Doing the Limbo – How low will you go?

Inspired by John Scalzi’s “In the Spirit of Pulps, and Paying Even Less“, there has been a slew of discussion on the topic of pay rates for authors (and I’m sure I’ve missed some). In short, John rails against markets paying minuscule per-word rates for fiction and defenders from both camps come out to add their side to the debate. Two posts in particular stand out to me, as an aspiring writer.

I think it’s easy for new authors to fall into the trap of submitting to smaller, lower-paying markets first, thinking that their odds of getting published are higher. When your confidence is low, you are statistically more likely to get an ego-boosting acceptance from non-paying and token markets. Duotrope’s list of most approachable markets backs that up: 52% are non-paying, 16% only pay occasionally, and 6% offer payments up to semi-pro rates (usually a flat rate per story). Two markets do pay professional rates but only accept twitter-length stories.

Bad Credits Will Not Help You Get Published, from Rachel Swirsky guest blogging on Jeff VanderMeer‘s blog, discusses why no credits are potentially better than credits from “bad” credits, from her experience as an editor and slush reader.

My friend Christie asked me what I thought about the debate a few days ago. I realized, upon reflection, that while logically I know to aim high, the temptation for easy approval is still there and that doesn’t fit with my goals.

Tobias Buckell‘s post on Writing neepery, while not exactly a watershed moment for me, did give me something very valuable to ponder. Setting a minimum rate per word that I’ll accept. Writing is just as much a business as publishing and both should be treated with seriousness. There are always exceptions to the rule; markets like Electric Velocipede and Hadley Rille Books are favorites of mine and I’ll submit to them regardless of rate if I have something that fits.

At some point, you need to ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve as a writer. If you’re simply looking to see your work in “print”, electronic or otherwise, then it really doesn’t matter where you submit. If, like myself, you want to make a career out of this writing thing and eventually make a living at it, then you need to value your work appropriately.

1 thought on “Doing the Limbo – How low will you go?

  1. Good post, Adam, and thanks for all the links. This has been an interesting discussion, and it’s nice to find so many opinions (most of which agree) from different people in the business, whether writers or editors or aspiring writers. It’s good to find so many people who value themselves and their work appropriately.

    The “most approachable” stats are quite enlinghtening. 91% percent acceptance? No wonder they don’t pay.

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