lot of critical acclaim or developed a broader readership.

In general though, minuscule pay rate correlates to minuscule readership.  I suspect there are more markets listed on the for-the-luv page at Ralan than there are readers for those markets.

When I started aiming for pro markets in 2004, several things happened.  I got rejected more.  I was forced to improve as a writer.  And eventually, as I broke into those markets, more people began reading my work.

Is Black Matrix exploiting writers? Token payment is better than nothing. (Chtulhu spare us from markets promising “exposure” as compensation.)  But there’s “token” and there’s “spare change I found in my sofa.”1 I don’t believe Black Matrix is trying to scam anyone.  But I won’t submit to them, and I wouldn’t recommend them as a market for new writers who want to build a career and be read.

  1. Deleted for unnecessary snark.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 93 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 7th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
The minimum for SFWA pro rate is 5 cents a word.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Dec. 7th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - mtlawson - Dec. 7th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - Dec. 7th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
What does it mean by SFWA pro rate? The minimum recommended rate for a sale recognized by the SFWA?
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
Full SFWA membership qualification requires either one novel sale to a qualifying publisher, or else three short fiction sales to qualifying markets. One of the criteria for short fiction markets is that they have to pay at least five cents/word.
(no subject) - prusik - Dec. 7th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marycatelli - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
I often have length issues (like a novella at 38K) that preclude most of the pro markets.

So there's more than just the $ factor deciding where stuff goes.
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
I thought one or two of the pros would take the longer stuff. FSF? I might be misremembering, though...

But yeah, I can see where you'd run out of markets pretty quickly.
(no subject) - j_cheney - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - swan_tower - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - j_cheney - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - swan_tower - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - j_cheney - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachel_swirsky - Dec. 8th, 2009 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rachel_swirsky - Dec. 8th, 2009 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - j_cheney - Dec. 8th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
Having people read your stories is definitely the most wonderful thing. Getting a response from even one person puts me over the moon. Remembering that, I try to leave messages for people whenever I read and enjoy their stories.

Authors, how many of you read every story in every contributor copy of an anthology or magazine?

In one case, I did read every story! And, due no doubt to the awesome editor, all the other stories were great. I felt honored to be in their company. (As it happens, it was the YA issue of Coyote Wild.) In most other cases, yeah, I don't read every other story, but I try to read at least a couple of others. Same with if a friend points me to his or her story somewhere--I try to glance at at least one other story. It helps me feel more grounded in what the various publications are publishing, and it helps me find some pretty great stories.

Dec. 7th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
I always feel guilty for not reading my contributor copies. I'll try, but most of the time I end up reading some of the stories, then getting caught up in something else.

I'll make a point of trying to read friends' work, and I do try to read at least a few.
(no subject) - catvalente - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spaceoperadiva - Dec. 7th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spaceoperadiva - Dec. 7th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)
It's stuff I wish I had talked and thought about more ten years ago when I was first starting out, instead of figuring it out as I went. And I definitely think it's helpful to get different authors weighing in on how they decide which markets to submit to and why.
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:27 pm (UTC)
Interesting! Thanks. :)

-The Gneech
Dec. 7th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
I've never really looked into SFWA and HWA. Although, I'm in a particular situation with all that: I write roleplaying game books for a living. Most of what I do is in the 3.5-4.5 cent per word range. However, writing is my sole source of income. I do about 60-90k words a month on average.

I make filler income with blogging (ironically, my blog pays me 5 cents a word plus a premium for hits,) and with magazine articles (which pay upwards of 25 cents per word.) Between my blog and magazine work, I do another ~20k of professional work per month.

So technically, despite the fact that I'm a full-time writer that makes a not-insignificant income from writing, I'm ineligible for any of these organizations. I'm not entirely sure why, but I feel there's something off with that.
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Just to play devil's advocate, there's a difference between making significant income from writing and making significant income from writing science fiction and fantasy.

Nonfiction definitely pays better than fiction. I drool over what some of my nonfiction writing buddies make per word.

While you couldn't join as an active member of SFWA based on what you describe there, I'm pretty sure you could get an affiliate account if you wanted to. They do have a membership option for those who work in the field (nonfiction, editing, agents, etc), but haven't met the fiction requirements.
(no subject) - machineiv - Dec. 7th, 2009 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marycatelli - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nihilistic_kid - Dec. 8th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
For me, personally, it depends on the market. All my sales so far have been semi-pro, just for beer and burger money. Some semi-pro markets are quite good, some are awful. It's pretty easy to see which is which, I don't need John Scalzi telling me, because I can read them for myself.

