The Road to Publication

The Road: Mile 3 – Select a Market (Part 2)

The Issue of Payment

Today, I want to talk a little bit about the issue of payment when selecting a market.  There are many viewpoints and opinions on where to start as a new author or an author new to submitting.  I’m going to briefly discuss the most popular opinions and share with you my own.

Opinion One: Only Submit to Professional Markets 

The main thought backing up this particular stance is that you, as an author, deserve to be paid and paid well for your work.  Again, professional markets usually offer 5 cents a word and up for your stories.  So a 3,000 word story at 5 cents a word would be a wonderful $150 in your pocket.  People in this category believe in submitting to the big leagues right away, not selling their stories for less than they are worth.  This road is a bit difficult to endure, especially as an author new to submitting, since the acceptance rates for these markets are usually below 1%.  That means rejections, rejections, rejections.  Not always, of course, there are authors who can – right out of the gate – leap right into Pro Markets, but that’s more rare.

Opinion Two – Get Some Exposure!

Here the main thought is – don’t worry about the money, focus on getting getting your name out there.  If you start at this point, in this path, you’ll be mostly submitting to “for the love” publications (which means, zero payment and usually no contributor’s copy).  The focus is more on securing a group of fans, or getting some small credits to impress larger publishers with.  These are typically easier markets to break into and offer a quicker ego reward in that you won’t have as hard a time getting that thrilling acceptance letter/email.

My Opinion – Take the Stairs

One at a time.  Have you ever made a game of taking as many steps in one stride as you could?  It’s fun, sure, but it often results in falling on your butt – or worse, rolling down the staircase and breaking your arm.

Publishing and the magazines, journals and anthologies out there are a lot like that staircase.  You can try to leap all the way to the top – and if you’re the exception to the rule, the Superman who can actually fly to the top, you’ll make it.  But for most of us, that’s not going to happen.  A string of rejections can be extremely difficult to deal with, like the bumps and bruises you would accumulate after trying to leap five steps at once.

That’s why I recommend taking the stairs one at a time.  Slow and steady.  Start out with a no-pay, “for the love” market like Nailpolish Stories and The Rusty Nail .  Start out with a few, if you like.  However, I am not an advocate of giving all your stories away for free. You worked hard over them, and yes, exposure and “getting a name” is good, but you also deserve to be compensated for your work.  I try to avoid markets that offer no pay or contributor copy, yet still charge for their publications. Now if those publications are free to read for the public, if the publisher is making no money on the stories, then it’s more acceptable to ‘give’ them a story.  They’re not profiting, and you aren’t (financially).  Both of you are drawing readers and that’s fair and square.

Once you’ve received an acceptance (or two, or three) on that step, don’t stand there forever – move on.  Reach up a bit. Try for a token market that offers a two or three dollars for your story (like Liquid Imagination) or maybe five dollars for your story (like Niteblade).  Not much, I know, but it’s something.  You may stand between both steps for awhile, aiming for token markets, but still getting acceptances in no-pays.  But the day you make that step into token, try to stop submitting to no-pays.  You don’t want to take steps down, you want to take steps up.

The process continues from there.  After you’ve snagged a multiple acceptances in token markets, try out one or two semi-pro markets like Specutopia and Carte Blanche.  Generally speaking, I recommend submitting at the level you are at (the level at which you can get acceptances), but always throwing one or two stories further up – just to test the water and see what happens.  As you continue to learn and grow, perfecting your writing, you will naturally progress up the chain.  As long as you keep learning and growing (again, why I recommend Scribophile or at least that you write often, go to a workshop, share with other writers and such).

On any given step, you will probably encounter heavy rejections.  They’re bound to happen.  Keep in mind that you aren’t always rejected because your story was ‘bad’.  A lot of rejections occur because your story wasn’t right for that market (your story was serious, the publication wanted funnier stories) or because they may have recently published something with a similar premise.  The higher you climb on the staircase, the more rejections you’re bound to get.  There are publications that receive 600+ submissions per month.  That’s a lot to fight through!  That’s why I recommend starting at the bottom of the staircase.

Just don’t stay there.

