Tag Archives: speculative markets

How Writers Get to Be Slaves

writing, paying markets, speculative fiction, authors, paid to write, nonpaying writing sites

Salon.com Stockphoto: NickS

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.

writing, authors, submission guidelines, nonpaying markets, paying writers

What would you give to have your writing seen? Creative Commons: Greg Gladman Flickr

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?

Hi
We don’t pay.
Thank you
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.

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Filed under Culture, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Poetry Markets in Canada

I’ve been asked by people where to send poems and what markets there are in Canada. Like the US and probably other countries, there are usually numerous literary magazines, either sponsored by universities and colleges or privately run.

Literary magazines can run the gamut but usually put out a perfect bound (a glue square-edge binding) trade size book, with fewer in a magazine format. The reason for the size is often the break for mailing rates, as well as what is visually pleasing. Of course there are many online magazines or those that do paper and digital at the same time. In Canada, the literary magazines could be funded by the university, provincial or federal arts grants (though these have been cut back to the demise of various arts organizations), advertising or by running contests. The latter has become a popular choice in the last ten years or more, where the magazine will hold a yearly writing contest and the entry fee can be anything from $5-$30 depending on the contest.

The bad thing with this is you only have one chance to win, or three if they have first, second and third places. The good thing is that the magazine continues to run and can pay their authors for their work. Literary magazines will vary in pay for poetry. Many may have a set rate, $50/poem, $10/poem plus a year subscription, while others will have a per page rate such as $25/page.

Other magazines are called genre magazines though I argue that they too are literary even if the focus is on fantasy or science fiction. Some of these are well-established and pay as well as the literary magazines, which on average will pay anywhere from $25-$100 a poem. A hundred bucks is a good price for a poem, unless you’re Margaret Atwood. Then you probably get more because your name will help sell more issues.

The genre and small press magazines are more likely to pay for poems by line or even by word though a fair number also have a set price that they pay . When you get to the small small press, mom and pop magazines run out of the basement of someone’s house it can be a smaller amount paid for a poem. Some of these magazines might only pay in copies and I would never submit anything without at least getting contributor copies. After all, how would you even know they printed your piece unless you had a copy and every writer should be paid. I personally don’t submit unless pay is offered for a poem and I don’t really send my poems anymore to places that offer $2 or $5 but I might. And I do send to some reputable magazines that pay $10/poem.

My reasons might vary with the seasons as to where I send. Some magazines are small and chapbook size  (8.5X11 pages folded in half and stapled usually twice) as this is a simple method for people who do not have the budgets for larger sizes and is a popular small press format. My own chapbook of speculative verse, put out by Kelp Queen Press was of this format.

It used to be that magazines, especially the literary magazines only accepted submissions through the mail. With the advent of computers in everyone’s home, more people started writing poetry and with email they would send off every little drib and drab set down. Magazines find the quality of the submissions is lower when they come through email, and therefore to discourage every would-be writer, they stuck to the snail mail method where people seem to take more time on their piece before they send. This is changing and many magazines are using the online submission format. You register and log in, uploading your file and adding some notes. You get an email receipt and can track where your submission is in the process and the magazine can track when items were received.

Most magazines ask for 3-5 poems at a time. It’s best to follow those rules and follow their guidelines (many of the college run magazines close for the summer when students are away). As to where to send your work; well it should suit the market you’re aiming for. Whereas genre markets require a particular genre and literary markets require the literary genre, when it comes to poetry there is more leeway. Poetry has often encompassed the mythical and surreal, using metaphor and simile liberally so a poem with angels or even a minotaur will have more chance of being accepted in a literary magazine than a story would. Most magazines have an online presence and may have a sample of the writers they publish. It’s always wise to read through these and get a feel for what they prefer or buy a copy if you can afford it.

OnSpec, Chizine and Neo-Opsis are three English language speculative magazines that accept poetry (I’m afraid I’m not up on the French-Canadian markets). Descant, a literary magazine out of Toronto, is open to some speculative elements. In no particular order, some of the literary magazines in Canada are Malahat Review, The Front, Broken Pencil, Capilano Review, Prism, Prairie Fire, Antigonish Review, Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, Grain. There are just as many if not more in the US and the best place to check for poetry markets is www.duotrope.com. For speculative specific markets www.ralan.com is the place to go.

The biggest part, as I’ve said before, in getting poetry accepted is perseverance; that’s both in writing and rewriting and in submitting. But there are many, many markets (even with the economy slump) and places for sending poetry.

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