I'd like to write for the pro magazines. However, when the pro mags reject, I go semi-pro. (My stories are somewhere between "not good enough" and "not what we're looking for.") It doesn't make sense to hoard the stories. I will simply write more--better ones--and keep submitting. Eventually, when I sell pro, the semi-pro credits can quietly slip off my resume. It's not something that I worry too much about.
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
Some of it is doing the research, like you say. Figuring out which of these markets is worth submitting to and which should be avoided at all costs, and the criteria there will probably vary from one writer to the next.

One data point on the hoarding, which I mentioned to Michael below -- I have several stories which I've trunked, then come back to later. I've been able to rewrite and fix those stories, and sold them to pro level markets. I'm not saying this is the One Right Way to do it, only that it's another path.
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:10 pm (UTC)
Here’s my two cents as an aspiring writer...

I agree with Scalzi about that particular market. That pay rate is bad joke. Otherwise, I lean towards truepenny.

My problem with taking a stand against submitting to markets not paying pro rates is that there are almost no markets left that pay at pro rates. Ralan lists 35 pro markets as of this morning. Six of those markets are children’s or mystery markets. That gives you 29 SF/F markets. Of those 29 markets, many are closed to submissions or possibly defunct. By my count, there are only 14 markets actually taking unsolicited submissions as of today (some will reopen after the holidays). Once you start looking at the guidelines for length or type of story, a writer is lucky if 5 of those markets are appropriate for a particular story. Each one of those markets receives hundreds of submissions for a couple of slots each month. Even if I wrote an exquisite story (not that I am at this stage of my writing career), I’m competing in that pile with seasoned professionals and their exquisite stories.

As an aspiring writer, I expect to win the lottery before I expect to be picked up off a slush pile at a pro market (and I don’t play the lottery). I know it does happen; that’s why I always start at the top. Once I get rejected, I move down the list to semi-pros and then the pay markets with a good reputation.

I would rather that one of my short stories got published in a market with 10 readers and a $5 pay rate than have that story die on my hard drive.
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
Ooh -- time to argue with Michael! :-)

I've never won the lottery. I've had stories picked out of the slush at Realms of Fantasy, Brutarian Quarterly, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, and Writers of the Future. (If you count WotF as having a slush pile.) All of those are/were pro-paying markets. It does happen, and you should expect it -- eventually.

"I would rather that one of my short stories got published in a market with 10 readers and a $5 pay rate than have that story die on my hard drive."

Third possibility: you trunk the story, then come back in five years, rewrite it, and sell it to a pro market for $300 and 5000 readers. This isn't a hypothetical; this is what I've done with at least a half-dozen of my older stories.
(no subject) - michaeldthomas - Dec. 7th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - prusik - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - temporus - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - melissajm - Dec. 8th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - margaret_y - Dec. 7th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marycatelli - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
I ran a zine for over 11 years that paid well less than pro rate. Our mission statement was to welcome new writers and expose them to the publishing process -- we used a double-blind review system, every story was sent back with a critique, and we demanded revisions of stories that had promise but weren't quite there yet. Since I'm a university professor in "real life," I tried to bring a teaching/advising/mentoring component into publishing, just as I do in the classrooom. But I sure as heck couldn't afford to pay pro rates out-of-pocket. Moreover, I abhor advertising, and my efforts to secure an arts grant from which I might pay authors failed. So, should I have given up and closed down?

Heck no. My zine was the first to publish the works of several authors who have since gone on to publish in bigger markets and, in a few cases, sell novels. I'm proud to have helped them break in, and I'm delighted every time one of "my" writers drops me an email to tell me about another publishing success.

I think critiquing a publication just because its owner can't afford to offer pro rates is ridiculous.

Pro markets are scarce, as pointed out above. Pro markets often have very strict word limits, precisely because they're paying so much per word. Pro markets pit amateurs against, well, pros. And pro markets do not provide detailed feedback that will help amateurs *become* pros.

The better semi-pro and "for the love" markets fill those ecological and pedagogical niches in the publishing field.

We don't scoff at Little League, or junior varsity teams, or even varsity teams, just because they don't pay their players pro rates. We don't turn up our noses at companies that offer internships or entry-level positions that aren't paying top dollar. We don't scorn charities because they rely heavily on volunteer labor and offer less-than-top-market salaries to their paid employees. And we don't demand that small nightclubs or tiny local galleries pay equivalent fees to the struggling musicians or artists that they'd pay to chart-topping bands or famous painters or sculptures.

So why critique small pubs, just because their editors can't afford to pay pro prices?

