This article first appeared on my blog under the title ‘Time for a Rant’ when I started it back in August with just a handful of followers. I hope my new ones will enjoy it as much as that handful did!
Having prepared you for a rant, I’m going to talk about getting paid. This is a resurgent gripe for most writers. We work hard. We ought to receive some compensation. The thing that really, really gets me though, are those publishers who offer no apology for the lack of payment.
Lately, I’ve sent a few short stories off for consideration. There are a lot of places out there to search through. I spend lots of time trying to find a good fit. I make it a rule to avoid those who charge a submission fee. Don’t get me wrong, I think it makes sound business sense. And these publishers usually hold out the carrot of much better payment should you be accepted. And if you only send one or two submissions out, that’s fine. But if you send twenty or thirty then you’re talking about a lot of money. Money that most likely you will never see again.
But my real problem is with publishers who don’t offer anything at all but a chance to see your story in print. This is not necessarily the same as not paying. Many wonderful story magazines can’t offer payment right now, which they apologise for, and give you a free copy of the magazine or perhaps your own bio page instead. I like these magazines. I don’t usually submit anything to them that hasn’t been turned down by a few paying ones first, but that’s okay. No, the publishers I’m talking about are the ones who’ve forgotten that they wouldn’t have a product without the writers. Their submission instructions go something like this:
We receive over 1000 submissions a week and only 0.3 of them get accepted. To increase your chances, find out what sort of things we publish by purchasing a subscription to our magazine for £35.00.
If, having done that, you still think your story would be a good fit, send it to us in 12pt Ariel, double spaced, as a .docxrftblabla attachment, properly formatted with 2.45 cm indents, also a well crafted bio, professional author photo and a side of unicorn sprinkles.
Payment? Don’t be ridiculous. Not put off yet? Why don’t you just give up? We’re overworked anyway and we’d rather be left alone. If you still insist on submitting, click this button. But you won’t hear from us for at least eighteen months.
Ok, so I’ve exaggerated a bit, but you get the idea. I do realise that these publishers work hard. I also realise that the majority of submissions they receive are not what they want, or not of a publishable standard. But I still don’t understand why their website needs to be so dismissive, like it’s a massive favour to allow writers to submit to them. They’ve forgotten that they need writers in order to publish anything at all. But maybe if so many writers didn’t just ignore their patronising tone and submit anyway, they would be forced to recognise that. So don’t sell yourself short. If a website that you connect with doesn’t offer payment, well, go ahead send them something if you want. But don’t feel you have to entrust your hard work to any publisher that doesn’t appear to appreciate its writers.