Of course, all of that is just my opinion on the process, the road to publication.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the issue of payment.  Does the first ‘opinion’ sound more like your kind of process (nothing wrong with that!)?  How long do you wait before trying a market that pays higher?  In what instances are you okay with giving away a story?

Next week, I’ll be focusing on separating the good, the bad and the ugly markets.  Thanks again for reading!



8 thoughts on “The Road: Mile 3 – Select a Market (Part 2)

  1. Hi hi. I have a question.
    In your experience, is it better to go for publications that publish in hard copies, etexts, or online-one (such as ezines or online anthologies). I’m noticing that a lot of stuff out on Duotrope publishes online or in the form of etexts, and physical publishing seems to be rare.
    Thoughts? Comments? I’m currently in the “getting your name out there” stage.

    1. Excellent question – thanks for commenting/asking!

      Initially, I submitted ONLY to print publications. I was very adamant about it. I enjoyed the thrill of holding a print magazine/anthology in my hands (and I still do!).

      However, I soon discovered, like you have, that there aren’t that many print markets anymore when compared to online/ezine ones. So I made the jump into online markets (as long as they were paying, with a few exceptions). I’d recommend that you do submit to online publications for two reasons. 1.) As we’ve already agreed, there aren’t a lot of print publications, and 2.) I’m willing to bet that you’ll get a lot more exposure and reads online than in print, and you stated you’re still trying to get your name out there.

      My reasoning for thinking you’ll get more exposure online is quite simple. People are much more inclined to click a link and read a ‘free to read’ story, or pay a dollar or two for a PDF/EPUB file of a zine with your story in it. They don’t risk much that way in terms of the whole “what if the stories are lame?” thing. Whereas, if they had to plop down $10.00-$20.00 for a print magazine/anthology, they’re risking a lot more, especially if they’re not familiar with the magazine/publisher.

      I hope that all makes sense and that I didn’t blabber on too much! Does it answer your question well enough?

      (P.S: In the next installment of this series, I’ll discuss how to tell if an online publication is respectable or sketchy, so stay tuned for that next week!)

  2. Just wanted to let you know, your blog is fabulous. I’d like to thank you for sharing your expertise with us newbies. I’ve been so busy running around like a chicken without a head, I had to print out the last couple posts and read them in the car.

    Anyway, getting down to business. I have a question about rejections. This happened to me, and I’m wondering if you ever experienced it, and if maybe I should stop being depressed about it! I submitted a piece I worked super hard on to what you might call a “token market.” I waited eagerly for a response, but got none–all I saw was a facebook post saying the latest edition had been published, without ever getting a word from the publisher. I wrote them a polite email telling them my situation, and asked for a way I could know for next time that my submission didn’t get lost in cyberspace, still with no response.

    Should I just give up on this market? Or should I try submitting again next time? Does this lack of response mean that they hated my story? What’s your experience with this?


    1. Hey there! Thanks so much for commenting and for your very encouraging words.

      Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with this particular rejection (although no rejection is particularly enjoyable, I guess). I’m curious as to what market it was you submitted to. I’ve had that particular issue happen to me before (no notice, I just found out a market had released the project I submitted to). It’s definitely not a fun feeling. How long ago did you email about the situation?

      Some markets will state outright that they do not respond in case of rejection. I’m not a big fan of markets like that. If this is the market you told me you submitted to in comments on your blog, I wouldn’t give up – I’ve never had a bad experience with them. I definitely don’t think they hated your story, don’t think that at all. It could be anything from an accident (they thought they sent you a rejection email, but actually didn’t) to a problem with email systems (check your junk folder), and sometimes when a market has a guest editor that also involves a bit more shuffling than usual and could have some pieces get lose in the shuffle.

      Overall, what I’d recommend is giving them one more shot – especially if you like the market and can’t find anyone else who has had similar problems. No, they probably didn’t hate your story. And there’s a good possibility it was some accident/oversight which sucks, but shouldn’t be taken personally.

      I’m going to be doing my next post this coming Tuesday on rejections and acceptances and stuff, so be sure to check that out. Thanks again for commenting and if you ever need to contact me directly my writing email address is alexisahunter (at)

  3. I am so looking forward to that post! Gosh, I was totally beyond bummed, and I didn’t even get rejected outright! Gah! That post is going to save my life. And, I’m totally going to email you:) Thanks:)

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