Respect the labor of love and let writers decide where they want to put their efforts.
Dec. 7th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
Can you show me where I'm scofffing, turning up my nose, scorning, or demanding that small pubs pay pro rates? I'd also like to know how you helped these authors to break in, because for me, the small press sales I made in the beginning did little to nothing in helping me build the kind of career I was looking for.

I'm not slamming those markets. I'm proud of the stories, and the editors poured their hearts into those publications. But in terms of helping me get noticed? Of helping me improve my craft? I'm afraid not.

When there are enough pro markets for me to keep a story in the mail for years without exhausting them all, I'd have to disagree with you about them being scarce. I definitely wish there were more, but I've been hearing people say the pro markets are vanishing for years now. Some of them go under, but I've also watched others come along to take their place.

I can understand why you're taking all of this so personally, since you edited a small press publication. But I'm not attacking you, or telling you that you should have "given up and closed down." I'm just telling you one of the reasons I probably wouldn't choose to submit my work to you.
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
I really think Black Matrix made a PR mistake. If y'all are broke, don't pay by the word. Pay a flat rate of $20, which no one around here sneers at. It looks way worse broken down into a per word rate.
Dec. 7th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
That, plus the P.R. mistake of trying to argue with Scalzi online. I don't think that's quite up there with land wars in Asia, but it never seems to end well.
(no subject) - swan_tower - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
For me, a market either has to pay professional rates, or be doing something pretty cool. Without one or the other of these, I tend to be hesitant to submit.

I also think--as with novel-length work--an argument can be made for waiting for the right market to come along, if it doesn't already exist. Having your work read 5 or 10 years from now may be better than having it disappear without a trace within the year, all told.
Dec. 7th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
That makes sense. I know I've bent my "rules" for:

-Ooh, that sounds like fun!
-I like and support what this publication is doing
-It's a friend asking me for a story

Probably other factors, but those are the three that come to mind right now.
(no subject) - janni - Dec. 7th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 8th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stephen_dedman - Dec. 9th, 2009 05:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I think the new thing that I took away from your journal on the subject is the actual question of exposure. I've considered prestige, and I've considered cash. What I *haven't* considered is how many people are going to see the darned thing.


1. Yes, I'll take your dirty money.
2. Yes, I'll take your dirty prestige.
3. If all else fails, I guess I'll expose myself?

Oh dear...

Seriously, though, readership is a factor very worth considering. I suppose the best alchemy is a mix of all three of those factors.

Dec. 7th, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC)
When I was first starting out, I got it into my head that the goal was to be published, to be able to produce a list of short fiction credits. I figured out that some credits carried more weight than others, but it took a while for that to really sink in, and to realize that one of the reasons some credits didn't carry much weight was because so few people read them.

Exposing yourself is always an option, but some editors respond better than others, so be careful and do your research first :-)
(no subject) - temporus - Dec. 7th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 06:54 pm (UTC)
I'm a horrible person, but I always refused to even submit to markets that didn't make sfwa's minimal standards, and had trouble accepting publication in any of these other markets as actual "publication". The one exception to this would be the handful of mid-zine markets that passed my personal quality test. I submitted and sold a story to Electric Velocipede because John had a good rep in the industry. I picked up a copy and loved 90% of the stories in it, so I put it in my rotation.

Not to say that good stories don't appear in these markets. I just think it's worth an author's time to really evaluate what they want to get out of publication (ego or a career?) and plan their submission policy accordingly.
Dec. 7th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
"I just think it's worth an author's time to really evaluate what they want to get out of publication (ego or a career?) and plan their submission policy accordingly."

Yes, that. I don't think everyone has to follow the same plan I do, but I definitely think it's a good idea to step back and think about what you want to get, and which markets are going to help you get there.
Dec. 7th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the two cents on the topic. Enjoyed the post.

Dec. 7th, 2009 08:58 pm (UTC)
Interesting :)
Dec. 7th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
I try :-)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Dec. 7th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
I am one of those aspiring writers still improving (do we ever stop improving?), and set it as my goal to receive 100 rejections this year. Yes, 100 flipping rejections. Because if I got 100 rejections, I had to have made at least 100 submissions, and hopefully something would be accepted somewhere. I had high standards. I submitted only to the best magazines.

Fast forward to October, and I'd made my 100 submissions, and hadn't received one single acceptance. Not one. Meanwhile, I'd become involved in the running in a respected semipro magazine, and I'd seen the staggering amount of slush a magazine receives. I can only imagine what the slush pile of a pro zine looks like.

