To pay or not to pay–that is the question

I think I'd be better off keeping my money in an old sock.

I’d be better off keeping my money in a tube sock.

There’s been a lot of rumbling recently about whether or not to submit to “exposure-only” markets, and I admit, when I was new(er) to writing, I often judged a market on how much they payed. There’s a problem with this logic, though.

See, while there are a metric ton of professional-rate markets (read: 5¢ a word or more), there are pa-lenty of “4theluv” markets out there that have done me a world of good in building my résumé.

After getting paid by some pretty bum publications, and getting stiffed by one or two others, I have no problem being published in exposure-only markets, provided they meet two criteria:

  1. the quality is there, and–
  2. the publisher promotes the book.

I determine quality by looking either at past publications by that house or magazine, or the current list of contributors (or even better–both). Using real estate parlance, I prefer not to be the biggest house on the block. The bigger the names, the less I care about royalties or up front payment.

I’ve made a lot of great connections this way with some pretty big names.

Promotion is almost as important as the roster. Maybe more. While I’m perfectly willing to roll up my sleeves, contact the media, set up events, and travel to promote my work, I expect the publisher to do a little something–specifically, submit the book for reviews and awards.

The more reviews and award nominations (or even better–wins!), the more I can talk about the book or magazine to my local paper, on my blog, or on Facebook and Twitter. Like the wise hen does, first lay the egg, then cackle. Anything less, and you’ll wind up in the soup.

I’ve been published in quite a few exposure-only markets that have greatly benefited my career, and I’ve made some professional friendships that I expect will last another fifty years or so in some cases. I’ve written for free, and had free things written for me.

Every writer should value his or her work, but only the most established writers can afford to not occasionally give some work away for free.

3 Responses to “To pay or not to pay–that is the question”

  1. I’m more likely to submit to a copies only (they ought to offer a PDF at least, if only as a professional courtesy, but better yet a print copy) if they accept reprints. Other exceptions can be charity anthologies, some of which will have greater prestige value (including “big name” authors, as you suggest). I also like the idea of “paying forward” sometimes — submitting to a startup press that may seem deserving, though again accepting reprints can make it much more attractive to me.

    • I didn’t bring up charity anthologies, but I should have. And yes, there is no excuse not to provide a PDF proof at least, if for no other reason so the author can review it and help promote the anthology as a whole, rather than simply his or her own story.Thanks for the comment!

  2. phasersandspells Says:

    Reblogged this on Phasers and Spells and commented:
    Good thoughts on sumbiting to market where they don’t pay you.

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