I haven’t talked about writing in a while but with the new year and the holidays out of the way I’ve been doing a submission blitz, as well as getting caught up on some reading for CZP. In my search for new or interesting or well-paying markets I’ve been going through www.ralan.com (the best site for speculative markets) and www.duotrope.com (the best site for poetry and fiction with average response times listed). There are some things that have started to irk me, which have always annoyed me but continue to perpetuate a bad precedent.
Forget about the wage freeze in your everyday job; if you’re a writer, then Charles Dickens made more than you and the amount people are paid hasn’t changed much in decades. That’s a bit of an overstatement. Sure, we hear about the J.K. Rowlings and the bidding wars for manuscripts like The Horse Whisperer, but in fact most writers are not being paid more than they once were decades ago.
In fact, I’m pretty stupid because the best place to make money as a writer is article writing for magazines, where you can average $1-2/word. Speculative fiction has a professional rate of .05/word. A few pay more than this. Many pay less, such as .01, .025, etc. Then there are the “for the luv” markets, those that pay in “exposure.” I don’t send to these markets unless I make a mistake in reading the guidelines. Maybe if I was just starting out I would, to get credits, but the rule is: start with the highest payer and work your way down.
Should you be selling your first SF or fantasy novel you might get $6,000-$8,000 as an advance against royalties, and never see more. I’m talking about the big publishing houses here, not the small or independent presses, and not about ebooks, as I don’t have enough information. But guess how much a first novelist made thirty or forty years ago? The same amount. So if you compare payments to writers against cost of living, we’re making less and less every year. And people expect it all for free.
While I understand the want and urge to publish a magazine or anthology (I want to edit one myself some day) I think that an author should at least be paid something for their efforts. I’ve stopped writing and submitting to the erotic markets because they now want to pay $25 for a story. It’s not worth it at all for me to write something new for that. Meager as it is, my limit is around .03/word though I’ve made exceptions for particular anthologies. For poetry, I’ve been paid anywhere from $5 to $100. I usually will look for $10 or more markets and of course starting at the top.
My first clue that a market doesn’t pay when looking at their site is that pay isn’t obvious. Yes, some say, we don’t get paid so neither shall you, with the perverse logic that everyone should suffer equally. But more often than not they say nothing, as if they’re embarrassed to admit they don’t pay. Just say it up front, folks.
My annoyance meter hit the limit when I looked at www.short-story.me. Not only do you have to hunt to see if they pay (you won’t find it) but they have their contract displayed. Enough magazines do this and it’s not a problem but they’ve even gone so far as to copyright protect their contract. Seriously? It’s quite the contract too for giving away your print and online rights for free and no promise of even a print copy in return for your work. The writer gets to edit, because they won’t, and warrant that their work is theirs, though short-story me gets everything with very little in return.
I emailed them and this is how the conversation went:
I can’t seem to find what you pay on your site. Could you tell me what it is for fiction and flash stories?
We don’t pay.
So you have a copyright protect contract to protect your rights but offer the author nothing? Would you expect a shoemaker to supply shoes for your shoe store, or a farmer to give vegetables to your store without paying them? Think about it. That’s what you’re doing to your writers.
I won’t get an answer, because they don’t care. Writers are considered little better than slaves for these markets. The site is about what you’d expect for one that doesn’t pay its authors. The stories have grammatical, punctuation and usage issues though not a lot. I only read four stories, or parts of them, and the quality is (cough!) okay but an actual editor would have helped. Some are overly descriptive, some have talking heads, or banal or cliché language. Oh well, short-story me is one in probably hundreds of sites that take advantage of hungry new authors. There are sites that don’t pay and take less advantage but the whole overofficiousness of the contract bugged me. This site does give writing advice but I wouldn’t recommend it for submitting. I’d start with the paying markets, after you know your craft.