It's extremely hard for a writer to break into that level, even if your writing and stories are quite good (as indicated by personal rejections I've received from those pro zines).


It's incredibly depressing to get 100 consecutive rejections, so in October I fired off some stories I was sick of seeing with a blunderbuss to any magazine or anthology that sounded interesting regardless of the pay.

Almost all were accepted.

At the moment, I'm submitting to a full range of the market. I'll submit to pro zines, but I'll also submit to small magazines if the project sounds interesting.

What have I learned?

- people who say they'll only submit to pro markets have never received 100 rejections in a row. They probably don't submit much at all
- I don't like pay rate snobbery. In terms of a career, even 5c a word is laughable. It's just NOT about money
- if you don't submit nothing will be accepted
- some fun stuff gets published, sometimes by magazines that don't pay at all
Dec. 7th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
More later, but as one of the snobs you're referring to, I've received close to 600 rejections. I'd have to do a lot of work to resort my submissions list to find out how many I've received in a row.
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 11:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tobias_buckell - Dec. 8th, 2009 07:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 7th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
There are definitely semi-pro or low-pay markets I submit to because I love what they're doing, more than I am eager for pay. It does feel more worthwhile to submit to those markets than to "for-the-love" markets, to me -- but honestly, if I loved a free zine, I'd probably submit to that as well. It's just a much different purpose of submission to me than a pro-market submission.

(Of course, I'd still like to see more of my short fiction out there in the world, instead of getting read by no-one, which is where a lot of my short fiction is now. So that may also be a factor.)
Dec. 7th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
No argument here. The more I talk about this, the more I think it comes down to research, just like anything else. Know what your goals are, and know which markets will help you -- and which won't.

When I did The Faery Taile Project, the goal wasn't to reach thousands of readers. I wanted to have fun after stressing about a book, to try something new and see if I could do it, and incidentally, to make some money. (Though small press, they paid pro rates, which was nice.) In terms of expanding readership, that particular sale didn't do as much as other markets might have. But it was fun, and I needed a break :-)

On the other hand, when someone defends Black Matrix by saying "I don't care about the money; I write because I want to be read," I just cringe...
Dec. 7th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
As the editor of an e-zine that only pays a token rate ($1 + a contributor's copy) I'm looking forward to reading all the comments in this thread. :) I don't feel like I can add anything at the moment, everything I start writing starts to sound defensive or like justifications LOL but I'm reading and thinking.
Dec. 7th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Thanks. It's got to be hard to be on that side of the discussion right now.

I think the piece I'd stress about my own little rant is that this was my decision based on my goals as a writer. But not everyone has the same goals. To pick another extreme, fanfic authors write for very different purposes, and payment has absolutely nothing to do with it.

So I don't want to proclaim that all semi-pro and 4-the-luv markets are worthless. But for what I wanted--to build a commercial writing career as a fantasy author--those markets were not helpful for me. Does that make sense?
(no subject) - rhondaparrish - Dec. 7th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 7th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rhondaparrish - Dec. 8th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Dec. 8th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - rhondaparrish - Dec. 8th, 2009 04:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 8th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
Well put, Jim. Thanks for discussing this.

I had a few things I'm wondering if anyone ever read in smaller semipro and luv publications and sites. Within the last few months I've started to submit more to pro markets and I've found the same - it has forced me to work harder and craft my pieces with more skill. It has done quite a bit for my writing. And my reject pile is getting more and more lengthy.

I love those markets that accepted my first works and I gladly list them in my credits, but, as you said, I'd like to try to reach a few more readers at this point.
Dec. 9th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
That depends on the stage at which you're writing, too; or how you feel about a particular story, perhaps in a somewhat unfamiliar genre. Some of the smaller markets do actually take the time to crit stories, which they couldn't do if they were in the larger market bracket.
Dec. 9th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
I don't write much short stuff anymore, and only have one short story published-- "Dead and (Mostly) Gone" in the Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction (Llewellyn/BBI Media 2007). But I got paid real money for that one.

My take on this is two-fold. I agree with your goal of being read. I also think, on general principles, that once you are a professional author, for the most part [and there are exceptions to every rule] you should get paid for what you write.
Dec. 10th, 2009 02:20 am (UTC)
I think the question more to the point is either:
"If a $0.005 market will publish it, maybe a larger market will too, so why shortchange yourself?"
"If you suck, why not get paid a little for sucking, instead of nothing at all?"
Dec. 10th, 2009 01:18 pm (UTC)
We all suck when we're starting out. Speaking for myself, I'm glad my early stories aren't out there with my name on them, even if only a handful of people would have read them.

