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!