"If you suck, why not get paid a little for sucking, instead of nothing at all?"

This implies that the small press and semi-pro markets will take stories that suck, which isn't true in a lot of cases. But it's true in some. And sure, when I was writing crap stories, wouldn't it be better to get $5 or $10 for those instead of nothing?

Maybe. Except that by trunking those stories, I was able to come back to them years later, see what was wrong, fix them, and sell them for $250 or $300 instead.

I think there's also the point that if you aim low, that's where you'll end up. Everyone has to figure out their own goals. If I had continued to define "success" as selling another $5 story, there's a good chance that's exactly where my career would have stayed, and that wasn't what I wanted.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Dec. 10th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 27th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
Hi - and happy Holidays, btw. I'm here from Jongibbs's blog, and Jon had a similar post a while back, stating that we should only submit to markets that would reimburse us fairly. I guess this hit me on a raw point, because I had just recently received my free copy of Mythic Circle, which included the very first story I had ever published anywhere in hard copy. And it was illustrated! I am still happy about that!

In some ways, since I'm a bit of an Inklings geek, the Mythopoeic Society was an extremely easy market for me to crack (probably). And I do think that writers should value their work, and that getting paid is better than not getting paid. But -

Who can say what a "proper" career path is for another writer? For myself, I do want to get published by a mainstream press, and I hope to have readers who will enjoy my work. But is it invariably the case that getting a short story, or an excerpt from a novel, published by a magazine that pays only in copies, is a misstep? It felt like a huge boost to me!

As for my own goals, my first goal is to finish complete drafts, and then revise them so that they are as well-crafted as I can make them. My second is to refine my writing so that what I produce is as truthful and beautiful as it can be. My third is to get my writing out there so that readers can enjoy it. But I don't ever expect to make a living at my writing. Of course, like all relatively "new" writers, I dream of being a best-seller, of having a movie made of my book, etc - but it doesn't matter if that doesn't happen. My main goal is to write the best books I possibly can, and then to find a publisher who will get those books to readers. The first goal - writing good books - is the most important to me.

I am not sure if I've really explained why I find posts like this - and like Jon's - a little (just a little - and, I'm sure, unintentionally) hurtful. I suppose it's because I've been told, after the fact, that the sale I made was not a step in publishing my novel, but a mistake I shouldn't have made. And it's too late now! What's done cannot be undone - and I don't think I'd want it to be.

I hope you don't mind my commenting. I loved Ann Leckie's post which you linked to above.
Dec. 28th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
Hi Mary, and welcome!

"Who can say what a "proper" career path is for another writer?"

I can't respond for Jon, but rereading my own post, I don't think I ever say that other writers must follow my path. I do say that I wouldn't recommend Black Matrix, and I talk about my own path to getting where I am today. But I'm not going to assume that your goals are identical to mine, or say that your path must follow mine step by step even if the goals are identical.

"But is it invariably the case that getting a short story, or an excerpt from a novel, published by a magazine that pays only in copies, is a misstep?"

Most of the discussions I've seen have explicitly talked about pay rate not being the only, absolute factor in determining whether to submit to a market. So no, it's not invariably a misstep, and I never said it was.

"I am not sure if I've really explained why I find posts like this - and like Jon's - a little (just a little - and, I'm sure, unintentionally) hurtful. I suppose it's because I've been told, after the fact, that the sale I made was not a step in publishing my novel, but a mistake I shouldn't have made."

This is the part which left me feeling annoyed, because it feels like you're putting words into my mouth. I'm sorry you choose to feel hurt by what I wrote. I won't speak for anyone else, but I certainly never told you that your sale was a mistake. I'm not familiar with The Mythic Circle, nor do I know exactly what your goals are, so I have no idea whether it was a mistake or not. I do see that Sherwood Smith was one of the founters, and that it's been around since '87, which gives the market much more credibility to my eyes.

If you feel like you made a mistake, that sucks, but it's not the end of the world. We all stumble along the way. If you don't feel like it was a mistake, great!

I linked to several different authors talking about this issue, specifically because all of those authors have a different perspective. I don't think any of them are saying "This is the one and only right way to do it."

I wrote a post describing my own experiences, and what worked for me to start to reach my own goals as a writer. It's my hope that this was helpful for some people.

I don't mind you commenting at all, and in fact I appreciate it. I hope you don't mind me responding.

As for Leckie's post, that was great, and something that's stayed in the back of my mind ever since I read it.
( 93 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

My Books


Latest Month

February 2017
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow