GUEST POST: Jennifer Brissett Weighs in on the Writer Pay Rate Flap

Jennifer Marie Brissett is an MFA candidate at the Stonecoast Creative Writing program, where she concentrates in speculative fiction. Her short fiction can be found in Warrior Wisewoman 2 and The Future Fire. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Engineering (Electrical Engineering with a concentration in Visual Art) from Boston University and once owned and operated a indie bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. Her site can be found at jennbrissett.com.


Brrr… did anyone else feel that chill? Well, I did. I haven’t been able to think about anything else since this whole Black Matrix flap started.

I’ve been reading the blog posts from Scalzi and Rachel Swirsky’s guest blog post on Jeff Vandermeer’s site and I must say that I’m more than a little disturbed by the whole thing. The chill I feel is the people at the pro level pulling up the ladder saying, “you stay down there, kid.” These major editors and authors with large clout slamming on a small non-pro market feels just wrong. I plain don’t understand why Scalzi is insulted by the pay rate that has nothing to do with him. He clearly would never submit to Black Matrix, but other new writers might. Writers like myself.


The speculative genres have an open door to new writers that mainstream fiction doesn’t have. That open door is provided by the semi-pro and non-paying markets, NOT the pro-rate ones. They play a role in the development of new writers. New writers have a chance to be recognized and develop. They often provide more feedback and encouragement rather than a form letter that arrives six months later, or even worse a rejection form email that comes back so fast that your computer is smoking from the speed of its arrival (makes you wonder if they even read your piece.)

I’m not a big name author. I’m just starting out. I have no connection with any of the parties involved in this discussion. I’m just a new writer who hopes to have a career in the genres. I began with Critters, then I took an online writing class, then I joined two writing groups. Now I’m in an MFA program. I’ve worked hard to improve my writing to the point where I got my first sale. It was to a semi-pro market. And I was thrilled. The amount I got from the story was enough to maybe buy a trade paperback book and Chinese take-out, but it was money from my writing. I’m proud of that. My story that was overlooked by the pro-markets went on to get some pretty good reviews from Analog, The Fix, and SF Crowsnest. I say this to say that the pros aren’t always right and, because of the smaller markets, they are also not the only game in town.

If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all. Her market is a reprint, pro-rate market that–by her own admission–takes stories from only the pro-rate markets. She admits in her blog piece:

I could tell you lots of things about slush. I could tell you, for instance, that if you are submitting an unsold story to a reprint market and your name isn’t Tim Pratt or Greg Van Eekhout, you are not going to sell that story to me. Why? Because you’re competing with stories printed in the best magazines, chosen by the best editors in the business. If your story was ready to compete with top-level stuff, some other editor would have seen that before your story made it down the market list to find me. Could there be an exception? Sure. There are exceptions to everything. But so far, I haven’t found one to this rule.

So why does she have a slush pile??? It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including hers. I don’t get it. If it was advice that Swirsky wanted to offer about cover letters then maybe the thing to say was to put your five best market sales on it and leave it there.

And the silence on this is just too much. I know that people are scared to say anything to these bigwigs in the field. I guess I’m just stupid enough to do it (I prefer gutsy, but I digress.) These smaller non-paying, or low-paying markets play a critical part in the development of the speculative genres. They encourage new writers and give them a place to be heard. New writers are given a shot in these markets that they are often denied in the pro-rate markets. It’s the smaller, so called “crappy,” markets where the new voices are found.

BTW, calling a market “crappy” because they cannot pay SFWA pro-rates is downright rude. There are plenty of really great markets that pay semi-pro rates, token rates, and even nothing. I’ve run a business and I know how hard it is to keep things afloat when all you get in return for your efforts is love. It seems like a mean thing to say about someone’s efforts.

229 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Jennifer Brissett Weighs in on the Writer Pay Rate Flap”

  1. Jennifer– You are awesome for writing this. Awesome I say!

    I know so many talented writers that should be much bigger than they are. They publish at the market level you’re talking about, and frankly, write more interesting stuff than a lot of big names I can think of. Though no disrespect to Scalzi– what can I say? I’m a fan. 

    So the snobbery of the pro-rate market baffles me. Why should the publishing industry discourage new talent? And the fact is, if they don’t nurture new writers, the industry is going to change before they realize it. More talent is going to seek new avenues to get their writing out there and the old model is going to go the way of the dinosaurs. Just look at how the newspaper industry is struggling because they’re not evolving. Seems like a no-brainer to me. 

  2. It’s unfortunate that humanity likes to have their exclusive clubs.  I sort of pity Ms. Swirsky because it’s a sad world when you no longer believe in things bigger than yourself and what you’ve seen thus far…  Thanks for writing this blog!

  3. It’s the smaller, so called “crappy,” markets where the new voices are found.

    BTW, calling a market “crappy” because they cannot pay SFWA pro-rates is downright rude.

    From what my cursory skimming of the linked blog, I got the impression that the “crappy” comment was more directed towards “crappy” editors/publishers (in her mind), than size or pay.

  4. Speaking only for myself, I wrote my piece on this because I remember what it was like to be a new writer struggling to break in.  Because I was in your shoes just a few years back.

    Because I did exactly what you describe, submitting and selling my work to little semi-pro markets that paid enough for a Happy Meal, and it did absolutely nothing for my career.  It didn’t improve my writing, it didn’t help me build a name, and it didn’t get me more than a handful of readers.  The only thing it did was give me an occasional ego boost that I had gotten a “sale.”

    It wasn’t until I started aiming higher, submitting to those bigger markets, that I really started to improve as a writer.  Sure, I got more rejections.  Hundreds of them.  Show me a successful writer who hasn’t.

    But I also got better, because now the bar was set higher.  I eventually started to sell to those markets.  I was one of those unknown newbies who got picked out of the slush pile at places like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine and Realms of Fantasy.

    Reading these discussions, I don’t see a bunch of evil, stuck-in-the-past pros trying to keep you out.  I see people who have been there and succeeded trying to share their experiences to help other writers accomplish the same thing.  If you choose not to listen, that’s your choice, of course.

  5. I think you’ve really misread the arguments people are making.  The blogs you linked to don’t want to keep new writers down–they want to help new writers stop keeping themselves down.

    Niether article says you shouldn’t submit to semipros, or that sales to semipros are worth nothing.  But not all magazines are created equal.  If you’re not getting pro pay, get something else for your story–some semipros can give you “something else.”  They have readers, or they have critical attention, or they have cachet.  Chances are your semipro sale was to one of those–I haven’t checked–and so none of the people you’re upset with would have the least problem with it.  Oh, and congratulations on the sale!

    A lot of the magazines that Rachel is talking about have none of those things, and furthermore have editors who chose stuff that isn’t very impressive.  Why submit to places like that?  A new writer won’t get anything out of it, they’re not the places where new writers are “developed.”  The stories don’t get read, you don’t get much money if any, and it’s not a good cover letter credit.  So why send your story there?

    The argument isn’t “if you can’t sell to the pros you suck so stay there you peons!” it’s “If you’re only selling to the tiny places no one has heard of for hardly any money, it’s not going to move you forward.”  It’s not “stay down there!” it’s “For pete’s sake, stand up and give your work some credit, and a fighting chance to move up!”

     

    <i>So why does she have a slush pile??? It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including hers. I don’t get it. If it was advice that Swirsky wanted to offer about cover letters then maybe the thing to say was to put your five best market sales on it and leave it there.</i>

     

    First of all, it’s three best, if you want nitpicky advice, three’s about where you want to keep it.  And you’re missing the point about Rachel’s comment–she edits a reprint venue.  She’s talking specifically about people who, despite guidelines, send in material that hasn’t yet been published anywhere else.  And frankly, most people who send unpublished stuff to a venue that mostly takes reprints aren’t actually sending their best work.  And it’s also foolish to send an original to a reprint venue and lose first rights, when you could sell it to one place, get payment, and then turn around and sell it to Podcastle and get gravy.  If it hasn’t sold somewhere else, chances are very, very high–insanely high–that it won’t actually compete really well with the other stuff in the slush.  Those couple of exceptions are writers at the top of their game, and what she’s saying is, you have to be <i>that good</i> to do what they’ve done, sell previously unpublished work to Podcastle.  This does not apply to other magazines, and she said so straight out.

     

    And Podcastle keeps a slushpile because Podcastle wants submissions–reprint submissions.  If the story is good, the story will be seriously considered and/or purchased.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from.  But it’s interesting, they all seem to come from either the pros, or the semipros with good reputations.  She’s just saying–think about that.  Send your stuff to the places that publish good stuff and get a good number of readers or have “prestige” readers.

     

    Seriously, I think you should read all those posts again–especially Scalzi’s latest on the issue–and reconsider what you think they’re saying.

  6. Oh, and as d says above, “crappy” doesn’t mean pay.  Both Rachel and I sold a story to Lone Star Stories.  LSS paid twenty bucks a story.  It wasn’t a crappy market.

     

    The crappy markets are the ones that not only pay hardly anything, if at all, but also buy stuff that really isn’t all that.  And no one reads them.  These places are emphatically not where new voices are found.

  7. John Scalzi’s attack on the miserable pay rate of a new magazine is a very good thing for new writers.

    I have yet to appear in Asimov’s Magazine, but I know of many writers whose first sale was to Asimov’s. They were plucked from the slush pile. The same is true of nearly all pro-paying markets with the possible exception of Tor.com, maybe.

    Though it is unfair to assume that low-paying markets are also low-quality markets, in my reading experience this has been generally true.

    Low-paying markets do not attract the best material. High-paying markets with fast turnarounds attract the best material. Prestigious markets that have developed a reputation after years of publishing attract the best material.

    Thus, when a new magazine starts that can’t even pay a token rate, I wonder how much value that market will be able to produce to their audience. The best stories will get taken by the markets that get to see them first, second, third, and by the time the twelfth, seventeenth, and twenty-fifth market sees the story all signs point to that story not being the best story out there.

    Thus, the ecosystem of slush piles does not promote a quality magazine when the pay rates are low.

    The eco-system of the marketplace with lots of subpar markets also does not do good things to promote short fiction as an art form

  8. Ms. Leckie, I think that it’s you that needs to read the articles again. You also didn’t read my author credits. The articles lumped all semi-pro and non-paying markets together and called them “crappy.”  And Scalzi was most certainly doing this based on pay. I don’t think any of the places where I’ve been published are “crappy” in the least and I was quite insulted by all of this. Both for myself and for everyone who has ever been published in a semi-pro and/or non-paying market. Maybe how it came across was not the intent. I don’t know. I can only go by what was said. But intent aside, what was said I think was quite damaging. I know how I took it and I can pretty much bet how other new writers would take it. It was condescending not to mention quite unfair to Black Matrix which from what I’ve seen has done nothing to deserve this treatment.

  9. First off, Scalzi has never had the same experiences that Ms. Brissett is writing about here.  He admitted so on his blog.  He never went through the short story route that other writers here have said.  So a) he’s never been there; and b) he is in a position now to basically demand at least pro rate for his short work, or more.  Now, Scalzi is a good writer, so his demands aren’t just some weirdo saying “pay me my moneys.”  He deserves to be paid well for his work, but he’s also talking from a different career path.  I’m not saying he’s wrong because of that, just pointing out that Scalzi is not the same as Hines on this issue.  Hines saying “it didn’t work for me” has a lot more influence on my mind than Scalzi precisely because Hines has been there.

    Second, yes, a lot of low-paying markets SUCK.  But there are some that don’t suck.  Low pay is not a pre-determinate of quality.  Low-paying markets also have a tendency to be niche markets.  The big boys pay big, but they also only print certain kinds of stories (not all of them good).  Smaller markets take up the stuff that doesn’t fit into the big boys because they don’t fit into what the big boys want.  They’re not taking stuff that is “bad” in all cases, just different.  And there are quite a few low paying markets that get a lot of play in the SF/F community via awards and best of anthos.  Electric Velocipede for example…check out how much they pay.  Are they crap?  I doubt it.  Check out the recognition they’ve received.  Of course there are loads of utterly horrible low-paying mags out there, but isn’t that why we’re all supposed to “read a copy” of things before we submit?  Even mediocre writers can see bad stories from a distance.

    Third, the pay rate of all SF/F markets sucks.  All of them.  What’s the most you can get?  10 cents a word at Clarkesworld?  I’m not saying Clarkesworld isn’t good (it’s amazing), but compared to middle-grade non-genre markets, SF/F writers are already getting shafted.  When someone can get dollars per word elsewhere, and we can only hope to get 10 cents a word, it seems stupid to say “well the folks playing 1 cent a word are all terrible and blah blah” when the whole damn short market for SF/F is shafting writers anyway.  That’ll sound about as messy as what Scalzi said about low paying markets because it should.  We’re not in the 30s anymore.  Pro rate is, at best, terrible, if we really want to get right down to it.

    That’s all I have to say on that.

  10. Jenn, you may need to re-read some of those blog entries over again. PodCastle is not a pro-rate market. (They pay $100 flat rate, except for flash fiction.) Also, it absolutely has picked up stories from excellent semi-pro venues. A quick browse of their home page shows that even within the past month, they’ve podcast stories from Ideomancer and Abyss and Apex. Rachel didn’t say anything about not buying stories originally published at semi-pro venues. If you can’t such basic matters of fact right, how am I supposed to put any credence in the rest of you’ve written?

    For from debunking Scalzi’s idea of “Aspiring Writer Stockholm Syndrome”, you’re exemplifying it. At the end of the day, what’s so wrong with saying writers ought to be paid more than one-fifth of a cent per word? That’s really all he’s saying at the end of the day. Why is it so horrible to insist that any writer who writes a story worth reading be paid something more than a pittance? In all this discussion, no one has actually answered why being paid more than one-fifth of a cent per word is so awful that all these people have gotten up in arms about it.

    Also, for whatever reason, everyone defending Black Matrix seem to lump all sub-pro rate markets into one pool. What Rachel Swirsky, Ann Leckie, Cat Rambo et al. are saying is that doing that is not useful. A credit at, say, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is good even though they don’t pay very much. That’s because Kelly Link and Gavin Grant have done an awesome job editing it. It always publishes high quality fiction. (It was nominated for a Hugo!) The reasons why, for example, LCRW, Ideomancer and Shimmer are worth submitting to don’t apply to any of the Black Matrix publications. Now, those reasons may in the future, but it’s hard to see how at one-fifth of a cent per word, how they will attract those high quality stories in the first place. (For short stories, reputable flat-rate markets will still pay better than Black Matrix much of the time.)

    Not any credit on your cover letter will do. Those who defend Black Matrix keep writing their defenses in a way that imply what matters is quantity of credits when what really matters is quality. To the extent that credits matter at all. What truly matters is the story. All the sales at all the crappy markets in the world will not make anyone’s writing any better. A lot of the defenses read as if one could redeem a bunch of sales at a terrible market for one sale at a good one. That’s not how it works.

    What matters is the quality of the story that you’ve placed in front of the editor. There’s no substitute.

    (For the record, I get, on average, one rejection every week. So no accusing me of not knowing what it’s like. Well, people can accuse all they like. They’d just be wrong.)

  11. “It was condescending not to mention quite unfair to Black Matrix which from what I’ve seen has done nothing to deserve this treatment.”

    Sure they did. They started an undercapitalized for-profit business whose (almost certainly marginal) success will be predicated on paying writers a rate that would have been lousy nearly a century ago. That’s offensive to me as a working writer, and it’s offensive to me as someone who rather strongly believes that writers — whether they are pros or newbies — deserve adequate compensation for their work, of which one fifth of one cent does not qualify in this or any other universe. 

    Once I called Black Matrix on its absolutely appalling payment rate, its proprietors did a reasonably smart thing, which was to espouse that Black Matrix was never intended to be a “pro” market, and that it was all about the love, etc — just the right noise to make some folks want to jump to their defense, and cast me as a big meanie for thumping on them. Well, you know. I call bullshit on that. Black Matrix never trotted out the “we’re not a pro market” line until after they were called on their rates — although they were happy to trumpet their very ambitious business plan which included four magazines and two book lines (for the latter of these, it appears, they do no intend to pay any advances, which is another issue in itself). In the eyes of the law and in the obvious intent of its proprietors, this is a real live, golly gosh business.

    You seem to be of the opinion that this for-profit business deserves the benefit of the doubt. I say: Why? These people are presumably grownups, and their plan is to run a business. Part of their plan in running this business is to pay those without whom they do not have a business at all as very little as they possibly can, vomiting up a post-criticism “we’re not a pro market” rationalization and a vague promise of maybe paying more once they become successful — a promise which does not bind Black Matrix Publishing to actually pay more at any point, and certainly does nothing for the people to whom they paid next to nothing in the first place — I don’t see BM suggesting that intends to retroactively compensate the writers to whom it’s paid its fifth of a cent per word rate. What I do see it doing is planning on building its for-profit little mini empire of magazines and book lines off the work of writers to whom it pays the absolute lowest pittance possible.

    Why does this sort of behavior deserve any benefit of the doubt? Why should writers be the one to shoulder the load for the incompetence of this business plan? Writers are not proft participants in Black Matrix’s success; they are not co-owners; they have no “sweat equity” in this business model. All they get — all they will ever get — is what they get paid up front, which is one twenty-fifth of the “pro” rate in the genre — a pro rate which, less we forget, is not actually a whole lot of pay. When you can come to me and suggest that Black Matrix Publishing has convinced every other provider of raw material for its endeavor to get paid at 4% of its industry standard, then we can talk about whether I’m being unfair to Black Matrix regarding its business model being predicated on screwing writers. In the meantime, I’m hard-pressed to see why I should be nice to these people. Rude is what they deserve. People starting businesses with bad business plans that depend on screwing writers should be condescended to, and it is in fact eminently fair to do so.

    As Ann Leckie notes, you are in fact incorrect regarding my opinion on all semi-pro and non-paying markets, a point which I make explicit in this entry: http://bit.ly/8pmgYB. I think some semi-pro/non-paying markets might be worth a writers’ time, but writers have to ask, as they’re not being paid pro rates, what else is being brought to the table. In the case of Black Matrix Publishing, the answer seems to be: Nothing much. Its proprietors do not appear to have any significant publishing history, so there’s no benefit to a writer in working with a well-known, well-regarded editor; nor does there seem to be any meaningful benefit of exposure in being published there — I note BM has called up libraries and asked them if they want subscriptions, thus putting the work in front of “thousands” of readers. My first question is to ask whether how many libraries we’re talking about here, as one library can service “thousands” of readers, and the second is to ask, if this is indeed an ambitious library-carpeting plan, why BM can spend so much servicing libraries with free subscriptions and yet not pay its authors more than a fifth of a cent per word. Which gets us back to the whole “why is this business plan built on the backs of writers” issue.

    While we’re at this, let’s get rid of the canard that new writers have to spend some time not getting paid pro rates. I got paid a pro rate the first time I ever submitted a science fiction story, because I assumed my writing had value and I targeted a venue which paid a pro rate. I had no prior SF writing credits and no visibility in the market, but it didn’t matter because my story fit the venue’s needs, which is the salient point. Rachel Swirsky, at whom you also swing your blunderbuss, made her first pro sale without that acquiring editor knowing anything about her previous non-pro work (if any), and I can say that for a fact because the acquiring editor was me. She was paid better than the pro rate, as were three other new writers whose stories I bought, thus giving them their first pro-level sales, all bought without regard to previous credit but because of the stories themselves. The idea that the “open door” does not include pro-paying venues is just flatly incorrect, and you do neither yourself nor any other aspiring writer good service saying so; it’s possible you need patience as a new writer with these pro venues (on account that they get a lot of submissions because they pay pro rates), but so do we all, and that’s another discussion altogether. But if your work does not sell to a pro-paying market, when you step down the payment ladder, you have to ask: What’s the benefit for me and my work?

    Thus, my question to you, as one writer to another, is why aren’t you more pissed off at Black Matrix Publishing and other markets of its ilk? It and bottom-trolling markets like it offer nothing to you — no benefit of critical reputation, no benefit of exposure — save a payment that won’t buy you a Value Meal at a fast food restaurant, and a “publishing credit” that no acquiring editor at a useful venue will give a crap about and indeed may even count as a strike against you. Black Matrix and publishers like it survive — to the extent they survive — because they gull the hopeful and desirous into thinking what they offer is just as good as any other credit they might get. It’s not and it’s not, and if BM were serious about being a useful venue, then it would have done the one thing in its control to benefit the writer: Pay more. If I were in your place — and I once was — I’d be pretty pissed off at what they were trying to pull on me.

    My other question to you and to all the other newer writers intent on making this a class war between the pro and the non-pro writers is: Do you think we’re doing this for ourselves? I mean, Jesus: I’m never going to submit a damned thing to Black Matrix, and neither is any writer who understands what kind of a set-up it is and also understands the value of his or work — regardless of whether he or she gets a pro level paycheck. But contrary to what appears to be a popular belief, once one makes a pro sale, one does not ascend, as if carried on clouds, to a realm where all previous cares and associations are washed away. All of us pro writers remember what it was like to be new writers. All of us have friends on their way up. All of us pro writers were given advice and help when were new writers. All of us pro writers want to pay it forward to new writers. All of us want the genre to succeed. It does us no good to pull the ladder up behind us. What it does do us good to do is point out that some ladders don’t go anywhere a newer writer wants to go.

    Jenn, what you have here is a plurality of writers, all of whom have varying levels of professional experience, giving you the benefit of their practical experience and letting you know what they know so it can be useful to you. You may find it useful or not, but if you think its based out of perpetrating or propogating some sort of class division among writers or that any of us is so far removed from where you are that we can’t see what it is you and other newer writers are going through right now, you’re doing it wrong. We do in fact want you and every other writer who can, to succeed. It’s why we warn you off places they pay stupidly and tell you what editors think when they look at your credits, and do every other thing we do to help you avoid what we know from our own experience are traps and pitfalls.

    You might think about putting aside whether you think such advice and commentary is rude, and look at whether or not it has some genuine application to you, your writing, and your career.

  12. There’s also a strange notion that “Pros” are somehow in a different place than “non-pros”. Presumably we are all working hard to improve our craft. Presumably we all face similar problems in our day, what withthe sitting and staring at computer screens and making stuff up.

    I think I qualify as a Pro, what with my SFWA membership, novel, and short story pubs. I’m also in the same MFA program as Jenn, doing my best to learn what I can.

    There is no meaningful division between “established” and “un-established” authors. Heck, established authors are one failed contract away from being back at square one.

  13. It’s too bad it was necessary for John to come and say all that.  He said it pretty clearly in his original posts, IMHO. 

    This really reminds me of conversations with people who buy into vanity press schemes (which Black Matrix is not): they, too, say “You’re trying to crush my dreams!”  No, they’re trying to tell you when someone else is taking advantage of your dreams to scam you. BM (love those initials) isn’t an outright scam, since it still obeys Yog’s Law, but it’s an exploitive deal.

    d, be just and fear not.  The Scalzi will not take his sword to you if you are righteous. 

  14. No, Jen, I do in fact know and understand exactly what Scalzi and Rachel are saying.

    I’m another one–my first sale ever was a SFWA qualifying pro sale.  I have my three SFWA credits–I have pro credits to put in my cover letter.  And you know what?  I’ve had nothing but rejections pretty much all year.  This is not the fault of editors who are trying to keep me down, or the fact that my credits aren’t stellar enough, or because I haven’t got a big enough in with the big editors.

    It’s because my stories didn’t grab them.  Period.  And that would be true if I had no credits at all.  Nobody’s telling you you can’t sub to markets they disapprove of–we’re just telling you, it doesn’t have the benefit you think it does.  Where you send your work, who you sell it to, is entirely your own business–but fact is, not just any credit will give you a leg up in the slushpile, and you might want to seriously consider whether you want to sell your work to an outfit that’s setting itself up to make a profit, however small, and not paying a fair wage.  If you were starting up a burger joint and proposed to pay your counter monkeys and cooks five cents an hour until you got your feet under you, what do you think the reaction would or should be?

    Sub wherever you like, but know what and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

    Scalzi is right, this is advice.  It’s good advice, it’s advice meant to help you, the serious aspiring writer.  Take a couple of deep breaths and reconsider what it is you’re hearing.  I want you to succeed as a writer, I really do.  And so does everyone else you mention.

  15. Unlike others, I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me. Just because you are loud and obnoxious does make you right. So your first pub and Leckie’s sold to a pro market out the gate. Goody, goody for you. For others it may take time and effort. Or maybe what an author is offering may not be what the current prevaling winds are taking. Whatever. What I’m saying is that it is quite unusual to go from 0 to 100mph. And what was said during this flap was to denigrate every semi-pro and non-paying market. That was just wrong. What you are doing here is pulling up the ladder and you ARE in fact looking after your own interests. If you don’t like the pay of a market, don’t submit to them. What is so hard about that.

  16. I want to reiterate that what Jim Hines said is my experience as well. I struggled through the slush pile with hundreds of rejections (I have 600). Targeting high built my career, setting a minimum and having respect for myself and my work paid off in spades.

    The scads of people submitting to small pay/no pay markets and building elaborate justifications (it’s so hard to be me, to be rejected, the big guys are stacked against us, X [be that electronic, print on demand] is a new revolution!) that I knew in 1998 making the same arguments as this article are pretty much almost all still doing that same thing 10 years later. Everyone who submitted and kept submitting to big paying venues that I knew have careers.

    But whatever, you can lead a horse to water, can’t force them to drink. Honestly, the more writers who throw themselves at these markets means the more slots I have in large paying venues because you’re all taking yourselves, happily, right out of competition for the places that pay the best, showcase your work in the best way, and have the most readers.

    Honestly, if there was a pro writer conspiracy, we’d all be begging new writers who believe this sort of stuff to keep submitting to places that pay nothing, have no audience, and look like crap.

  17. jenn: So your first pub and Leckie’s sold to a pro market out the gate. Goody, goody for you. For others it may take time and effort.

     

    I am beginning to wonder about admissions criteria to your MFA program, jenn. I mean, the alternative is that you are willfully misinterpreting what people say.  Publishing one’s first published story in a “pro market’ does require time and effort. The first story published is hardly ever the first story written, for one thing. One can and often does receive years and years of rejections before selling one’s first story, and after that it may be years and years more of nothing but rejections. There’s your time and effort, even for people whose fiction debuts were in the top tier (or second tier) to start. Rejection is always a friend, acceptance too often a stranger.

     

    There is no “making it” except that at some point one achieves sufficient facility with the written word to create interesting stories worth presenting to the public more often than not.

  18. And what was said during this flap was to denigrate every semi-pro and non-paying market. That was just wrong. 

    That’s really not what was said.  What was said was this particular market was a bad one, for very specific reasons.  What was also said, and reiterated a number of times, was that there are a substantial number of semi-pro and non-paying markets that still might be worth it for other reasons.

    Let me ask:  assuming that my summary is accurate, rather than yours, what would your reaction to Black Matrix be?

  19. The bigtakeaway here should be obvious: Not every credit helps a writer build a career.  In fact, some hurt.  That may be frustrating and painful, but it’s true.  Face the truth.

     

    And please, people, drop the pull the ladder up rhetoric.  It’s unfair and embarrassing.  

  20. Seven of eight of my short story sales, excepting reprints and two small anthologies, have been for 4c, 5c and 10c a word – many of those sales were as an unknown, first-time submitter. Now, I’m still not a pro (and I’m still an unknown in many, many markets). But what I am is a very patient and intelligent submitter, and when I write a really good story, I make sure that I get paid what I deserve. Every writer should. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you think your fiction deserves to be paid 1/5 of one cent per word and “exposure”, then fine. Go for it. But we’re just telling you that we feel we deserve better than that, and perhaps you do, too.

  21. Jenn,

    I’m not published. Yet.

    But here’s the way I look at it. BM would pay me $2 for a 1000 word story. Even if I could write 1000 words an hour, which I usually can’t, I’d still have to put in at least a day or more polishing that 1000 word story to the point where I’d feel good about shopping it around.

    $2 isn’t even close to minimum wage at an hourly rate. If you’re talking about work that stretches across multiple days, $2 is *ridiculous*. To be honest, I find the minimum pro rate somewhat stingy too when you think about the amount of work that goes into writing and editing a decent story.

    Which is why I choose very carefully where to shop my work, and what I get for it in return if I’m not getting paid enough to recoup the cost of my effort. And yes, it may be why I haven’t sold anything yet. But that tells me I need to get better as a writer. It certainly doesn’t lead me to believe I should be defending or supporting the business of someone who clearly doesn’t value my time and effort the same way I do.

    Kat

  22. Jenn, you’re not listening. What John Scalzi said was aimed at BM and BM alone.

    I’m a writer who is starting out myself and when I submit my work anywhere, I ask myself: who would read this? Because that’s what I want: people reading my stories. So if I’ve never heard of the magazine or the publisher, I’m not going to send it there.

    And as more people have alraedy explained, established publishers can afford to pay more than new or for-the-love publishers, so the rate they pay is actually a pretty nice indicator of whether people will read it or not.

    So I write things, I submit, I get rejected, I try to do better next time. But I’m not going to submit my stories to publishers who will accept almost anything. I don’t want my stories to be side by side with stories that I don’t think are any good, I don’t want my stories to gather dust because no one ever reads the magazine they were printed in. I still want to be read.

    So I write more, I submit, I get rejected, rinse repeat. It’s hard work and don’t think for one second Scalzi or Lecky or any other writer didn’t have to go through that. They did. Scalzi got pro rate for the first story he ever published, but that was not the first story he ever submitted. Just think. Rowling had it much worse than I do, that’s for sure. I don’t have to feed any kids.

    Bottom line is: it’s your story that’s going to make you stand out like a shining star from the rest of the slush. Not your credits, just your story. So just keep writing.

  23. Well, I’d have to say that from the number of authors chiming in on this topic that it’s unfair to characterize pro writers as trying to keep down up-and-coming talent. I came into this topic too late and misunderstood where some of the discussion was coming from– especially given the context of the slush pile as referred to in the body of this post. 

    From what I’m reading here, it’s not that anyone is trying to prevent anyone else from being published. They’re trying to prevent those who don’t know any better from being taken advantage of. It seems to me that there’s a genuine desire to protect and guide new writers. 

  24. The problem here is that everyone is lumping all the markets together.
    There are plenty of low-paying, semi-pro, and even non-paying markets
    that are very good. Should I name some of them?
    * Electric Velocipede
    * Norilana Books
    * The Future Fire
    * GUD Magazine
    * Ideomancer
    * Reflection’s Edge
    * LCRW (which has been mentioned)
    And many, many others which are really fine markets that pay token to
    semi-pro rates. AND THEY LOOK GOOD. I hate to be disagreeing with
    someone that I admire like tobias Buckell, but in this case I just have
    to.

  25. I do realise that I am coming to this from a British perspective and from a strongly pro-union family, but for heaven’s sake, the principle is the same as in any industry: the only way to keep rates decent is to demand decent rates. If editors ‘realise’ they don’t have to pay decent rates, they won’t.

    I pay my cleaner union rates, so when I edited two collections I took for granted that I would pay SFWA rates. And *I* can be considered an amateur fiction editor. [Several of the stories were picked up for year’s bests, and one or two new authors got their break].

  26. “If you don’t like the pay of a market, don’t submit to them. What is so hard about that.”

    Well, I won’t submit to them, of course. But, really, overall that’s not a very intelligent response, now, is it? It’s not enough for me or any other person with knowledge of market and its dynamic to avoid a manifestly bad venue; we should also be willing to point out to others that this is a bad venue and explain why, which I and others have done. You’re able to accept or ignore the information. I’m not really aware why I should not to give my opinion on the matter, given that I do have a good understanding of the market. I also wonder if you feel if there are other situations in which I should not give those who are new some benefit of my previous knowledge:

    SCENE: A NATION WITHOUT EXCELLENT WATER SANITATION

    Scalzi: You know, I’ve been here before. You might not want to drink the tap water. Bottled water’s a better idea.

    New Traveler: Hey, if you don’t like the water, don’t drink it.

    Scalzi: I won’t. But you might not want to, either.

    New Traveler: You’re just trying to deprive me of water!

    (Drinks tap water, gets amoebic dysentery, spends a week in hospital while everyone else goes to the beach)

    Beyond this, you appear to be trying to make this about a Cult of Scalzi, in which everyone believes what I say just because I’m me. Man, I wish. My own experience, which I think is relevant here, is that people are more than happy to tell me I’m full of crap, when they think I’m full of crap. But in this case, people are agreeing with me, to the extent they are agreeing with me, because their own experience as writers is consonant to a greater or lesser degree with what I’ve said on the topic. Trying to make it about me rather than about the specifics of the argument I’m presenting isn’t the way to make a good argument, nor is it a good way to refute the points I’ve made in the argument.

    But, you know. Your life and career. I and others have laid out our arguments for you, based on our experience. The rest is up to you.

  27. The problem here is that everyone is lumping all the markets together.

    No, Jenn, it’s pretty clear at this point that the problem is  that you are either being obstinate or you have difficulty reading, as that is the exact opposite of what EVERYONE else is saying… So which is it?

  28. Jenn, I understand your desire to stick to your guns. But I don’t think the thing you’re railing against actually happened.

    And what was said during this flap was to denigrate every semi-pro and non-paying market.”

    But, as people are pointing out, this is not what’s being said.

    Scalzi: “I think some semi-pro/non-paying markets might be worth a writers’ time, but writers have to ask, as they’re not being paid pro rates, what else is being brought to the table.”

    Swirsky: “It is not my intention to condemn all for the love markets and the writers who write for them. Like Scalzi, I’ve written for the love when charity was involved. Unlike him, I’ve also done it when someone asked me to and I knew it wouldn’t take much time. There are legitimate reasons why someone may publish for the love. However, gaining credits so that you can later publish somewhere “better,” is not one of them.”

    Hines: “I don’t use pay rate as an absolute rule.  Sure I’d rather make $250 than $25.  But I sold a story to Andromeda Spaceways recently, and they pay significantly less than 5 cents/word.  On the other hand, they’ve been around a long time, put out a nice magazine, and have a good reputation and readership for a semi-pro.  There are a handful of others, publications that pay less than pro rates, but have earned a lot of critical acclaim or developed a broader readership.”

    Me: I send to markets that pay well, because I like to have money to buy my morning latte, I send to markets that appeal to me because either they’re put together beautifully (Shimmer, for example, or One Story) or they get a certain amount of critical notice. I try to send something when I’m solicited for a new magazine or endeavor, because it’s nice to be asked. And the thing is this: we all want to be read. We want our stories out there, rather than sitting in a drawer. But we’d like them to find a good home, a pretty magazine that lots of people see, and which the editors put some love into. Money is just a bonus.

     

  29. jenn, to be honest, you are coming off as unprofessional and rude. 

    there’s no need to be scared of scalzi, or the rest.  that’s not what it’s about.  what it’s about is that people who have been there are trying to help us who ARE there.  in the face of logical discussion, you respond without seeming to even take the time to listen or think about it.  it’s pretty cool of jim and john and tobias and others to take time to talk about this issue.  you could respect that with the effort it takes to engage logically.  i’d feel better about your side if you were actually responding to their points rather than covering your ears and screaming the same things over and over like a bratty two-year-old.

  30. Hi, Jenn–

    Unlike Ann or Scalzi or a few others who have already weighed in here, I didn’t make my first sales to pro markets.  I’d been publishing for two years before I sold to a pro market (Strange Horizons).  I still publish in semi-pro markets, if I like the cut of their jib.  I publish a semi-pro market — Ideomancer — and was one of the founding editors of another, Abyss & Apex.  I have a pretty heavy investment, both emotionally and reputation-wise, in the semi-pro scene.

    I also have gotten screwed a few times in terms of money, contracts, and rights when it comes to dealing with certain markets.

    I know you don’t know me, and I know my word here will only be as good as the word of a random stranger ever is, but I can assure you unequivocally that the take-home message here isn’t that semi-pro markets are bad, or that new writers are bad, or any of that.  I swear to it: This is not what’s being said here.  I think what everyone’s saying is that getting screwed hurts, and we didn’t like it when it happened to us, and it left a bad taste in our collective mouths, and so when we see a market that looks like it’s about to screw a whole bunch of writers — and especially new writers, who may not have the experience or the confidence to either avoid that market or negotiate a new contract with them and make them stick to it — well, we want to warn people.  Because we remember that embarrassment and anger and resignation that comes with getting screwed by a market.  We don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.  That’s why SFWA exists: bad things happen sometimes in publishing, and if we all stick together, share information, and take care of each other, we can stop or reduce the amount of bad things.

    So the way I read the whole thing was that everyone’s responsible for their own career, and everyone should be making their own career choices.  But they should at least be able to go into a decision to submit somewhere aware, with eyes open, knowing what the actual terms are and able to decide if those are okay terms for them.

    Hope this helps, and is a useful perspective,

    ~Leah

  31. There are plenty of low-paying, semi-pro, and even non-paying markets
    that are very good.

    Which, if I rember rightly, was said in the blogs you originally linked too.

     

     

     

     

  32. Most of those markets have been mentioned as exceptions, Jenn, or were intended when people mentioned niche markets that have a lot of prestige because of their quality.

    They also pay better than Black Matrix, on the whole.

    I think Clarkesworld is a great example of whom to emulate if you’re starting up. They’re relatively young, as a market, and were quick to rise to the top of genre magazines. They paid very well – better than the Big 3 – and their response times are very good. Unsurprisingly, within a few months of opening for business, they were one of the best out there. They attracted the best slush.

    The separation between good semi-pro operations, that attract pro writers, and average-to-bad that do not is pretty easy to deduce by reading the magazine, first. Sale in a semi-pro mag of no reknown, or limited quality will not help you.

    Starting a magazine, for the love, without the financial wherewithal to pay a mere penny a word (which means a 5000 word story nets 50 bucks – honestly, a pittance) is not a good sign that people actually, genuinely know what they’re doing.

    Without evidence to the contrary, like someone of the calibre of Kelly Link editing it or the company of respected pros like Buckell and Hines, I must assume this mag is run by people that may not know what they’re doing. Editing is actually very difficult, and certainly launching a magazine successfully at a level of quality on par with Electric Velocipede or Clarkesworld or LCRW or Asimov’s is exceptionally difficult.

  33. I think the real problem here is Jenn is enjoying people finally reading her blog.

    She’d rather hold onto an impossible opinion than loose readers by admiting the obvious.

  34. It’s not her blog, Fred. She’s doing a guest posting.

    I don’t think it’s useful to impugn her motives; I think it’s more useful to address her argument.

  35. Jenn, I’m not a writer and I frankly don’t read much sci-fi, so I’m very much an outsider to this whole discussion, but it’s very clear to me that Scalzi et al. very much have your best interests in mind and are simply trying to make it clear that publishers you submit your works to should provide at least some benefit – money, exposure, cachet, or ideally all of the above. Selling your work to a publisher that no one will read, making no money on the deal (less than no money really when you consider opportunity costs), and getting the opposite of cachet from the whole thing is no way to begin a career. BM seems to be exactly that kind of publisher. Other semi-pro publishers are not like BM and do offer at least one of the three things a writer should get from selling writing and I’ve heard no one but you lump those with BM.

  36. The problem here is that everyone is lumping all the markets together.

    If you’d read Scalzi’s post carefully–the one you link to above–you’ll see he said the exact opposite.  He also linked to a comment by Patrick Nielsen Hayden saying the same thing.  I’ll leave it as an exercise to you to follow your own links and reread.  

    Additionally, as Nick Mamatas said above, it’s ridiculous to suggest that writers who made their first sale at the pro-level didn’t spend time or effort on their writing.  Time and effort is what it takes to reach the pros.

    Good luck to you, jenn.  

     

  37. jenn, you’re obviously quite upset at this point.  Your last comment has lots of spelling errors and is reverting to a grammar not shared by the original post.  Might want to take a break for a while, take a walk, have a cup of tea, something.   

  38. The thing that gets me about BM is that this no-history, zero-to-4-magazines-and-two-booklines publisher expects me (and people like me) to pay $10 for the magazine.  Just to take an example, Azimov’s wants $5.  And they’re a “pro” market – in fact, they’re one of the three “name” publications in the genre.  I’ll drop my coffee for the day on a mag with a bunch of “name” authors, and a bunch more “they think these no-names are just, or almost, as good – from experience, I know that some of these are going to be tomorrow’s names”.  But, given that I have that at that price point (leaving aside the argument about whether that’s a fair price point), to drop 200% of it on a mag, it had better offer 200% of the worth.  Oh, it’s a mag for “for the love of it” authors?  The ones who don’t want to make a living (or even a hobby job) writing, but just want to see their name in print?  Oh, and if 15 people buy from them, that’s recouped all the costs for the source material, because they pay 4% of what my “easy decisions” do?  And there’s no history, no track record, nothing to make me believe that I’m going to get something out of this despite all the strikes against it?

    Nah, I’ll pick up Azimov’s.  Who cares, I’m feeling flush today; I’ll drop what the BM mag costs instead, and pick up F&SF, too.  Anybody here – anybody? – think that’s the wrong decision for me to make, as a consumer?

    Let’s assume I’m not unique here.  If so, not only is a sale here not what the editors of the mags I read say will matter one whit; not only is a sale here not what the authors that I read say, from their own experience, is going to further one’s career; not only is the business strategy of the publisher more likely to massively fail than the already very likely chance of any new business (and if it’s obvious to me, imagine what it looks like to anybody with experience – say a VC or an economist), so it’s very likely that in two years nobody will know where the sale was to – but the result one actually *wants*; which isn’t, in fact, the sale, but an audience that will buy your next sale, so might trigger pro rates when you submit *that* – said audience is more likely to have read your work if you posted it on your LJ.

    Not a writer, aspiring or otherwise; just someone whose house is decorated in Early Bookcase.

  39. Jenn,

    One of the points that Ann, Rachel, John, etc have made several times now is that, yes, you can’t lump all semi-pro/low-paying markets together, and that’s important for writers to remember. You’re right that we oughtn’t dismiss a given zine purely on the basis of pay-rate, and that point is close to my heart, but no one you’ve named is suggesting that we should. I adore every one of the zines you’ve listed; I made my first sale to LCRW, and I think EV and LCRW are stronger on average (or at least more to my taste) than many of the pro-zines. But Black Matrix isn’t Electric Velocipede; the good reasons that a writer might sell to EV just don’t apply to BM.

  40. John Scalzi is commendably altruistic in wanting to safeguard new writers from ignorance, because the two elements that must be present in order to be conned are ignorance and greed. In this case we’ll see that “greed” is a need to be published that outweighs the need to be paid for your efforts.

    I for one am delighted at the existence of venues such as Black Matrix. They act as amateur magnets that will make the truly professional markets less crowded for true professionals. Those who are willing to submit to BM under these conditions absolutely should, and those who are willing to read (and indeed pay to read) a product whose content is provided by people willing to submit to such terms, deserve to.

    Okay, I’ll admit that the above paragraph is very pure, in a cynically ideal way, but probably not true in the real world. In the real world, pro-level magazines are falling like plague victims, and crowding the market with essentially amateur publications (and vanity publications, if you’re paying attention to what’s going on in publishing right now) will only hasten their demise. It’s sad. I also don’t see that it’s avoidable. Once a bottom-level price has been determined in a market, that’s the price. The model by which professional writers have traditionally made a living for some two centuries is quickly disappearing, entirely due to technology (as it existed in the first place due to technology).

    If writers are desperate enough for publication to accept BM’s terms, by all means do so. As Thelma & Louise made us aware, “You get what you settle for.”

  41.  It’s not always “take pro rates or nothing” or “worship at the altar of Scalzi”, it’s “don’t get scammed”.  And when replies include the implication that someone “worship(s) at the altar of Scalzi,” they become personal snipe-fests, not a conversation about the merits of various ways to get published.

     

    “Don’t get scammed” is good advice.  If you’re unwilling to take it, your progress as a writer is going to to move forward with the equivalent of 50lb weights tied to its ankles.  Black Matrix is a for profit magazine.  What they’re doing is taking far more than a fair share of profits, and offering a pittance in return.  They’re paying prospective authors far less than they should, and it’s bad for the entire industry if people think this is a valid business model.

     

    If you really look at the arguments being made, no one is denigrating semi-pro zines and non-paying markets.  They’re denigrating semi-pro zines that take an unfair cut of the profits. If you’re a hobbyist, non-paying markets are fine.  If you’re trying to break into the field, semi-pro zines are fine.  I don’t think anyone has said a bad word about the respectable ones, just the ones that treat authors poorly, which includes paying a really insulting amount.

     

  42.  

    “Unlike others, I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me. Just because you are loud and obnoxious does make you right. So your first pub and Leckie’s sold to a pro market out the gate. Goody, goody for you. For others it may take time and effort. Or maybe what an author is offering may not be what the current prevaling winds are taking. Whatever. What I’m saying is that it is quite unusual to go from 0 to 100mph. And what was said during this flap was to denigrate every semi-pro and non-paying market. That was just wrong. What you are doing here is pulling up the ladder and you ARE in fact looking after your own interests. If you don’t like the pay of a market, don’t submit to them. What is so hard about that.”

     

    Speaking as someone who’s written for and commended on blogs, that’s pretty out of line, and unprofessional. Watching this issue for a little while, it’s pretty ridiculous because a) one side of the argument is coming off as aarogant because they’re fairly successful and can approach this from a business standpoint, while the other side seems to think that there is some sort of stepping stone process here. It’s not, and Mr. Scalzi makes an incredibly valid point that this is an industry and business that you all work for. Forget all this pretentious ‘I’m writing for the sake of the art’ crap, writing is a lot of work. I know that I don’t go into the office every day because I love to sit at a desk and punch keys on my computer all day – I expect to be compensated for what I do. Same goes for the music industry and so forth.

    Writers are professionals, and there’s a reason that they’re speaking from, well, up on high – there’s a reason why they made it up there already, because they put in the time, effort, blood and sweat to get there – as a result, their work is good, because people are willing to publish it. Telling aspiring authors to avoid a bad publisher is akin to me telling a recent B.A. to avoid working at the grocery store down the road. It’s not because I’m trying to talk down to them, I’m telling them that if you have skills that you want compensated for, make sure you get the proper compensation for your work. He’s not destroying all semi-pro markets, just ones that he doesn’t think are worth people’s time and money, because their business model really takes advantage of the writer. 

     

    Plus, if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you need to make sure that you know, can actually write – that includes comments. 

  43. Jenn,

    I think the facts are quite simple, and have been said and re-said by several writers of varying backgrounds.

    –Pro markets pay a pro rate

    –Non-pro markets pay a non-pro rate, but supplement their compensation with other considerations such as exposure, critical expertise, or a fine publishing tradition.

    –Black Matrix, and others like it, do not pay a pro rate, and have no supplemental compensation.

    I think the majority of established writers are aware of that final piece of information (helpfully emphasized by me, you’re welcome) and the majority of unestablished writers are not. Thus, the established writers did their best to warn the unestablished writers away from it.

    Everything else in your post is thin speculation based on the motives of people you don’t know. I think you should probably take a break and ask yourself one thing:

    You know that story that you’ve been working on for ages? The one you’ve been piecing together and struggling with and holding in reserve until your writing is good enough to do it justice? At this moment, would you submit said story to the editors at Black Matrix?

    I think the answer is obviously a “no.” You should then go back and ask yourself why not, and further examine whether you, given the opportunity, would share that opinion with other writers who might ask. These questions might point you to a more accurate picture of why Scalzi said what he said, and why so many agree with him.

    **As a side note, John’s comment in this thread would net him $3.41 from Black Matrix, and $85.20 from Strange Horizons. This is tangential, but surely there’s a point worth taking from this minor example.

  44. Jenn,

    I’m with Xopher–it’s time to step away from this for a while.

    Best wishes for your future endeavors, regardless.

  45. Jenn-

    I’m a new writer. In fact, I’m so new, I haven’t published anything yet. And I consider myself lucky to be one of those new writers that has friends who are pro-writers and can give me advice. From attending Alpha, a writing workshop specifically for teen writers of sf/f/h, I have pro-writers such as Tamora Pierce that I can turn to for advice. And after spending a lot of time with Scalzi at a couple conventions, I also consider him someone I can turn to for advice. Pro writers in no way want to keep us new writers down. They want to help us because they want the genre to grow and flourish. The only way for that to happen is for new writers with new ideas to enter the field. And, hey, one day, they’re (unfortunately) not going to be around anymore, and it’s up to the writers like us who are on our way up now to continue the genre after they’re gone.

    I’m perfectly aware that the reason I haven’t published anything yet is because I only submit to magazines with pro-rates. But that’s because I think my time, my effort, and my words are worth five cents a word. Hell, I think they’re worth more than that. No, I’m not being picked up now. But I know that if I submit to a place like BM, or to my college’s literature magazine, then I will most likely be picked up. However, my stories right now aren’t really ready to be picked up. It’s that rejection by the pros that is pushing me to be better, to look over my work with a harsh eye, and really consider what is working and what isn’t. Submitting to BM would only give me an ego boost and convince me I don’t need to change what I’m doing. That will hurt me in the long run, not help me.

    And as for credits – Sheila Williams was a speaker at Alpha this year. She’s the editor of Asimov’s. She made it quite clear that credits don’t really matter. The quality of the story matters. And by insisting I only submit to the pros, I’m making sure that I am constantly improving the quality of my story, and that the quality of my story will be what gets me in.

  46. I edit at a free e-zine that does not pay for work.  We’re not exactly an sf mag, but we do take certain types of spec fic.  We do not get the best slush in the world.  What we get is good.  I’m not denigrating the writers we publish or suggesting we would take lack-luster material.  But the vast majority of slush we get would not be published in Azimov’s or one of the other big sf mags, even if it was an exact fit for what they like to print. 

    Some of the people subbing to us have over 600 credits.  I have heard of maybe five or six off of these lists.  I don’t accept on the basis of previous credits.  I don’t care if the submission has none at all.  Publishing in these markets does not give anyone a leg up.  So out with that argument.  Now, maybe a credit in a really good mag would convince a slusher to forward the story to me even if they didn’t like it.  Maybe.  But that’s all you might get.

    We have published five issues.  And we still do not have a large reader base.  Many of our readers buy the mag because those published in it are their friends or aquaintances, or relatives.  These people do a lot of their own promotion, though we on the staff do what we can.  Have any of the large mag editors in the field heard of us? Probably not.  So don’t try these “open door” or “a leg up” arguments.  They aren’t true.  The majority of the time anyway.

    In the interests of transparency, here’s the website for the mag:  http://www.theoddvillepress.com  You decide how much weight to give my opinion.

  47. I’m going to have to echo Mycroft here.

     

    If I’m going to buy a magazine, as a SF fan, I’m going to need a reason to part with my cash. Something needs to hook me to get my investment.

     

    That hook could be the magazine having a good history, a recognised name, promotion from trusted sources, a price you just can’t say no to or even just good word of mouth. So far BM fails on every front;

    - They are brand new with no connections to anything that came before

    - They are charging ~$10 for POD books as their main magazine

    - They have no established names (and won’t at their prices)

    - I’m not aware of them being promoted by any sources I pay even the slightest attention to

    - Their word of mouth all comes from their pay rates being eye-wateringly horrific

    There is little to no chance of me buying their book compared to all the other SF available. Given their reputation I wouldn’t be confident I wasn’t just picking a few stories off a random slush pile. Worse, I would know I’m supporting publishers who are paying their authors less for their time than they would earn slapping their story on a free blog with some Google ads and a paypal tip-jar.

     

    The other factor is how other publishers and editors will look on them. I really doubt that they are likely to give them the time of day. Authors are not likely to profit reputation wise by pushing their work out with anyone who can put together a .pdf and publish it to Amazon’s POD service. No matter how polished that .pdf is. Hell, they would probably be more impressed if you put one together yourself and had some reasonable sales numbers to show them. You would probably make more money in the long run, and the stigma from self publishing/using POD isn’t going to be much worse than going through a group like BM.

     

    Of course, the idea that you need to be published now is a poor attitude anyway. Lots of excellent authors have to wait their turn. Maybe push a little now and then, maybe work on their networking and reputation. Spend the time and effort to get their feet in the door.

     

    BM don’t promise that. They’ve built an outhouse and are trying to cover that fact up by saying they designed it for people outside and it was never trying to pretend to be a building. Do you know how much second hand 2×4’s cost? They can’t afford to keep writers out of the rain just yet, but one day they might graduate to be a building. If those writers will only build them some walls and a roof.

  48. Why would I, as a writer, want to submit a story to a market like Black Matrix? Aside from poor pay rates, and a publishing credit, what do I get? What value is the credit in this case?

    I’m a starting writer. I’ve made one fiction submission so far, which has yet to be rejected.

    I’ve blogged my thoughts about this issue. Why not be more discriminating? There are markets that don’t pay pro rates, but have other things going for them, such as a wide readership, great editors, past history of awards, or some combination of the above.

    With Black Matrix, they appear to be a for-profit business, so why aren’t they paying their writers?

  49. jenn,

    You misspelled ‘worship,’ ‘altar,’ and ‘prevailing.’

    Re-stating that Scalzi is pulling up that metaphorical ladder, not to mention increasing the divide between “pro” and “non-pro” writers, doesn’t make it so.  If you’d like to enter an argument, isn’t the onus of backing your statements up on you?  The writers that you’re disagreeing with seem to have made quite the effort to back up their statements.

    I can easily imagine Scalzi sitting on high and laughing evilly, just not down at us.  I picture it more as sitting on the bones of those that won’t stop sending him links about bacon products, laughing his maniacal laugh down at those who consider Twilight and Harry Potter heavy reading.

  50. The problem here is that everyone is lumping all the markets together.”

    TB: No, the problem is that you’re raging so much you’re assuming everyone is lumping them together and not paying attention to what is being said.

    “There are plenty of low-paying, semi-pro, and even non-paying markets.”

    TB: LCRW and EV pay very little, but are read by many, if not most of the NYC editors. Notice, they don’t give out claims of ‘exposure,’ they’re known to provide it. My bibliography includes a credit in EV.

    “And many, many others which are really fine markets that pay token to
    semi-pro rates. AND THEY LOOK GOOD. I hate to be disagreeing with
    someone that I admire like tobias Buckell, but in this case I just have
    to.”

    TB: You say in your intro you want to have a career. Is that as a full time writer? A well known pro writer? Then you might want to consider the advice of people doing just that.

    I can’t think of many working careerists in the field that would advocate your approach. I can think of a couple who publishes/d in those venues, while simultaneously starting at the top with other submissions (often after working their way down), but those persons are/were remarkably prolific.

    I’d consider them as having a different bottom ladder than some, selling stories low after starting high and working their way down.

    Your rhetoric has been a loudly and commonly voiced staple of self-defeating writers since I started getting online in 1998. It’s a shame, I’ve seen a lot of writers who were better than me at the time die in the fields of easy-to-submit-to magazines, as they promptly stopped trying to aim higher once they get the easy high of a guaranteed sale.

  51. Okay, people, I give. You win. BTW, I never said that Black Matrix was the top of the line nor was I advocating that they should be the first play to try and place your work. All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap. ‘Nuf said.

  52. Disclaimer: I’m a new writer, still unpublished, working both on short stories and novels. I currently have short stories on sub (and my own tidy stack of rejections).

     

    Perhaps I’m speaking from a position of ignorance or naivette, but I really don’t see what all the fuss is about, on either side.

     

    For lack of a better term, the “Scalzi Camp” seems to have a lot of ire directed at publications that pay crap rates. Now, I agree with the core concept: we as writers deserve to be paid more for the work we do, and this is across every medium (short stories, novels, television, screenplays, what have you). And I agree with Jim C Hines’ position, that we should rate our own writing better and submit to the markets that are visible, that publish consistently good fiction, that pay decently. My submission-order list starts with Clarkesworld.

     

    It’s the level of ire that puzzles me, though. To play off Scalzi’s “SCENE: A NATION WITHOUT EXCELLENT WATER SANITATION” post, the commentary on the part of the seasoned traveller felt less “Hey, I really wouldn’t drink that if I were you” and more “Are you effing kidding me? Look at that water! It’s shit, and you’re an idiot if you drink it.” That’s how I felt while reading, anyway.

     

    Personally, *I’m* not going to drink that water, for a few reasons. A cheap and easy reason is I don’t write pulp. A better reason is that I want to be taken seriously. I don’t think my writing is to the same level as the Big Names that get published in the Big Magazines. If it was, I’d probably have an acceptance by now. But I’m an engineer, and at my core I’m about efficiency. I’m not going to aim for publications no one reads. (Whether or not Black Matrix is on that list is a separate issue.) This is because my goal is to be a Damn Good Writer and I’m not going to get there if I don’t constantly push myself.

     

    But, not everyone is like me (thank God). If someone’s throwing stories at the Tough Markets and they’re not sticking, but eventually get acceptances from Lesser Markets, where is the true harm? Nobody is being lied to or scammed. This isn’t Publish America here. This isn’t DellArte Press nee Harlequin Horizons, telling saying you’ll be “a Harlequin author” if you pay a tidy sum of $1600. The writers subbing are likely aware there are better paying markets out there. If the writer does not want to take themselves so seriously, or is unable to deal with the rejection of the Tough Markets, is there any harm done? Can we not simply have hobbyist writers who enjoy the occasional publication in a minor market and put the rest on their own personal site? Or must EVERY writer strive to be a professional?

     

    Nobody’s getting dysentery in this scenario.

     

    On the other side of the field, again for lack of a better term I’ll call them “Camp New Writers,” the pros really aren’t trying to keep you down, writers OR editors. I’ve had the joy of meeting a few at World Fantasy Con this year in San Jose, and the ones who were able to give me their time were really warm and eager to dispense their hard-won knowledge.  It wasn’t to fluff their egos but because really, they’d been there, and they want to help. Statistically, there are assholes in this group. I have had the fortune to not meet them.

     

    Honestly, if they were trying to “keep you down” why would their advice be “try to get published in visible markets and get paid more”? If they TRULY didn’t want you to succeed, their advice would be more “Yeah, stay in the small markets, forever, the magazines with crappy pay and zero distribution.” In these small markets, you are not being read, not being noticed, and not being nurtured into a better writer. It’s the same kind of encouragement you can get from your friends, the same pat on the back you can get from the family reading your work. These pros want you to challenge yourselves to write tomorrow better than you write today.

     

    (Note that when I say “small market” I don’t mean a market which pays very little. I mean a market no one reads. As was mentioned above, pay is not the sole indicator of a market’s quality. Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill’s are not lightly-taken names. Weird Tales pays semi-pro according to duotrope, and tell me that’s a bad market to submit to.)

     

    tl;dr: Famous People: Not everybody needs to be pro and that’s okay, but thanks for looking out for us. New Writers: it’s cool, they really don’t hate you, they only want you to write your best and get the money you deserve.

     

    Anywhoozle, that’s how I see it. Long post is long.

  53. Plus, can someone please explain how pointing out the issues of aiming low and issues with low paying markets is ‘pulling up the ladder?’ How exactly does this stop young writers from having a career?

    The point is, by following the path advocated of late, to use it looks like you’re throwing the ladder up at us and we’re tossing it back down and you’re getting upset :-)

  54. “All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap. “

    Which NO ONE, not Scalzi, not Swirsky, not Leckie, not Buckell, not ANYONE was saying. For Pete’s sakes!

  55.    Which, Jenn, is what Scalzi, Buckell and several others were saying all along.

       But that’s not all you said:

       “The chill I feel is the people at the pro level pulling up the ladder saying, ‘you stay down there, kid.'”

       “If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all.”

       “I know that people are scared to say anything to these bigwigs in the field. I guess I’m just stupid enough to do it (I prefer gutsy, but I digress.)”

       “Unlike others, I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me.”

       It’s statements like these that give the impression that you perceive a divide between the professional writers, and quite honestly, it looks like you have on hell of a chip on your shoulder.  It looks even worse when you start attacking the professionals, rather than attempting to counter their statements with evidence and instead repeating the same screed over again.

       “Just because you are loud and obnoxious does make you right.”

       So you’re saying that Scalzi’s right because he’s loud and obnoxious?

       You might want to consider what you write in opinion colums and blogs like this more carefully.  It can come back to bite you.

  56. All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap. ‘Nuf said.

    I really don’t understand this comment, because this isn’t what you were saying. You were saying that “It’s the smaller, so called “crappy,” markets where the new voices are found,” and this sentiment is demonstrably false.

    Further, as people have pointed out, the blog posts you cited in your original argument took pains to avoid lumping smaller markets into any kind of category at all.

    If you’re going to bow out, do so without throwing up another reiteration of the same bunk arguments.

  57. Jenn:

    “You win.”

    I think this is part of the problem. This wasn’t a competition, and I don’t think any of us were trying to “win.” What we were trying to do was be helpful.

  58. God, you guys are reading a lot more than I was trying to say. Yes, this all got very personal. For any part in that I played appologize. But some stuff is being said here just is going too far.

  59. I am another one of those aspiring writers and Jenn I am not part of the cult of Scalzi.  I like his writing.  I love to read his blog.  I think that he often makes great points and teaches me things I didn’t know about writing.  I also think he is full of shit sometimes because he is human and we all have that particular problem.

     

    I do think he is right in this case.  I finished my first novel and have been collecting all of those wonderful rejections.  I finished many short stories and again the rejections are common place.  I am lucky I have friends who are pro writers. They keep encouraging me when I am down.  I keep writing and I hope sometime soon I will be good enough to crack open a market.

     

    In the mean time I have a day job.  I work hard at it and I am good employee.  They pay me for that job.  I get a good salary.  I happen to also have some tech background and sometimes my job wants to use that expertise.  It is outside of the contract I am already paid for.  When these moments happen I negotiate a payment for my expertise and again they pay me for it.  My work has value.  I would never give it away for less than it is worth.  My expertise has value my current employee sees that and is willing to pay extra when they need to use it.

     

    My writing should be no different.  I get better by aiming to be a pro.  While I am working towards it I will try to act like one in everyway possible.  This includes pay.  If my writing isn’t good enough I have a choice, get better.  We both know it is discouraging and frustrating but it is what it is.  I don’t feel like anyone is trying to keep me out of the business and I certainly don’t think John Scalzi is.  He will be the first one to tell you how fortunate he feels to be paid for writing. 

     

    If we don’t value our work and our words, no one will.

  60. If y’all really want Jenn to come around to your side of the argument, ya gotta stop the equivalent of shouting louder.  And having 20 (I didn’t count) people yell the same thing isn’t going to convince her.  Y’all really gotta change the tone.  Even though I agree with Scalzi on the merits, the tone stirs up all sorts of “defend the person being picked on” responses in me.  I can see why she felt attacked, both by the original Scalzi piece, and the current comment thread.

  61. <i>”Some stuff is being said here just is going too far.”</i>

    I agree completely, Jenn. Indeed, a couple of examples of this argument getting out of hand:

    “If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all.”

    “What you are doing here is pulling up the ladder and you ARE in fact looking after your own interests.”

    “I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me.”

    You may truly think that we’re reading a lot more than you were trying to say. As a writer, however, you know the power of words. As a writer with an online presence, you know the permanance of words written online. Still, “maybe how it came across was not the intent. I don’t know. I can only go by what was said.”

     

     

  62. King Rat:

    “And having 20 (I didn’t count) people yell the same thing isn’t going to convince her.”

    As far as I can see most people were perfectly civil with her, and focused primarily on addressing the merits of her argument, rather than going for an ad hominem attack. So I think the “yelling” characterization here is not accurate.

    Aside from that, if 20 people, many of whom are well-known professional writers and/or editors, laying out the flaws in her argument as regards the market, are not going to convince her, what will?

  63. Hi Jenn,

    I know you’re tired of this discussion. I apologize for continuing it when it is grating to you.

    I just wanted to confirm that I *do not see all non-pro paying publications as identical*. This is stated outright in my post: “Ann proposes three considerations which I broadly agree with — pay rate, audience size, and reputation. There are several markets, such as Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, which have small audiences and low pay rates, but which I consider worth publishing in because of their reputation. As far as I can tell, Black Matrix does not qualify as one of these markets.”

    The markets I’m trying to warn people off of are these: “There are markets that accept nearly every submission, or that always seem to end up on the bottom of the pile” and these “the fly-by-night for the love markets which publish for a month or two before dying, only to be replaced, hydra-like, by two more.”

    Those descriptors can’t possibly be interpreted as referring to Electric Velocipede or LCRW (specifically exempted), but they also can’t possibly be interpreted as referring to Ideomancer, Abyss&Apex, Sybil’s Garage, Shimmer, Expanded Horizons, or any number of other excellent semi-pro or token payment magazines. I <3 the semi-pros. I have published extensively in the semi-pros. My Electric Velocipede story got me everything I could possibly want from a publication, despite its original $30 pay rate — a shiny zine, an excellent editor (John Klima rocks socks!), lots of critical attention, and reprints. I only wish I was cool enough to get into LCRW!

    There are neat for the love publications, too. I don’t follow a lot of them, but Behind the Wainscot is cool. On the lit end, there are millions — Monkeybicycle, Keyhole, Konundrum Engine Literary Review, etc.

    While it was never my intention to knock these magazines, I do apologize for any writing on my behalf which makes it seem like I was knocking them.

    I think the confusion is generated by the fact that no one — including me — will specifically name the magazine names that make them wince (well, apart from Black Matrix). I’m sorry. But I don’t think it’ll do any good to name them. It would just cause specific hurt feelings and a debate about those particular magazines when the point is much more general –

    Do market research, or keep your ear to the ground, or read issues, or create your own tiered market list, or do whatever’s best for you so that you can be discriminating. Don’t expect that you have to pay your dues by sacrificing your stories to markets *you* don’t like.

    If *you* are getting something out of the publication that I, as an editor, dislike, then far be it for me to influence you otherwise. I’m only telling you how I — as an editor — react so that you don’t use me as an excuse. If *you* want to publish there for *you* — cool. But if *you* want to do it to impress *me* (or any of the other editors who’ve commented on this, of which there are several spread across the various posts), then you might want to pick another strategy.

    Also, hell yes, *do* publish in awesome semi-pro, token, or non-paying magazines.

    (For the record, when I and others say that as *writers* we have several criteria we use when we calculate where to send our stories, we mean it. There are at least two SFWA pro markets I won’t send to because while their pay rate is high, their reputation or audience size or other factors (primarily treatment of their previous authors) disincline me to send to them. I don’t expect anyone else to use my calculation. I just hope everyone has all the information they need to create a calculation that works for them.)

    I wish you luck with your writing and your MFA, Jenn.

  64. “And having 20 (I didn’t count) people yell the same thing isn’t going to convince her.  Y’all really gotta change the tone.”

    No one is secretly confabulating to post the same message. As for the tone, the rude remarks came from the original poster who said “I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me,” etc.

  65. “All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap.”

    Which NO ONE, not Scalzi, not Swirsky, not Leckie, not Buckell, not ANYONE was saying. For Pete’s sakes!

    To be fair, whatever the claimed or intended meaning behind some of the original posts that sparked off the furor, there are clearly some people who took from that precisely the message that low paying markets were not worth submitting to (unless they were “charity”). Jenn clearly took this as insulting, and I’d be very surprised if she were the only one. I haven’t followed the entire thread in any detail myself, but the first Scalzi post I saw a few days ago looked kind of like that to me.

    So rather than saying that someone is obviously wrong, or foolish, or a careless reader, or a bad writer, for having this impression–because it’s obvious to me that this is *not* the case–those concerned about this issue should ask themselves if they can make their case more clearly so that people don’t take away this misconception.

    I personally disagree with even the more moderate positions being taken above, that small and low-paying publications are (a) no help to writers’ careers and (b) bad for the litrary ecosystem as a whole. I’m not going to go into the arguments here, but the mainstream is not the be-all and end-all, and nor should it be. It would actually be quite unhealthy if there were not lots of low-paying, free-to-readers, differently agenda’d markets out there. It’s a big jungle–there are lots of organisms out there as well as the big cats. That’s what makes it healthy.

  66. Congratulations, Jenn! You’ve just survived your first Internet dogpile, and didn’t resort to name-calling, histrionics, or changing the historical record along the way. You probably feel drained, angry at everyone, and vaguely paranoid right now, but I’m not actually being sarcastic (for once). We all take our turns being wrong on the Internet — some of us many more times than others — and it’s a bruising, unsettling experience.

    I hope you’ll take from this the right lesson (that it’s important to be sure what the opinion on the other side is before you take up arms against it) and not the wrong one (that you should make sure to stay in places filled only with people that agree with you).

    And I have to admit that I very nearly wrote a post much like yours when I saw Scalzi’s original diatribe against Black Matrix. I, too, thought he was saying that small publications (of any sort) aren’t worth dealing with, and I disagreed strongly. As has become clearer since then, though, that wasn’t what he meant, and isn’t what the chorus of voices against Black Matrix has been saying. (I was probably only saved by being too busy to sit down and pound something out quickly, so there is something to be said for overwork.)

    I’m sorry that this happened to you, and I hope that it doesn’t happen again — but I also hope that you don’t stop having strong opinions on the Internet to avoid having people complain. People will always complain. The tough part is in realizing when they’re right, and when they’re wrong. This time, I’m afraid, they were right. But you could easily be right the next time, if you’re just a little more careful and thoughtful. Good luck!

     

  67. Also, I mentor several new writers, teach writing, and critique annually for Alpha. New writers are the future, etc, etc.

    I just don’t think it’s my job as a reprint market to find them. Which is why I said “it’s true that I, as the editor of PodCastle, have no desire to find authors no one else has found — but that’s because I’m in the business of reprinting things. I want to reprint the genius story by an unknown that someone else scooped up out of the slush.”

    If I am ever editing something with the purpose of putting out original work, I will definitely join that cohort of editors who are waiting with baited breath to find a new author.

  68. there are clearly some people who took from that precisely the message that low paying markets were not worth submitting to

    It’s not clear to me why either Scalzi or Swirsky are responsible for other people misunderstanding what they’re saying.

     

    I personally disagree with even the more moderate positions being taken above, that small and low-paying publications are (a) no help to writers’ careers and (b) bad for the litrary ecosystem as a whole.

     

    If by moderate position, you mean “position no one is actually espousing,” then sure, it’s the moderate position.

     

  69. The chill I feel is the people at the pro level pulling up the ladder saying, “you stay down there, kid.” These major editors and authors with large clout slamming on a small non-pro market feels just wrong. I plain don’t understand why Scalzi is insulted by the pay rate that has nothing to do with him. He clearly would never submit to Black Matrix, but other new writers might. Writers like myself.

     

    You know what I find chilling?  The idea that genre writers are the bastard step-children of literature, and should just show some damn gratitude when they’re treated like garbage.  John Scalzi and Rachel Swirskyare perfectly capable of standing up for themselves, but it seems to me (as a freelance writer), that we’re all in this together — and if any writer just shrugs their shoulders and say a fraction of penny per word is an acceptable rate for anyone’s work, then we’re all setting ourselves up for more pain down the line. We’re ALL hurt by exploitative business practices, just as we’re all hurt by weak intellectual property/copyright protections.  Just because it doesn’t hit my bottom line directly doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter; or even that it won’t, one day.

    People like Scalzi (whose novels are published by TOR, a division of one of the largest publishing groups on Earth) doesn’t have to give a shit about outfits like Black Matrix, but I’m glad he does.

     

    BTW, calling a market “crappy” because they cannot pay SFWA pro-rates is downright rude. There are plenty of really great markets that pay semi-pro rates, token rates, and even nothing. I’ve run a business and I know how hard it is to keep things afloat when all you get in return for your efforts is love. It seems like a mean thing to say about someone’s efforts.

    I guess it would also be rude to say “boo frigging hoo”?  There are plenty of small presses and ‘zines out there that (barely) survive on the delicious aroma of the proverbial oily rag, but still manage to avoid behaving like pimps and hoodlums. Sorry to say this, but the recession has been hard on everyone in the publishing industry.  But, surely, isn’t the very time writers should be standing up and refusing to get screwed?

     

  70. Speaking as a publisher of one of those low-paying, non-pro, smaller markets, can I just say I’m not at all offended by what Scalzi and Swirsky (and Leckie and many other clearer heads here) have had to say? I think there are certainly some real benefits to publishing work with a for-the-love (or for-lower-payment) market — I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t — but I think Scalzi already did a very good job of enumerating those benefits, and moreover explaining why Black Matrix doesn’t fit the bill.  When you go pro, I think it is incumbent upon you to pay pro rates, and they’ve clearly failed in that regard.

    Also, while it’s true there are benefits to publishing in smaller venues, it’s also true that not every smaller venue is created equal. There are credits it’s not worth having (or at least not worth sharing). It’s up to every writer (and every editor) to decide for themselves which credits those are. But I think it’s foolish to lump every for-the-love publication together, or to ignore the advice of writers and editors who have dealt with the less savory publications before, or to equate valuable criticism of one publication with a denigration of all of them.

    And actually, it’s the idea that smaller markets are where young writers can bide their time until they’re good enough to ascend to the pros — where bad writing is acceptable because, hey, the pay is so low — that I find a little offensive.

     

     

  71. To talk about the difference between Black Matrix and any other of the multitude of non-paying/low-paying writer’s markets out there for just a moment – unless this cuts into anyone’s “Scalzi’s right/Scalzi’s wrong” time -

    For beginning writers, there are certainly any number of low-paying or non-paying markets to which it would be perfectly wise to submit. There’s an excellent website at http://www.duotrope.com that actually compiles all of the current literary markets and lets you search them by pay rate, genre, and a number of other categories. One of the things I think is excellent about this website is that it lets you know how long each of those markets has been in action, what awards its writers have received, and how successful it is.

    The reason this is important is that payment, as Jenn rightly points out, isn’t the only value to a new writer. Appearing in a well-respected literary magazine, even if the rates are not at pro level, can definitely add to a one’s reputation as a quality writer. Given the choice between a pro rate for a brand-new literary magazine that no one has ever heard of, and a low rate for a literary magazine that has a great deal of acclaim, I would definitely consider the pros and cons of each for quite awhile before making a decision.

    There’s also the fact that many new writing markets may grow up to be very impressive ones that it is well worth having been in back when they could only afford a token payment. For example, Tin House was relatively unknown 10 years ago when it first came out, and I’m sure they didn’t pay pro rates back then, as most writer’s markets pay either nothing or a token payment when they first start the business. Any writer who decided to take the chance and get paid almost nothing to appear in that market has an excellent credit in their portfolio now, and the added benefit that should they choose to write another story for Tin House, they will be remembered as someon who produced excellent work and their story might be given a little extra consideration – along with appropriate compensation now that Tin House offers pro rates.

    I think the important thing to consider here is that in the example of Tin House, they passed on their success to their writers. Their stories have been chosen for lots of “Best American Short Story” and “O. Henry” and many other awards. That made their publication more successful, and lo and behold, they now offer their writers higher rates. The business became more profitable because of the writers, and the business turned right around and said “Thank you” to those writers in the form of better payment. The writers were what made them successful, and Tin House doesn’t forget it. Now that they can afford to pay good rates, they do.

    I believe the point Scalzi and others have been making is that while Black Matrix COULD provide their writers a better rate – considering the business’ ample success as evident by their multi-armed ventures – they don’t. They’re continuing to enjoy business success through the talent of their writers, and offering nothing in return.

    That would have been acceptable if Black Matrix were a brand new, just founded, struggling business themselves. It’s not acceptable when Black Matrix CHOOSES not pay their writers a rate that reflects the true level of impact those writers have on Black Matrix’ success or failure. And that, if I may use the parlance, is a dickish thing to do. Those writers are the reason anyone at Black Matrix currently has a salary. It would be nice if they could offer payment that reflects the gratitude they certainly ought to be feeling for being able to earn those salaries.

    Now, are they obliged to by the standards of the free market? Absolutely not. If you’re dumb enough to take a low rate, a credit that means nothing, and exposure that provides nothing in the way of boosting your reputation as a writer, then so be it. But it doesn’t make Black Matrix any less of an ass for pretending that you should be grateful for the opportunity.

  72. I believe the point Scalzi and others have been making is that while Black Matrix COULD provide their writers a better rate – considering the business’ ample success as evident by their multi-armed ventures – they don’t.

    I think Scalzi’s point was more that any under-capitalised new business shouldn’t expect much sympathy when they try and screw over employees/suppliers and whine that it’s all a “labour of love” and people shouldn’t be so mean in pointing out the epic levels of bullshit being brought into play. 

    If you’re running a business and want to be treated like a serious professional, act like it.  Like much else in life, that’s only as complicated as you choose to make it.

  73. “I think the confusion is generated by the fact that no one — including me — will specifically name the magazine names that make them wince (well, apart from Black Matrix).”

    Thank you, Rachel!! That was, in a nutshell, what I was getting to. So in defense of those markets I got a bit hot under the collar.

  74. But jenn, the markets that really “make them wince” are the ones you should NOT be defending, because they are exploiting you and your fellow writers.

  75. “Thank you, Rachel!! That was, in a nutshell, what I was getting to. So in defense of those markets I got a bit hot under the collar.”

    Why would you defend markets that make you wince?

  76. Did a little bit of quick research and here’s a good example of the sort of low-paying market I think is well worth attempting:

    Colorado Review is over 50 years old and is published by Colorado State University. They publish 3 volumes a year, and looking at my back issues here I see there are usually 3 fiction pieces and 3 essays per volume, for a total of 18 fiction and essays this year. Five of those eighteen stories were reprinted in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Best American Short Stories, and The Best American Essays for 2009. That’s nearly one-third of the writers they published.

    Now, Colorado Review offers only a token payment for their writers. But when 5 out of their 18 fiction and essay pieces were re-printed in major publications like this, bringing those authors acclaim and making them far more widespread, the token payment doesn’t seem like a bad deal at all. Those 5 authors probably got quite a lot out of being a part of the Colorado Review’s publication, and I doubt any of them are mewling about the low pay rate they received initially.

    That’s an example of a market that makes up for its low rates by offering a great deal in other ways to their writers (they also host two writing contests, for cash prizes, every year).

    Black Matrix doesn’t help their writers monetarily OR with acclaim and the chance at a much larger readership. If you’re not a fresh, just-started, taking-baby-steps literary market, you really don’t have an excuse for not offering at least one of those two things.

    Preferably, of course, both. But at least one.

  77. THen you have to have quoted this bit “While it was never my intention to knock these magazines, I do apologize for any writing on my behalf which makes it seem like I was knocking them.”

    Instead of the other quote, which made it seem like you were defending magazines that make people “wince.”

  78. I think Jenn meant that since I didn’t name the markets that make me wince, she was worried I was wincing at markets that she really likes. Luckily, the markets that she really likes are the same markets that I really like.

  79. Hi Tei,

    Lit mags are kind of a weirdly different community than sci fi mags. Basically, the pay rate issue for short stories has kind of already been lost over there! The big mags pay beautifully — often better than even Tor.com, I’m given to understand — but the vast majority of respectable publications pay little. Respectable publications can also pay nothing and still have a great deal of gravity behind them. It’s a different kind of community standard.

    Mamatas kind of breaks down the different values for submitting here — http://nihilistic-kid.livejournal.com/1407128.html

    Researching and submitting to literary magazines can be a very different beast than researching and submitting to spec mags. In my experience, it’s much more complicated and more quixotic. For instance, the respectable lit mags that aren’t commercially produced (but instead produced by universities) often have rotating editors and it can be difficult to get a grasp on their aesthetic.

    For instance, I slushed for the Iowa Review a couple years ago, and my taste in fiction tends toward the weird, experimental, controversial, edgily written, etc, and away from the sort of drifting, cornfield realism that’s associated with Iowa. Since the magazine doesn’t have a ruling aesthetic (if I’d been told “we don’t care that you like Pahlahniuk, only pass up stories that look like Franzen,” then I would have done that), I just rated stories by my personal preference. For instance, I rated very highly a sub by someone who had no previous experience and didn’t know any literary conventions, but had this strange and compelling and utterly weird plotline that read like outsider art. Conversely, I remember rating very low a story from an MFA graduate about disaffected college students traveling overseas which bored me even though it was very prettily written. This probably created a minor skew in comparison to other years and other slushers.

  80. Fair enough.

    But since Rachel’s original post contained the phrase: “Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, which have small audiences and low pay rates, but which I consider worth publishing in because of their reputation” I’m unsure why you thought she was making a blanket attack on all small zines. There was no need to get hot under the collar. She even gave two examples of small quality markets.

  81. Jenn,

    You know I love you. But you’re off base here.  You’re not hearing “silence” (though I’d hardly characterize this whole debate as silent!) because people are afraid of the big names; you’re hearing silence because most of us who’ve been there in the trenches agree with the big names.  Because they’re right.

    OK, you’re right on one point: non-pro does not necessarily mean bad.  I’ve seen some phenomenal stuff coming out of a handful of non-paying, low-paying, or token-paying markets — generally those that make up in reputation what they lack in profit/pay.  I would count markets like IDEOMANCER, LADY CHURCHILL’S ROSEBUD WRISTLET, and some others among these. But there’s a significant difference between these markets and 90% of what shows up in the “4 the Luv” section at Ralan — these markets are well-managed and edited by people who know what they’re doing and have built up some sort of cred in the field.  They’re either established writers themselves, who’ve proven that they know how to write by the quality of their own work, or they’ve apprenticed themselves in established markets to learn the trade, or something.  They pick and publish good stories from the get-go, they know what good stories look like, and they’re building the mag’s reputation in ways that matter (e.g., awards, conventions).  Because of that, getting published in these markets actually means something; having those credits on your resume can actually help you. 

    But that’s only a handful of the non-pro markets.  The rest of them aren’t well managed (they make up the bulk of the the “Dead Markets” section at Ralan), and they don’t have a good reputation because their editors haven’t put in the work to build it, and the majority of them publish only mediocre fiction at best.  You object to calling them “crappy” — fine.  I’ll use another term:  useless.  Because they don’t do an aspiring writer any good in the list of credits.  Or worse, harmful — because too many of these mediocre markets on your resume can actually hurt you, as others have explained in this thread.

    So yes, there are good reasons to submit to a few of the non-pro markets.  But not the reasons you’ve described here.  Your reasons seem rooted in three big fallacies: a) that non-pro markets offer some opportunity to new writers that pro markets don’t, b) that a good writing career requires a progression from non-paying to low-paying to pro publication, and c) that pro authors have some vested interest in sabotaging the careers of new writers. 

    Others have pointed out the obvious problems with these assumptions, so I won’t repeat their arguments. 

    Instead I’ll share some rules of thumb I use when deciding to submit to non-pro markets.  I still do that, even though I’ve had four pro sales and a book deal, because there is that handful of decent non-pros out there that can actually add to my resume.  But I’m EXTREMELY selective about which non-pros I’ll submit to — and I always have been, since I started seriously trying to get published in 2002.  So I think about the following:

    -First off, I don’t send out any story that I don’t think is worthy of pro publication.  I may not send it to pro markets, but if it’s not pro-quality, it doesn’t go out, period.  (Sometimes I trunk them, if they don’t land a sale, but I usually still believe in them.)  This is crucial, because it gets back to what John Scalzi was saying about valuing your work.  It’s also crucial because the only non-pro markets I submit to are those that publish pro-quality work.

    -I check out every market I submit to and evaluate a) their presentation (website design, layout/art if print, likely audience, and their submission guidelines need to be industry-standard), b) the editor’s career background and online presence, to figure out if they know their trade and have a sense of professionalism, c) their previous tables of contents, to see if they’re publishing authors whose works I respect and whose styles are congruent with mine, and d) the magazine’s reputation — namely awards received, reviews in respected places (e.g., Locus, IROSF). I include the magazine’s age in the evaluation of reputation; if they’ve been around for awhile, they’ve got a greater chance of being a recognized name in the field.

    -If it’s a new market, I usually won’t touch them, until they’ve had time to establish themselves.  Very rarely I’ve submitted to a new market if I know the editor (or am recommended by someone I know and trust), or if I like what they’ve done to establish themselves right out of the gate — because a smart, well-connected editor will have invested in paying or arm-twisting pro friends into contributing stories to help them get off the ground.  If the editor can’t do at least this much to build the market’s rep, they’re not worth my time.

    So basically, I try to determine what I’m going to get in exchange for my work, if money’s not in the offing — serious consideration for big awards?  Reviews?  A raise in my profile?  Gotta be something besides “love” or “exposure”, because what good do those do me?  And I can happily say that every non-pro publication I’ve ever made has given me something significant in return — Years’ Best honorable mentions, reviews, reprint sales, a grant in one case. 

    If a market doesn’t show signs of being able to offer me these things, I don’t submit to it.  No writer, newbie or established, who actually looks at writing as a career, should.

  82. I really appreciate this thread, since it led to Rachel Swirsky’s post that mentioned a bunch of magazines I hadn’t heard of otherwise.  Thanks!

  83. Jenn says – “All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap. ‘Nuf said.”

    No, that’ s not all you were saying. You said other things, like

    “If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all. Her market is a reprint, pro-rate market that–by her own admission–takes stories from only the pro-rate markets”

    Leaving out the odd hostility of the 1st sentence – Podcastle is not pro-rate – it pays up to $100 for a longer story. It does not only take stories from pro-rate markets — for example, Podcastle bought a story of mine that was published in Abyss and Apex.  They are a market which publishes reprints so it’s in an author’s best interest to sub elsewhere first. 

    You also say “BTW, calling a market “crappy” because they cannot pay SFWA pro-rates is downright rude.”

    Well, yeah, it would be, but you don’t seem to be reading the original posts carefully.  Scalzi says:  “A market that might pay less than the pro rate but which is widely read and edited by professionals of long-standing reputation? Could be worth it.” Which is not calling all low pay markets crappy. And Swirsky also does not call all low-pay markets crappy, she cautions against crappy credits.

    I know you’re getting a lot of negative reaction and my post is not intended to be hostile, but I’ve got to point out there’s a degree of 1+1 = 3 in your post and response.  

     

  84. NK, you know I love you, too. But I think this all was some weird misunderstanding on everybody’s part. Rachel and I pretty much cleared it up with this statement –

    “I think the confusion is generated by the fact that no one — including me — will specifically name the magazine names that make them wince (well, apart from Black Matrix).”

    By not naming names it could be thought that what was being talked about here were ALL small low-paying, non-paying, and semi-pro markets. You may not have seen that, but a lot of new authors did. That’s what I was upset about. The original posts may not have *meant* that to be the meaning, but many–including myself–saw this as the meaning. And that’s what I meant by “pulling up the ladder.” It looked like what was being said was that if you cannot get into a pro market then anywhere you did get into was crap. I can see that Rachel did not mean that. It just read that way by many.

    As much as I’ve been beat up today, I’m still glad that I wrote the post. It gave people a chance to clear up this misunderstanding. A lot of new authors would have walked away from this discussion with the wrong impressing of the smaller markets.

     

  85. I gotta chime in and support Jenn too. Whether you agree with her initial statement, the discussion that has been sparked has been very helpful. I doubt the conversation would have been as productive had she not taken the position she did. I also appreciate John, Jim, Rachel and Tobias (among others) for taking the time to comment. I’ve learned a lot. 

  86. This whole thing started because Ed Morris and I have a story – “Stairway to Heaven” – in the first magazine – “Encounters” – Black Matrix has produced, and when Ed emailed me and said the magazine was out, I emailed some of the web sites I check every day and notified them.

    I’ve dropped suggested blinks into the either many times to Locus, as well as here to SF Signal. Both sites wrote up notes that focused on the fact there was actually someone out there looking for and reading stories, rather than the specific mag. Things are pretty depressing in the genre, in case you didn’t notice. SFScope, in contrast, didn’t think Black Matrix was worth a mention.

    I have a real job, and writing s-f and fastasy is a hobby. I do it for the fun. “Stairway” was shopped around to all the usual suspects, from Asimov’s and F&SF down, and never found a home. It’s not a great story, but it also won’t make your eyes bleed (as Howard Waldrop might say). I had given up on subbing it, and turned it over to Ed, who stumbled across Black Matrix.

    The story was already written, and my feeling is that giving it a good home may provide a little pleasure to the people who read it. Truthfully, the money was the last thing to cross my mind.

    I’ve felt the sting of snobbery because I have had stories published in meager little venues. I was rather stunned last spring when somone on the discussion page of my Wikpedia entry said most of my stories were crap and questioned whether I was notable enough to merit an entry.

    Somebody I don’t know came to my defense and cited the fact I have been published in Asimov’s and Baen’s Universe to show that at least some editors think I can write.

    I have a story being published at Bewildering Stories next week – the epitome of the non-paying well-meaning little ezine. I would rather see it in print there to provide ten minutes of “wunda” to someone than let it rot in my desk drawer.

    Of course, I have the advantage, like I said, of having a real job. I’m also prolific, so I can toss off stories just like that.

    I’m also a Christian, and as it says in The Bible in the Book of Matthew Chapter 5 Verse 15, (King James Version):

    “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

    I see neat little s-f stories that provide a “sensawunda” as being like candles that provide bright spots in our mundane daily routines. I’ve enjoyed many stories over the years that otherwise received  no recognition or honors, except the “wow” I felt at the end.

    Just the way I see things. You all can go back to arguing about the money.

  87. Here’s why I agree with Mr. Scalzi.

    If I ask Lulu how much a 104 page magazine costs, I’m told that 100 bulk copies cost $510.00 , or $5.10 per copy.  That’s the size of the new magazine Black Matrix is publishing and selling.

    Let’s continue. 

    Let’s assume that each page is chock full of words , 490 words PER PAGE, multiplied by 104 pages, at .002 a page. 

    I get $101.92.

    That means we’re at $611.92  for a run of 100 magazines.

    Divide that out, and it’s $6.12 per magazine cost to publish.  If they use Lulu, which is likely overpriced, and if they buy 100. 

    They sell the magazines for $9.95 .  That means each magazine contains a profit of $3.83.

    For the entire magazine run of 100, it’s a profit of $383.

    Except we all know that the thing isn’t 104 pages of 490 words.  We all know that because it’s visible in the preview they offer.

    It’s cheating the writer.  It’s taking a product and marking it up to well over 50% margin, and selling it, and then reminding the author how lucky they are.  I don’t have a pro sale yet.  One day I might, but I’ll do it with a company that can understand how to make a profit AND pay their workforce more than some sweatshop wage.

  88. If you want to see some stats on one amateur (but semipro-to-pro-paying) anthology’s budget, slushpile, etc., check out the Thoughtcrime Experiments appendix & blog entries.  Note that we didn’t even try to make money off the anthology; we paid $200/story and $100/artwork and gave it away for free.

    There’s an undersupply of markets for short genre fiction that pay at all reasonably.  We had to reject a lot of stories that we liked.  As my co-editor wrote,

    it seems quite possible to write a great story, send it to twenty editors who all love it, and get twenty rejections, because there’s too much good stuff. A great story will get nicer rejections than if you’d sent in a scrap of paper on which you’d written in pencil “MAN HAVE SPACEGUN. explode!! NOW IS SAVE” But from a monetary and publication-credit standpoint, it’s the same.

    Steve, there really are a lot of awesome small presses & magazines publishing speculative fiction.  There really is an open consensus about several of the best.

  89. I’m going to agree with Jenn on one thing -the early comments in John Scalzi’s post that started this discussion did appear to be negative to anyone who accepted anything less than a by-God Pro rate for any reason. At one point in that first thread, JS wrote:

    You know what, not a single goddamned excuse in the world justifies paying a writer today a rate that would have been pathetic during the Depression.

     

     

    That was alarming and chilling to me. As an editor of a 4theluv, token-pay, niche genre ‘zine, it appeared JS was drawing a line in the sand which left me and the authors who appear in our ‘zine on the outside looking in, editors non grata because we didn’t pay enough, and writers non grata because they accepted what we were able to pay. But that wasn’t at all the case. We were simply coming at the issue from two different perspectives. JS was talking explicitly about what qualifies as reasonable Pro rates and appropriate behavior on the part of a publication acting as a Pro publication. He wasn’t referring at all to publications that aren’t Semipro or Pro publications. Once that point was clarified, I felt much better about the conversation. A simple definition of terms made all the difference.

    With that in mind, it seems to me that we’re talking about three overlapping terms; professional, amateur, and quality. JS started talking about quality professional publications and what that means in terms of pay and treatment of authors and so forth. (It also touched on the appropriate expectations levied on those who are Pro publications regardless of how they frame themselves.) The discussion wandered over to the merits or lack thereof for submitting to amateur publications and their corresponding lack of payment, but as I see it, the real question with regard to amateur publications is about the quality of the stories. 

    Some have written in various comment threads that no self-respecting writer should waste their time subbing to any publication that doesn’t pay Pro rates. That assumes that there is no quality in amateur publications, which isn’t necessarily true, although it is true enough for people to have drawn the conclusion in the first place. The challenge here is for amateur publications to strive for excellence just as their pro peers do.

    There are quality amateur publications out there which are worth submitting pieces to. I believe this is one point Jenn was getting at in her guest post. There are some niche genres which aren’t well represented by the bigger Pro markets. Our publication publishes mostly space opera and golden age sci-fi. You might see some of those stories in a bigger publication, but it is something we specialize in, and if you have a similar love for those specific genres, you might come directly to the place that has made its name in the niche genre you prefer. At this point, the reason to want to be published there has less to do with the pay rate than with the love for the genre. That point has been largely overlooked. The flip side of the coin is that not all stories published in our publication are quality stories. On this, I agree with the posters.

     As I understand it, the general point is that Pro publications shouldn’t take advantage of starry-eyed wannabe authors, and starry-eyed wannabe authors should be educated not to allow themselves to be taken advantage of.  So far, so good. However, to Jenn’s point, there are some publications that don’t pay Pro rates, and there is some merit and benefit by winning publication with some of these outfits, even if the payment rate is token or nonexistent. The two caveats seem to be that the authors submit to those markets with their eyes open (that is, they know not to expect Pro rates from token-pay publications) and there is no excuse for not pushing oneself to be the very best author they can be. If one isn’t racking up rejections, one probably isn’t shooting high enough or diversifying their scope enough. But simply placing stories with less than Pro markets does not automatically diminish the worth of a story, and that’s also worth saying.

    This has been an eye-opening issue for me, and I’m glad John Scalzi brought it up. I’ve learned both positive and negative things. People that have their focus on being professional fiction authors shouldn’t look down on those who are content to be amateurs as far as pay is concerned as long as high quality is still valued / required in both places. On the other hand, people who land stories with amateur publications shouldn’t look down on people being rejected because they only submit to Pro publications. We’re all trying to improve as authors (or should be). On this point, we should be able to agree.

  90. jenn:

     

    you are the only one whose opinion matters about your career as a writer. as such, you go ahead and submit your work exactly where you want to submit it, and accept whatever level of pay for your work that is acceptable to you. it’s your writing and it’s your career.

    So if you don’t agree that one fifth of a cent is an insultingly low sum to pay a writer then the publication the story comes in costs ten bucks, then by all means, send your work there. It is your decision and your business.

    I do PLENTY of fiction writing that i never expect to be paid for. i write it for the entertainment of a very few who might stumble across it and wish to read something that i wrote basically for the fun of writing it, or to keep in writing trim while I trudge through this slump of no original fiction ideas.

     

    But i have this story. I wrote it in 2003. it’s the best damn thing i ever wrote, I think it’s a fine tale and a neat experimental thread structure and an unusual choice of voice. I love this story a lot.

     

    And you will never have a chance to read it until I find the market that pays what it’s worth. the end. because it’s worth more than one fifth of a cent per word to me. it’s worth more than one cent a word to me. and if i can’t find a market that will pay what its worth, then i’ll wait until that market comes along. could be years from now. i don’t care.

  91. For others it may take time and effort. Or maybe what an author is offering may not be what the current prevaling winds are taking. Whatever.

    I’ve never heard of you before, but was intriguied to read the response of someone who is in favor of BM.  But after reading your responses here, you just come across as bitter over rejection.  “I can’t get accepted into anything that will pay me a reasonable amount, so stop raining on my parade and let me do what I want.” 

    No one’s going to stop you from sending to BM, but it does seem like you could do better.  IF your writing is good enough to be published by a reputable publisher/editor.  Unfortunately, as I said, your responses and general critical thinking displayed above lead me to the conclusion (hopefully erroneously) that your writing just plain sucks.  But that’s ok.  Just keep telling yourself that it’s because it’s not what’s popular right now.

     

  92. Jenn,

    I think this post is just as divisive as the posts that started this whole debate. I’ve already had a rant about people dissing low-paying markets.

    Why can’t we recognise that writers have varying needs according to their level and experience, needs that change throughout that writer’s career? There is no division. There are very good low-paying markets that are hard to get into. At the top level, no one is keeping anyone out. At the semipro magazine where I read slush, we get 1000’s of pieces of slush each year (I’d hate to see Asimov’s slush). We publish only about 60. How on earth could we be keeping anyone out? If you can’t get in, it means only that you’re not good enough. Strive to be better, and you will slide up the continuum. That’s all there is to it.

    Both sides lambasting each other is utterly unhelpful.

  93. Several of the pros here have provided examples of small, low-paying markets that are worth  accepting the low rates for other reasons. If people wanted to go on listing other good ones — ideally, including WHY they are good, e.g. editor X will put you through the wringer and your story will thank you for it, or whatever — I think that would be a useful continuation of the thread.

     

  94. I think a lot of problem with this whole discussion is that everyone (myself included) has taken the angry Internet bait and fallen into this trap of accusing people of saying all sorts of stuff (sometimes true, sometimes not) or arguing with one another in a manner that, quite frankly, is hardly “helpful” at all.  It’s hard to say “I’m being helpful” when it’s very clear that the people you’re trying to help are feeling rejected by you.  That likely wasn’t the intent of anyone that took part in the overall discussion.  I’m sure all the actually published “pro” writers really did want to help by offering advice, but the way many of them went about it, both in elsewhere and in response to Jenn, and in response to others that defended her with their own angry-form words, hardly helped at all.  I don’t know what it is about the Internet that makes this so easy to fall into, but with the exception of a handful of individuals, we’ve all bought into it.

    That said, I agree with a lot of what has been said regarding this.  BM has a crappy rate and currently has nothing to offer anyone.  That’s a problem for obvious reasons.  The question is:  if BM had offered to pay 5c a word, would we be having any of this discussion?  Would the 5c change whether or not something was potentially good for your career?  What if it folded after the first issue because only 5 people saw it?  Isn’t that even more worthless to your career than a market that pays you $10 for a short story, but offers not only exposure, but good exposure because of what they print?

    I just don’t see how it is possible that BM can ever offer whatever it is we all want from it.  If all we want is pay rate, well, that’s only good enough to feed you with, which is nice, but since some have already said that they do pay attention to a writer’s credits and see little value in unheard markets, the pay rate itself only has temporary value.  I get a cheeseburger; my career gets…basically nothing.

    So, how exactly are magazines determined to be good, whether they pay well or not?  Is it all a luck of the draw?  How did those semi-pro and lower paying markets that we all acknowledge are good ones get to where they are if so many writers have an opinion about low paying, unheard of markets?  What if BM ended up producing great fiction, but continued to pay dirt?

  95. “So, how exactly are magazines determined to be good, whether they pay well or not?”

    They build a reputation: their stories get mentioned in anthos, nominated for awards, they publish high-calibre authors.

    “Is it all a luck of the draw?”

    Not luck. Hard work. A magazine works hard at surviving, providing good content, having a good editorial staff. THose things don’t just happen out of nowhere.

    “What if it folded after the first issue because only 5 people saw it?”

    This happens but rarely. It is not worthless because you got money out of it. So there is some worth in it (cash). Also, if they magazine does fold after an issue you can probably sell it as a re-print.

     

     

     

  96. Miss Jenn; try and understand that we beat on BM not to screw you out of an opportunity, but to get the barrel of a gun away from your head. If you work for less than you’re worth, you devalue yourself and your market. You hurt yourself and everyone at your level because then people like BM say to themselves “Hey, we -ought- pay more, but these folk are desparate enough to take less. Why do right?” Evil succeeds where good people retreat.

    I don’t know your work or your life, but I feel you -must- be better than these cretins. Even if you go sub-pro–and nothig wrong with that–get something good from it besides a meaningless publication. I’ll speak for editors saying that if something comes to me, previously published and not at a good source, I won’t likely get a page into it. Don’t -do- that to yourself. You can aim so much higher. It’ll take longer, and be harder, but that’s how you will achieve greatness.

  97. New writers suffer from two maladies:  Poverty and Obscurity.  I believe that the best markets address both of these issues, the second best address at least one, and the worst none at all.  I’ll start at the top and work my way down.  It seems as good a plan as any.

     

    I’ve made professional sales and flat out given away work.  Early on in my writing hobby I needed the ego kick that came from an acceptance in a third tier market.  Now that I can string words together into a coherent sentence, if not a story, I find I don’t need it so much anymore.

     

    I have a lot of homeless stories taking up space on my hard drive that have been rejected by the best.  I can’t bring myself to delete them as they represent a steep learning curve and one day they might offer inspiration for a great story that is bouncing around lost inside my head.   Would I ever give them away to Black Matrix?  Probably not.  After reading all the blog comments it seems somewhat predatory, but I might donate a story to a struggling editor working out of his basement.  We just might bootstrap each other out of poverty and obscurity.   

      

    Respectfully,

    Mike

  98. there are clearly some people who took from that precisely the message that low paying markets were not worth submitting to

    It’s not clear to me why either Scalzi or Swirsky are responsible for other people misunderstanding what they’re saying.

    David, I’m not saying they’re “responsible” and therefore should be shot, but there’s clearly something in their posts that can be read that way, and as writers they might care about that and do something about it. (A lot of misunderstandings seem to be being resolved in this thread now. That’s a good thing for all involved.)

    I personally disagree with even the more moderate positions being taken above, that small and low-paying publications are (a) no help to writers’ careers and (b) bad for the literary ecosystem as a whole.

    If by moderate position, you mean “position no one is actually espousing,” then sure, it’s the moderate position.

    I don’t find this level of snarkiness helpful. Both of the positions I listed above were made *in this comment thread* by people saying, “I don’t think all non-pro markets are crappy but…”

    I’m glad this thread is on the whole becoming more constructive and agreeable than it started. I still think Jenn has a point (and she has acknowledged places where her opinions have changed). This has been a valuable discussion.

    Thanks for this, Jenn.

  99. I think there is one point, as yet unmentioned, which authors should give some thought to in considering submitting to BM; what is the likely effect on the reader of associating your name with an exorbitantly over-priced, badly laid-out collection of who knows what?

    I’m a reader, by the way…

     

  100. “-If it’s a new market, I usually won’t touch them, until they’ve had time to establish themselves. “

    Now this statement annoyed me intensely.  If everyone followed that maxim, there would be no new markets.  Someone, somewhere, has to give them a chance.

  101. OK, tring to address what makes a market good to me — from a writer’s POV:

    Speaking as a writer, I generally will not submit to a publication — no matter the pay rate — if it’s just starting out. In 2005, when I was starting to submit, a magazine called Son & Foe briefly came into existence. It paid 5 cents — sometimes it paid that 5 cents to my friends — and I submitted there. Then it died. The stories it had published did get some readers, but the project never went anywhere much.

    So, no, I wouldn’t sub to Black Matrix if they paid 5 cents a word. But I would if they paid 5 cents a word and survived for a while and people said they treated their authors well.

    “Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” edited by Scott H. Andrews, has just broken its first year mark. Consequently, I started subbing there. They pay five cents, they’ve had a bunch of good stories, happy all ’round.

    I will not submit to Flash Fiction Online, which pays five cents a word, because of their public, homophobic positions. http://tempest.fluidartist.com/a-market-i-intend-to-avoid-right-now/

    I will submit to Lightspeed, even though they’re new, because they’re A) being edited by a well-known, well-respected editor, John Joseph Adams, and B) they’re coming into existence as part of a project from Prime Books, which runs Fantasy Magazine very well. Both factors indicate the magazine will be run with knowledge and competence.

    An incomplete list of small markets I will sub to and why:

    Sybil’s Garage pays little, but is run by Matt Kressel, who knows what he’s doing as an editor (his press, Five Senses, recently produced an anthology that was nominated for a WFA award). The magazine itself is gorgeously produced and incorporates beautiful graphic design, courtesy of Kris Dikeman. High quality writers like Cat Rambo and Kathy Sedia have appeared here. The stories are good, though I often find them too static with much emphasis on prose and mood and too little emphasis, in my opinion, on structure.

    Shimmer pays little, but is run by an editorial staff whose names are recognizable as people who know what they’re doing. This magazine is distinguished by particularly lovely design, courtesy of Mary Robinette Kowal. As many of the big magazines have mediocre design, it can be a pleasure to appear someplace more lovely, which is why the graphic design of places like Shimmer and Sybil’s factors in. The stories here are well-written, and the ones I’ve read have a disjunctive magical realist flavor like that of non-western magical realism. I find that they emphasize language over structure and satisfying endings.

    Electric Velocipede pays little, but it’s a niche market – it publishes experimental and strange fiction. Many places claim to, but EV actually does. Much experimental and strange fiction is labeled such because it fails to accomplish more mainstream goals, rather than because it’s attempting something novel – EV seeks out work that is intentionally and intelligently experimental, reflecting a keen editorial eye. John Klima’s keen editorial eye was critically trained as a publisher in NYC which is also why he seems to have a great grasp of publishing. I don’t like everything he publishes, but it’s all intelligently chosen. As I’ve mentioned, I received positive reviews and a year’s best reprint from being published here.

    Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is also a niche market. I don’t have a grasp on what they publish. This market is run by Kelly Link, whose writing I kind of worship, and her very smart husband, Gavin Grant. It’s kind of like a speculative, more feminine version of McSweeney’s, often supplemented with editorial remarks that are amusing and absurd. I think they pick up stuff that amuses them, which comprises a large range of material. I haven’t sent here for a long time because they tend to take six months or longer with my subs. I probably won’t send in the foreseeable future for the same reason. But damn, I’d love to be published there.

    Ideomancer is the first market I fell in love with because they were publishing someone I really respect – Jeremiah Tolbert. I first came across his work and their magazine in 2003, and I put them on my list of places I wanted to sell to when I was ready to start submitting. At the time, their website was top of the line. These days, it’s still pretty good, but not remarkable. These days, I don’t send to them much, but I can add another reason for liking them – their editor, Leah Bobet, who is smart and has a strong aesthetic (though it’s not quite mine) and their publisher, Marsha Sisolak, who is practical and has kept that thing running in a professional way for quite a long time in e-zine years.

    Abyss & Apex – This market came to my attention because of their poetry publication. When I was writing poetry, I often used poems (which I can write in an afternoon, as opposed to stories, which usually take me weeks) to test markets out. If I liked being published with them, I’d try them with fiction. I’ve never actually published fiction with A&A, but I do still sub occasionally. Their aesthetic is pretty far from what I write – they seem to prefer stories with happy endings, for instance – but they respond reliably and they’re eminently respectable. Also, I’ve enjoyed talking to their editors, Wendy Delmater and Kelly Green.

    Talebones – When I read the first issue of this slick magazine that I ever picked up, story after story felt whole and satisfying. The production was lovely and the material was good. What else could I ask for? Alas, I could ask that they were still able to keep producing, because this market died earlier this year.

    Lone Star Stories – Another market that unfortunately died. I had never sent here until my friend Sarah Prineas sang many praises of Eric Marin’s editing skill. Apparently, he had a talent for taking stories that weren’t quite working and tweaking them so they would. Many great authors – Hal Duncan, for instance – appeared here. I did publish one story and one poem with Eric before the magazine closed, and I’m happy for that.

    Weird Tales – I used to read this in high school. In addition to its venerable publishing history and the fact that it’s a respected venue (which means many eyes!), its modern revamping makes it look slick, and its new editor, Ann VanderMeer, has excellent taste that moves this magazine in a new direction. I want to call it the future of horror, but I don’t think I have that right.

    Interzone – This formerly pro-paying magazine has been in circulation decline, but despite the fact that there are relatively few copies, it gets into the hands of the people who review work. Not only that, but the magazine is beautiful. When I made my first sale here, I joked that they didn’t need to pay me anything but the full-color illustration by a professional artist that accompanied the piece. My story was read by many people, reviewed many times, and ended up in a year’s best collection.

    Futurismic – A niche market, looking for hard-hitting near future SF. This seems to be where the hip kids who are heirs to the cyberpunk movement hang out. Their writers, including names like Chris Nakashima Brown, and lesser known figures who I respect, like Karen Roberts and James Trimarco, make this smaller magazine stand out. Its $100 pay rate isn’t bad for medium-length stories.

    Helix – Another dead magazine that provided something you couldn’t get elsewhere, its interest in stories that contained material that would be hard for other magazines for publish. Many phenomenal controversial or even disgusting stories ended up here. It was well-reviewed and getting attention from editors like Dozois and year’s best anthos, but unfortunately, it was pounded by controversy – although its closure was planned anyway.

    Expanded Horizons — I know little about this market, but I love the reason it exists, and it has published some newer writers whose work I think is exciting.

    So, anyway, this isn’t a guide to “you should publish here,” obviously, since some of these places are gone. But it is a guide to how I’ve picked which magazines I will submit to as an author, how places gain attention, and what kinds of attention are relevant to me. Your criteria may vary of course. I only provide mine in case they’re somewhat useful.

    This is, of course, different than the way I look at things as a reprinte editor. As I said in my original pots on VanderMeer’s blog, as an editor, I evaluate venues based on the material originally published in them that is subsequently submitted to me. If I start to see a trend then I do notice that. For instance, I had always approached Realms of Fantasy with a bit of snobbery because I think of myself as being on the literary end of the genre, and they’re much more located smack in the middle of fantasy-fantasy. But they choose accessible, interesting work with strong plot structures, most of which are easy to lose yourself in while your reading, and these are traits that translate to podcast fiction very well. The flip side of this phenomenon, where some markets publish fiction that’s not ready to be published yet, has already been discussed. 

  102. I have published in a few crappy magazines about ten years ago, but I don’t count them to my list credits and I don’t think they meant anything. So, I like to say I’m another new author who was paid a pro rate for my first (and to date, only) fiction sale.

  103. What an ugly thread this has turned out to be

    I started writing just over a year ago. In that time I have had 25 stories published, 4 of which are at what is considered to have sold at “pro rate”

    I am a member of at least one “professional” organisation, and it is quite openly stated that they disapprove of “for the love” markets because people giving their work away for nothing makes it harder for the professional writers to sell their stories.While I have gotten quite a bit from this organisation, their open contempt for markets of this nature really does not sit well with me, and when my dues are up at the end of the year I will be thinking long and hard about whether to renew.

    I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. I will submit any work I have produced to pro paying markets first. If it is rejected, or after it has printed and the copyright reverts back to me, I will donate it to one of a couple of “for the love” markets that I like and respect.

    For a new writer, having any ezine or magazine accept that first story – paid or not, provides a huge confidence boost. It gives them the belief in themselves to carry on. It might be the bottom rung, but at least they are on the ladder. People read their stories, sometimes they offer encouragement, and that pushes that writer on to produce more.

    Not everyone makes it. Not everyone is good enough – sad but true. However, some people learn. They take encouragement from their early success and push on – improving their craft, submitting to those semi pro and pro paying markets. It gives them a goal – and when they get those rejections they can use the “for the love” markets to get their confidence back, learn from their mistakes and create something better next time.

    This industry has far too many pretentious arses in it. If you are writing to become part of their club, then you are in it for the wrong reasons. Do it because you want to. Do it because you have to. If your work does not meet the approval of the big boys…so what? Find like minded individuals, learn from your mistakes and make the next one better.

    And for gods sake don’t listen to these “pro’s” that put you down and put down the places you submit to. By all means, listen out for those who are scamming you, but start off at a level you feel comfortable at, and grow at your own speed.

    Most of all, enjoy what you are doing.

  104. @GR

     

    Not all markets are worth subbing to, and not all stories are worth publishing.  If all you are doing with these markets is “boosting your confidence”, I don’t see the point.  I am a new writer, I am not published in any pro markets, but I don’t feel the need to get an acceptance in some random market just to boost my confidence.  I have intrinsic motivation, see.  And it’s odd since you seem to be saying writing from intrinsic motivation is good, but you are stressing extrinisc awards like story acceptance.

     

    I’m not trying to put down non-pro markets.  I work at one.  And many of them are quite good.  But being comfortable does not help you improve.  If there’s anything I learned from being a runner, it’s that being out of your comfort zone is the best way to mimprove.  Writing requires a thick skin.

  105. but there’s clearly something in their posts that can be read that way, and as writers they might care about that and do something about it.

    In her original post, Rachel S. explicitly said the opposite of what Brissett took her to be saying.  That’s not exactly causing mistaken impressions through vagueness.  As to doing something about it, they both seemed to have turned up in this thread and reiterated their points.  Jenn then repeated the *exact* same position that both Scalzi and Swirsky had denied advocating.

    Short of showing up at Brissett’s house… 

    I don’t find this level of snarkiness helpful. Both of the positions I listed above were made *in this comment thread* by people saying, “I don’t think all non-pro markets are crappy but..

    It wasn’t intended to be helpful.  It was intended to highlight the silliness of reading people and 1) deciding that the initial part of their sentence (“I don’t think all non-pro…”) wasn’t relevant, and 2) writing that this was the “moderate” position, implying thus that there were even more radical positions out there that involved nuking Black Matrix and all those who submitted to it from orbit.

    What an ugly thread this has turned out to be

    Oy.  This isn’t even close to ugly.

  106. GR, if you’d like it to be less of an “ugly” thread, you can help by being a little more pleasant yourself.  Going on about unnamed people who allegedly display “open contempt,” who you consider “pretentious arses,” and who supposedly “put down” up-and-coming writers contributes a great deal of heat and almost no light.  If you have specific grievances that would benefit from public discussion, that’s another thing altogether, but the approach you’re taking benefits nobody, and serves only to sow ill will.

    Morgan Dempsey, you write: “If the writer does not want to take themselves so seriously, or is unable to deal with the rejection of the Tough Markets, is there any harm done? Can we not simply have hobbyist writers who enjoy the occasional publication in a minor market and put the rest on their own personal site? Or must EVERY writer strive to be a professional?”

    I certainly agree that there are all kinds of good reasons to write and that only some of them involve getting paid, or being “professional.” However, it does seem odd to press the point against what you term the “Scalzi Camp.”  It’s a little hard to imagine that a guy who’s been giving away hundreds of thousands of words of writing every year, on a personal web site that doesn’t even take ads, needs to be reminded that all writing doesn’t need to be professional.  And furthermore, plenty of other people in the “camp” you refer to engage in similar practices.

    In the rest of your comment you make some genuinely good points, but this particular bit seems to me to be a red herring.

  107. To the larger discussion, I can only repeat what I’ve said in several other places where this discussion has come up.  The idea that it’s important to collect writing “credits” is fantastically overblown.  I buy short fiction for Tor.com, a market that pays twenty-five cents a word.  A cover letter saying “Hi, here’s a story, hope you like it” is wonderful; in my mind, for a few minutes, at least, the attached story could be the find of the year, a major award-winner, the best new writer of the decade.  A cover letter saying “Hi, here’s a story, and here’s a list of twenty-five fourth-rate markets I’ve been published in over the last eight years” takes all such hope and beats it to death with a tire iron.  I cannot fathom the inability of some writers to comprehend this.

  108. I am a member of at least one “professional” organisation, and it is quite openly stated that they disapprove of “for the love” markets because people giving their work away for nothing makes it harder for the professional writers to sell their stories.While I have gotten quite a bit from this organisation, their open contempt for markets of this nature really does not sit well with me, and when my dues are up at the end of the year I will be thinking long and hard about whether to renew.

     

    Um… I don’t know how to respond to think without being snarky, but what exactly do you think a “professional” organisation is supposed to do, if not advocate for the interests of its members?  If they’re not doing that, then your dues most definitely would be better spent elsewhere.  Like on lottery tickets or a long weekend in Vegas with a sack of quarters.

  109. “…it is quite openly stated that they disapprove of “for the love” markets because people giving their work away for nothing makes it harder for the professional writers to sell their stories.”

    I’d really like someone to explain how a non-pro writer giving their work away to a non-pro market is in any way hurting professional writers who sell their work to pro-paying markets. In fact, one would think that if pro writers really wanted to keep their distance from non-pros, or keep them “down” in any way, they’d go all out to encourage them to submit to markets that pros want nothing to do with – which has been quite clearly the opposite case here in the comments.

    I’d also like to know what professional organization espouses the above philosophy in that exact phrasing. If they openly state it, then why not tell us who they are?

  110. I’ve been in a number of first issues of this or that magazine, and indeed some of them (Son & Foe, Wide Angle NY, Lenox Ave) did not survive for more than a few issues. (Though in some cases the archives are still up.) What of it? The fact is that there is a lot of churn in the periodicals industry across all subjects and formats, and in the world of non-fiction this is even planned. (Few of the people who launched poker magazines ten years ago though they were creating something for the ages; the same is so of the current trend toward mixed martial-arts sport magazines.) Magazines are designed to be disposable in more way than one, after all.

    At any rate, it’s not difficult to launch a magazine and get some nice content even if a few writers won’t submit to magazines; just write somewhat prominent writers and solicit material from them. It’s the easiest thing in the world. That it isn’t done more often in SF by editor-publishers launhcing new magazines is easily explained (indeed, it also explains why “don’t submit to new markets” is an idea that is for otherwise obscure reasons floating around out there)—those who spend too much time looking at the SF marketplace also tend to have zero idea how the rest of the consumer periodicals marketplace—99.999% of it—works. With no real information, they just decide to reinvent the wheel by adding a lot of sharp corners to it.

  111. I’d really like someone to explain how a non-pro writer giving their work away to a non-pro market is in any way hurting professional writers who sell their work to pro-paying markets.

    Good question, Livia.  I’d also like to know why any professional organisation serving writers  is supposed to applaud any writer being exploited.  The union I belong to campaigns against sweatshops and child labour, not because it affects us directly — living in a nation with civilized labour laws with a minimum wage and bans on exploiting children — but because, to paraphrase Chris Rock, there’s some shit decent people just DO.  You speak up against injustice and exploitation because nobody deserves it.

     

  112. I’ve read this whole thread and I don’t understand. Either you are writing as a hobby or you’re doing it because you want to eventually feed yourself. If it’s the former, by all means let yourself get screwed by unscrupulous publishers – though I can’t see why you would find it necessary when you could just self-publish your work and distribute it among your friends & family.

    If you want to be a professional, you need to treat writing as such. No other option makes sense. If you’re selling your stuff at a rate that would have embarrassed Thomas Hardy in the 1860’s, to a company with no critical or industry pull, which takes your rights and doesn’t even offer you profit participation should you win the writer lottery (which you won’t because of how you’ve been published), well, you’re wasting your time. You’re undervaluing your own work and (stepping back a bit), you’re undermining the people who come after you, because all you’re doing is allowing the bar to be set even lower. It’s not as though the publishing industry is in rude health to begin with.

    I haven’t ever had short stories published, never mind novels, but I am a freelance journalist (meaning I spend my days trying to feed myself and my family exclusively via writing) and it’s been my experience that (a) no-one owes you a living, (b) the SF&F industry is rare in how successful writers communicate with those on the lower rungs and (c) if you don’t value your work, you can be certain no one else will. How exactly were you planning to move from being exploited by a bottom-feeder like BM to becoming a ‘New York Times Bestselling Author’? 

    You’re fortunate in the US to have even a market such as you do, but that doesn’t mean that you should accept shoddy pay and conditions under the guise of ‘it’s the only way to move up’ when it isn’t. When you’re starting out (in fact at any time) there are some battles you can win, some you’ll always lose, and in the case of outfits like BM, some you shouldn’t even turn up to.

    But like John Scalzi said in an earlier post (I’m paraphrasing) – it’s your career. Do what you will with it. Just don’t do it with your eyes closed.

  113. I have no stake in this discussion; I’m a PhD student in writing studies who writes a lot of academic papers (that don’t make any money), but who reads a lot of SF/F, listens to many of the podcasts put out by SF/F magazines, and reads many of the contributors’ blogs.

    Jenn, I think you’ve shown a wonderful amount of humility throughout the progression of this discussion. While you stuck to your beliefs, you were also willing to open yourself up to the discussion. Kudos.

    This is an amazing discussion. The sheer amount of talent here, giving FREE advice, is not something that happens in many communities. I commend you all for sharing so willingly and giving your feedback.

    If anything, it makes me want to read you all the more because of how you all are willing to give back to the communities you’ve worked within, those that have supported you, and those who argue against you. Thank you.

  114. Looking at all this it reminds me of Jerry Pournelle’s advice to starting writers –  which I will paraphrase badly here.http://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/myjob.html

    Write. Constantly. Build up a trunk. Don’t show off your unfinished work. Keep building the trunk. One million words is the goal. Don’t argue with the people who try to help you inprove your writing.

    I think that selling your work to a sub-pro publisher of any stripe undercuts the building the trunk, and is a shortcut to becoming a fiction author, which is the goal as described in his excercise

  115. I just want to say that if I gained nothing else from this discussion, I was made aware of Futurismic’s wonderful online material.  I’ve never been a fanatic about short fiction, but I may just have to start.

  116. > All I was saying was that smaller
    > markets shouldn’t all be lumped
    > together as crap.

    Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

    That was no where near *all* you were saying.

    From you original post alone:

    > The chill I feel is the people at the
    > pro level pulling up the ladder saying,
    > “you stay down there, kid.”

    You really, really need to understand something
    here: when you write “people … saying blah”
    then those people really need to have said “blah”
    or people are going to take issue with your
    “paraphrasing” as flat out misrepresentation.

    Just like you paraphrasing Scalzi as saying
    “all smaller markets should be lumped together”
    when he was pretty explicit that not all
    semi-pro markets are equal.

    > These major editors and authors with
    > large clout slamming on a small non-pro
    > market feels just wrong.

    So, what are you saying here? That only
    semi-pro authors get to criticize semi-pro
    markets? Once an author has gotten some
    number of pro-level sales, they can’t
    render an opinion about a semi-pro market?

    That’s sort of like saying once you make
    it to the top of mount everest, you can’t
    criticize someone for picking a bad location
    for base camp. It makes absolutely no sense.

    > The speculative genres have an open door
    > to new writers that mainstream fiction
    > doesn’t have. That open door is provided
    > by the semi-pro and non-paying markets,
    > NOT the pro-rate ones.

    The first sentence may be true, I don’t
    know mainstream markets, but the second
    sentence is flat out incorrect. There are
    a number of pro-rate markets that have
    “open doors to new writers”. Patrick
    Nielsen Hayden of TOR has already posted
    that fact above.

    This whole “semi-pro markets have an
    “open door” policy but pro markets only
    want to publish already-published writers”
    fallacy of yours is just plain wrong.

    > They (non paying markets) play a role
    > in the development of new writers.
    > New writers have a chance to be
    > recognized and develop.

    But many speculative pro-rate markets
    don’t really care if you’ve ever been
    published before. They could just as
    easily play that same role.

    > They often provide more feedback and
    > encouragement rather than a form letter
    > that arrives six months later

    I’ve gotten some very detailed rejection
    letters from pro-rate markets and form
    letter rejections from below-pro-rate
    markets. And I’ve never waited 180 days
    for a rejection from ANYBODY.

    From a purely statistical point of view,
    I don’t think the pro-rate versus semi-pro
    rate markets deserve such different descriptions
    of response times or what sort of response
    they’ll give.

    > even worse a rejection form email that
    > comes back so fast that your computer is
    > smoking from the speed of its arrival
    > (makes you wonder if they even read your
    > piece.)

    You’re starting to delve into what I call
    rejection-letter-entrail-reading here.
    An immediate rejection letter via email
    isn’t “worse” than any other rejection
    letter other than it means you don’t have
    to wait the average 60 days (that’s been
    my average response time, and is a fairly
    common response time on ralan.com and others)

    And I seriously doubt anyone rejected your
    work without reading it. Maybe they got
    into the first paragraph or so and then
    quit, but most places don’t have a problem
    with letting the slush pile up long enough
    to give it a read.

    I’ve certainly never heard of a market
    that just flushed the pipes to catch up.

    You suggesting that markets do that is
    rather odd.

    So, it certainly wasn’t “all” that you
    said was that all semi-pro markets shouldn’t
    be lumped together as crap. Or at least
    it wasn’t all you said that people working
    in the business could take legitimate issue
    with.

    And the entire basis for your argument
    to defend semi-pro markets appears to be
    because you are using semi-pro markets as
    a way to collect “tokens” of acceptances.
    And once you get enough stories published
    in semi-pro markets, then the pro-markets
    will stop rejecting you immediately by
    email without even reading your submission.

    And that entire premise is seriously messed up.

     

     

     

     

     

  117. indeed, it also explains why “don’t submit to new markets” is an idea that is for otherwise obscure reasons floating around out there”

    I don’t do it because too many of my friends and colleagues got screwed when they were working with new magazines whose editors proved unreliable, unprofessional, and not to actually be able to back up their plans for payment and publication. I see no reason to submit to someone’s slush for a new publication when there’s a higher likelihood of my story ending up in some kind of uncomfortable limbo with them than there would be with a known quantity.

    I admit that this calculation is affected by the fact that I generally produce work slowly, so I don’t have a lot of other stories to market and publish, and giving one to a new market is therefore a larger investment than it might be for someone more prolific. It’s also weighted by the fact that I probably have less to gain from getting in on the ground with a new, pro-rate publication than someone who has no credits — I can be relatively sure that I will sell my story somewhere else, so I have no reason to sniff around that particular slightly higher-risk, slightly higher-reward opportunity.

    If I was approached, I’d probably feel differently. Less risk involved.

  118. Hmm, my experience and those of my friends and colleagues have been the exact opposite—as far as new publications are concerned, the best opportunity they represent is on or before their first issue, or their first couple of seasons as a fledgling publisher. That’s when they have money in the bank, are eager to make good impressions by paying well and promptly, plus first issues tend to get a fair amount of attention due to the shine of the debut. After a while, when performances don’t match up to the daydreams or business plans, that’s when issues get delayed, checks mysteriously vanish or slow down, emails go unanswered, quarterly schedules slip to the semiannual or even annual, or publishers morph from Sf/F publishers to something else.

    Of course, we’re just trading summations of anecdotes here, but I don’t think that “there’s a higher likelihood of my story ending up in some kind of uncomfortable limbo with them than there would be with a known quantity” is a fact even remotely in evidence. Known quantites fail all the time, just like anything else. Indeed, in the end, there is no knowing in a marketplace as prone to shocks and shifts as the periodical trade.

     

     

  119. To be fair, I also thought Scalzi was lumping all non-pro markets together as crap, up until he stated in a later blog entry that he wasn’t. I jumped the gun, but I get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing I’m not the only one who jumped the gun. I think the reason I get my panties in a wade over Scalzi’s views from time to time is that he is a powerful voice in the community and he has the ability to influence a lot of people. Some of people leaving comments on his blog seemed to have had the same impression I did, only they seemed to think all non-pro markets were in fact crap and should be avoided. It’s possible I misunderstood those people just like I misunderstood Scalzi, but if I didn’t and if those people were influenced by Scalzi to avoid all non-pro markets, that would kind of suck. So, in this way, Scalzi is kind of scary.

  120. First, I’ll say that I’m not likely to submit to BM. As has been pointed out, they aren’t offering much, if anything. No real money to speak of, no readership to offer exposure, not even any built up prestige. And based on what their business model is, they are not likely to ever achieve any of that. There are enough other 4love, tolken, or semi-pro markets that do offer something, BM hasn’t give me much of a reason to want to sub there.

    Likewise, I agree that writers should get the best pay for their work possible. A good plan is to sub to the pros and then go down from there as long as their is something of worth wherever it ends up, and that is left for the author to decide. Sounds like the majority of us are good on those points.

    I do understand where some of Jenn’s initial impression came from that people were dissing 4love and tolken markets in general. When John first posted about BM, several of the comments following on the heels of that made it clear that subbing to anything below a pro market was a waste of time. Initially, John didn’t respond to counter that statement, but responded in ways that would give the impression that he implicitly supported it. I know some folks who were wondering what John really thought about that, and had to wait a while before he came down on saying he was only talking about BM and markets like it, not all 4love and tolken markets.

    But like a lot of “us vs. them” debates that get started, when so-and-so says X, the other side tends to lump everyone defending Y as also believing in X because someone on their side said so. And as has been demonstrated by many people continuing to talk to Jenn as if she hadn’t changed her mind, people continue to post either not having read the post that clarified the issue, like John saying that he’s not lumping them all together, but based on their initial impressions. But while John, and it appears most of the professional writers here, were not dissing 4love and tolken markets as a whole, there certainly were commenters in John’s blog responses who did, just taking them at their words.

    But John’s initial point, that what BM is paying is terrible, is true. It appears that the justification to pick them out among all those whose pay is equally low, is that these guys appear to be in it to make a  profit, but are still paying their writers badly, whereas some others aren’t.

    While I would agree, if the editors are making money, they should pay the writers out of that money as much as possible up to prevailing rates, that’s assuming they are indeed making money at it.

    John mentioned because they have LLC tagged onto the end of it, that they should be paying money. That alone doesn’t mean they aren’t non-profit. Many non-profits have Inc or LLC on their names. It would be: 1, if they filed as a non-profit or not with the Govt., 2. if anyone there is earning a salary or the mag is earning a profit.

    I don’t know enough about them to know if they’ve filed for a non-profit status or not. Taking what they said at one point, they are losing money and paying for it out of their pockets. If that’s the truth, they aren’t making a profit, whether they are non-profit or not.

    And if they are not capitalized as we’ve been told so they have a chance to succeed, that means they aren’t buying 100 bulk copies from Lulu or anywhere else. They’d need to sell around 60 something to break even, and chances are they’ll do good to sell 5-20. No, they’re most likely doing it totally POD, one at a time, which means the near $10 they are charging is probably netting them around $40.00 – enough to pay what they are paying the authors, and cover overhead cost of running a site, hosting fees, etc.

    I do agree, they don’t have a viable business model. It isn’t likely to succeed, and part of that success would be to figure out a way to pay their writers better, so they could get better names and stories in (assuming they have the editorial ability to know a good story when it came across their “desk”) the mag., which would help it to sell better, which would get readers, which would build reputation…etc. That’s one model, there are others. And even that model has a failure rate, as Baen Universe is pointing out. But certainly what they are doing is destined to keep them in the bottom and likely to close when the editors get tired of paying for it out of their own pockets.

    But it’s not likely it is making any money, so I’m not convinced yet that they are ripping off writers by making a lot of money but not paying the writers their due from it. Now if we could produce a financial statement that showed otherwise, then I’d be on board with saying they are preying on newbie writers who don’t know any better. Not knowing them or their motivation, I think they just don’t know what they are doing from the business end at least, haven’t thought this through well enough. Or perhaps they simply believe in what they are doing and willing to fork over the money for producing good stories. I don’t know. But the certainly aren’t going to entice quality writers to sub there until they can offer something.

    That said, I think John’s point is still sound. You don’t want to start there, or really even end there. But it should be kept in mind that market demand will determine what we get paid, in the broad scheme of things. Yes, it will vary, but by and large we know that screen writers make more money than a spec-fic writer because there is a much bigger number of people who are willing to go see that movie than there are will buy a spec-fic book. Same thing for non-fiction, it sells better, thus the writers get paid better. So you really can’t compare “pro” rates from one type to the other, and the pro rates for spec-fic is abysmal compared to other areas. You can demand all you want, but the editor isn’t going to pay the same for a spec-fic short that they will for an travel article.

    And because of market trends, while I hope this isn’t true, ten years down the road we could be looking at these semi-pro payments as pro payments…if the market takes us there. Who knows?

    I appreciate the input of the professional writers here. I’m hoping to be there someday, and while I didn’t agree with everything that was said, there were some good points. Some I need to take into consideration.

    Thanks for the discussion.

     

  121. You know that entire exchange a few messages upthread, about an unnamed professional organization that “disapprove[s] of ‘for the love’ markets because people giving their work away for nothing makes it harder for the professional writers to sell their stories”?

    Can someone name any such organization?  Because I’m unaware of any.

    In fact professional writers give work away “for nothing,” i.e., for free, all the time, for innumerable reasons.  I can just imagine the explosions if any administration of, for instance, SFWA, tried to formalize an official policy disapproving of this.

    It’s certainly true that some writers’ organizations take a dim view of outfits that claim to be paying markets while in fact offering writers derisory amounts of money.  But that’s completely different from what was being claimed and argued about upthread.

    In fact, like a not-insignificant portion of this discussion, that whole exchange was about somebody’s anxieties, not about anything real. 

    And by the way, the insistence that “either you are writing as a hobby or you’re doing it because you want to eventually feed yourself” is nonsense.  People write for both reasons, and other reasons as well,  often simultaneously.  People are complicated, and the money economy is far from the only measure of value.

  122. One of the problems, it strikes me, with this debate is that there are two kind of conflicting world views in operation.

    For one side of the debate, let us call it the careerist side, there are economic and professional issues at stake here. 

    1) as Farah points out, there’s an element of scab labour to non-pro publications as the existence of these magazines serves as a source of downward pressure on the market as a whole.  So I can understand why people would get pissed off at Black Matrix.  In the past Scalzi has also lit up Dragon Magazine for not only paying bad rates but also demanding ownership of IP.  The gaming industry is, from top to bottom, run on the willingness of people to sell their work below a reasonable going rate.

    2) It is in no way clear that getting loads of publications under your belt will necessarily lead to your getting a book deal so in terms of building a career as a genre writer, pitching to smaller magazines has no real value.  When seen from this point of view, less experienced or confident writers who sub to the likes of Black Matrix are cutting their own throats with nothing to show for it.  Not only are they not helping to build a career for themselves but they’re not even making any money from it.  From the careerist perspective this makes absolutely no sense.

    So I can see why the professional writers are getting anoyed about this.  Not only is it fucking up their shit, it’s also not doing people any good.

    However, I don’t think that everyone is a careerist.  I think that there is also a hobbyist perspective.

    1) Hobbyists write for the pleasure of writing.  For them, getting published is not a source of income or of career-building but rather a means of building confidence and of getting some kind of recognition from the wider community (if only of editors) that they’re doing something worthwhile.  Because they value getting published over getting paid, sub-pro markets emerge to suit their needs.  If you do away with these smaller markets (and what was Scalzi’s sustained targetting of Black Matrix if not an attempt to shame them into changing their ways?) then hobbyists lose something which has real value for them.

    2) When people with a Hobbyist perspective talk about the pros wanting to pull up the ladder, what they are talking about is the psychological process whereby people maybe start thinking about competing in professional markets.  Some people have the courage to do this straight off the bat (of course, some people peddle stuff with a broader appeal with others, thereby fueling that confidence) others do not.  Others might need to get a few Black Matrix credits before they even think about submitting to a pro-market.  Remove the sub-pro market and you’re effectively getting rid of one of the ways in which people jump the psychological hurdle necessary to compete in the pro markets.  In that sense, if the sub-pro markets close or hike their rates, then a ladder is being pulled up.

    I feel a good deal of sympathy for the Hobbyist perspective as, with respect to criticism, it’s pretty much where I stand.  I know that I’ll never make a career out of it and I know that it would never occur to me that journals of repute would be interested in what I have to say.  If ever I did get published in a journal of repute it would only be because less prestigious editors had shown some interest in me.

    So I think that endlessly repeating the economic and professional logic of not submitting to low-paying markets is not only entirely helpful and it does actually serve to stress the differences between the professional mindset and that of much more junior writers.  So I can completely sympathise with Jenn getting bent out of shape by it all.

     

  123. I never thought Scalzi had lumped things together, FWIW.  I started replying yesterday, and ended up with an entire post far too long for a comment (http://blogenspiel.blogspot.com/2009/12/on-recent-brouhaha.html).   Coming at this from an academic’s POV, Scalzi’s original comments made a lot of sense — Academics write for free *all the time*.  So it’s extremely important to consider venue. That seemed to me to be the main point of Scalzi’s criticism — BM and many other such venues off neither just pay nor the kind of exposure that can make up for the low fees. 

    Having said that, it seems to me that this is part of a much bigger problem, in that we are seeing the fruition of years of post-Reagan & Thatcher economic lies, which frame a lack of ethical behaviour by employers and the people who run markets as offering ‘freedom’ to the worker/consumer.  This is the attitude that encourages people to believe that taxes are somehow a gimmick to force us all into pauperdom at the expense of some amorphous government, rather than a way to pay for public goods and services.

  124. Jonathan M

    I appreciate that you are seeing this through your Hobbyist-tinted spectacles but you are completely ignoring the fact that BM is trying to charge far above market rates for the product it is marketing whilst paying far below market rates to the people providing the content.

    I see no reason why I, as a reader, should get ripped off because you want your ego stroked…

     

     

  125. Jonathan: When people with a Hobbyist perspective talk about the pros wanting to pull up the ladder, what they are talking about is the psychological process whereby people maybe start thinking about competing in professional markets.  … Remove the sub-pro market and you’re effectively getting rid of one of the ways in which people jump the psychological hurdle necessary to compete in the pro markets.

    That might be true except for one thing you’re NOT mentioning: most of the pros who have bashed Black Matrix are ALSO ENCOURAGING NEW WRITERS TO SUBMIT TO PRO MARKETS.

    If you want to defend this on purely psychological grounds, then the psychology that matches reality is preferred to the psychology that doesn’t match reality. And the psychology that doesn’t match reality is the psychology that says there is any kind of “ladder” that could be taken away. The psychology that does not match reality is the psychology that says an aspiring writer must collect sufficient non-pro-rate tokens before starting their quest for pro-rate-market submissions.

    Jenn’s original post said:

    That open door is provided by the semi-pro and non-paying markets, NOT the pro-rate ones. … New writers are given a shot in these markets that they are often denied in the pro-rate markets. It’s the smaller, so called “crappy,” markets where the new voices are found.

    That is simply not in alignment with the facts. Pro-rate markets generally don’t require you to have N number of semi-pro stories published before they’ll pull you out of the slush. The psychology that Jenn is stating here is a psychology of “us versus them” of “pros versus those not yet published”, and that doesn’t reflect reality.

    Meanwhile, there are pros on this and other threads discussing Black Matrix who are telling new authors to submit directly to pro markets. There are pros who go out of their way to help and encourage new writers. Scalzi is an instructor at Viable Paradise. If you sit down and do the math on VP you realize that the instructors aren’t there for the money, they’re there to help and encourage new writers, to help them improve their writing, to help them understand the business, to help them know about scams and avoid them, and to encourage them to submit, submit, submit. There are pro writers over at absolutewrite.com who answer questions, give encouragement, and help new writers. All of which completely disagrees with the “us-versus-them” fantasy.

    The entirety of this psychology appears to boil down to giving those new writers who haven’t been published the courage to submit to pro-rate markets.

    And the new writers have invented a non-reality psychology that says its an “us versus them” world, it’s a “pro versus non-pro” world, it’s a world where pro-rate markets want you to collect non-pro tokens of publication before they’ll even pull your story out of the slush, and that any pro trying to take away a non-pro market is trying to “pull up the ladder” and prevent new authors from getting into the pro market.

    Meanwhile, the pros all have a psychology that’s based on reality: there is no “us versus them”, pro rate markets generally don’t care if you’ve been published before or not, there is no ladder to pull up. The pros I’ve actually interacted with face-to-face or over the internet have been nothing but helpful and encouraging, sometimes going out of their way to be helpful and encouraging.

    If the goal is to get new writers to “start thinking about competing in professional markets”, then the two choices presented so far appear to be: (1) continue the us-versus-them fantasy and reinforce that fantasy by telling writers that semi-pro markets are important “tokens” to getting into the pro market, and once they collect enough tokens, then they’ll have the “courage” to submit to pro markets or (2) tell writers the truth that there is no two-tier system, that pro-markets generally don’t care if you’re previously published in a semi-pro market, and instead DIRECTLY ENCOURAGE NEW WRITERS TO SUBMIT TO PRO MARKETS.

    Given those two choices, I think I’ll go with door number (2).

     

  126. Stevie – I’m not wanting my ego stroked in this context.  I don’t write fiction. I was just saying that I could empathise with the sense that some authors might not feel ready to pitch to bigger venues and that, as a result, an easier-to-get-in tier of markets was probably no bad thing.  I fail to see how you get out of that the demand that I have my ego stroked.

    As for not wanting to get ripped off, I don’t think that a magazine paying pro rates is any kind of guarantee of quality.  Some of the weakest short stories I have ever read were published by professional authors.  By contrast, some of the more interesting short stories I have read have been by relative unknowns.  My experience of short fiction zines is that it’s a complete crap shoot wherever you go.  Anyway, I fail to see how you as a reader are being ripped off.  Nobody is forcing you to buy Black Matrix.  In fact, I suspect that the bulk of the people who DO buy Black Matrix are people interested in being published by Black Matrix.

     

    Greg – I’m not sure why Black Matrix’s advice is relevant. My point was that smaller venues constitute an important psychological step for authors lacking in confidence or who merely want to be published regardless of where it is.  It doesn’t follow from this that Black Matrix must consider themselves a psychological stepping stone, nor do my comments require them to see themselves in that light.  What is important is how the authors who submit to them see them and I think an understanding of that has been lacking from this debate.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “the psychology that doesn’t match reality”.  Surely the only reality that matters in psychological questions is the emotional state of the person in question?  If so then saying that people are “wrong” because they don’t need those small market stepping stones completely misses the point and is astonishingly unsympathetic to boot.  Who are you to determine what someone does and doesn’t need to do in order to be psychologically ready to pitch to Asimov’s?

     

    The point is that, for whatever reason, venues like Black Matrix serve the community.  They might not serve the community by helping professional writers to quite their day jobs or by providing a venue for the best examples of short fiction available but they’re providing a platform for writers who can’t or don’t yet want to get into the big markets and, for the moment, they’re able to keep putting out issues at a time when the pro markets are in serious decline.  I fail to see the harm.  If you don’t want to pitch to them, don’t.  If you don’t want to buy them, don’t.  Others clearly feel differently.

  127. Jonathan M: “The point is that, for whatever reason, venues like Black Matrix serve the community.”

    Not when they pay 1/5 of a cent per word.  You don’t need some sort of psychological reinforcement to submit a story to Asimov’s.  You need to read the guidelines, decide your story fits the market’s needs and submit.  If it’s rejected, you pick it back up, shake off the dust and try again.  At the most, psychologically speaking, you take your ego out of the equation.

    When Greg says “the psychology doesn’t match the reality” he’s referring to two things:

    1) It is not a “Pro Versus Amatuer” mentality in the writing world.

    2) You do not need sub-pro credits to make it into the pro markets.

    Those are the facts.

  128. Jonathan: “Surely the only reality that matters in psychological questions is the emotional state of the person in question?”

    If the person in question is claiming the moon is made of cheese, then no, their emotional state isn’t all that matters.  If the person in question is saying the pro markets will reject their submissions immediately via email without reading them because they have never been published before, then no, their emotional state isn’t all that matters.

    Their emotional state doesn’t give them license to state things about the world that are false.

    The moon is not made of cheese. Pro markets don’t require you to get published in semi-pro markets first before they’ll pull your story out of the slush. Pro markets generally don’t reject an unpublished author without reading at least some of their submission. Pro authors aren’t “pulling up the ladder” to prevent unpublished authors from getting published.

    These are statements about the world that are untrue. The emotional state of the person saying them has nothing to do with the veracity of the statements.

    Now, if someone wants to discuss their emotional state, they generally need to restrict their statements to using the word “I” as the subject, not “they”. Were I to attempt to infer the emotional state of Jenn, it would be something along the lines of this:

    “I am afraid to submit to pro-markets. I am afraid of rejection from pro markets. I feel my odds of getting published are better with semi-pro markets. I feel more confident getting published by a semi-pro market now than waiting to get published by a pro-market later. I feel that if all semi-pro markets are labeled as “crap”, then all the semi-pro sales I made are ‘crap’, and I don’t like that being taken away from me.”

    If you want to talk about the psychology going on here, then you’re talking about how people are *feeling*. And the feelings expressed by Jenn and others is no different than the feelings of a lot of new writers: fear of rejection and a desire to be accepted.

    Those emotions don’t mean that Jenn and others get to rewrite reality into something that is not factually true. Just because you’re feel one emotion or another doesn’t mean the moon is suddenly made of cheese. Just because you feel some particular emotion doesn’t mean you get to claim the moon is made of cheese. And just because you say you want to discuss “psychology” doesn’t mean peolpe get to say that they FEEL like the moon is made of cheese.

    Most of what Jenn and others have stated have been statements about the world, about how pro writers are trying to keep them down, how pro markets won’t publish them or even read their submissions. Those are statements about the world that aren’t true, like saying the moon is made of cheese.

    Almost nothing that Jenn and others have stated has been about their psychology or their feelings. If it were, they’d be saying things like “I feel afraid of rejection” or “I feel better about my writing when a semi-pro market publishes it, even if they don’t pay much.”

    And if you want to address THAT, then a lot of pro writers DO address exactly that fear. They tell writers to feel good about their writing even if they don’t get it published. They often try to help writers distinguish between “good” writing and “published” writing. They repeatedly try to tell writers that a rejection letter means nothing other than “not something we think will sell to our audience”, which is entirely different than “good” or “bad”. They often tell writers stories of their own struggles to get published, listing all the rejections they get before getting published, they encourage writers to “get the rejections” that racking up a lot of rejections is part of the process to getting published.

    So, again, in addressing the PSYCHOLOGY going on here, there appears to be the camp of (1) reinforce untrue statements about the world that its “us versus them” and ladders are being pulled up and all that, and create the myth that they will get published professionally once they get enough semi-pro sales or (2) differentiate between “good/bad” writing and “accepted/rejected” writing,  encourage writers to rack up the rejections, to encourage them to overcome their fears without reinforcing untrue statements about the publishing world.

    And again, I’ll go with door number (2).

     

     

  129. I’m unsure why hobbyist writers in SF/F should submit to bottom-feeding venues. Surely part of the fun of the hobby is reading stories one likes and daydreaming about one’s own story being read and getting rejection letters and moping about them dramatically on the Internet and going to workshops with people you think are famous (though all of them are much less famous than any child actor who drinks apple juice and then smiles in a commercial) and swinging and missing and then doing the Snoopy Dance if a check sufficient to pay the cable and the phone and the electricity this month comes in and then walking into a store and buying seven copies of the same magazine to give to family and then smiling widely when the clerk at the register asks you why you’re buying the lot and flipping open the magazine and pointing to your story and saying, “That’s MEEEEEEE!”

     

    Right? Writing as a hobby is fun, like skydiving. Writing as a hobby and publishing work only in places that have POD print runs in the single digits is a boring hobby, like packing parachutes for other people to use in skydiving.

  130. Coming late to this debate. I’m not surprised it’s caused such an uproar, with people weighing in on both sides.

    I’ve come across people who sneer at markets that pay low rates before. They are generally people that have “made it” like Scalzi, or people who have had generally little success getting published.

    People in the middle, who have been slowly improving their craft and getting more stories accepted as time goes on, have more sense, and appreciate what magazines that pay low rates can do for them. And some of these then “make it” and not all of them then turn around and sneer.

    The thing is, I’ve seen many big start up magazines and webzines paying “pro-rates” come and go very quickly in the past couple of years. And Scalzi himself started a very long running debate on the “big three” magazines (Asimov’s et al) that essentially argued they were dying.

    So, what’s better for an aspiring or up and coming writer? I think it’s obviously better to be published in a semi-prozine that has shown longevity and has thus got a loyal readership than to be published in a new big-splash start up magazine that dies after a year (perhaps implying that your story wasn;t good enough to keep enough readers interested in the magazine).

    On the actually rates, I can also add that it’s well known that no one will make a living from writing short stories, even if you had one a month in Asimov’s. The “insultingly low rates” of semi-prozines are not designed for writers to live off either. Rather, they’re token rates, that say that we would love to pay you more if we could, but we would probably go out of business if we did that.

    So again, what’s better for an up-and-coming writer? Not to be published at all, until (if and when) her stories merit publication in a short lived but pro-rate magazine (or a member of the dying big three) or to be consistenly published in (for the most part) respected semi-prozines with loyal and sustained readerships?

    I think the answer to that is pretty clear.

    Brian

     

     

     

  131. Federal poverty threshold in 2009 for a household of one person: $10,830.

    Number of words an author would have to sell to Black Matrix in one year to earn $1 more than the poverty threshold: 5,415,500.

    That’s 14,837 words every day of the year; a bit more than 1200 every hour for twelve hours a day each and every day.

    (Not that the “pro” rate of 9¢ per word is any great shakes. At that rate, you would have to sell roughly 120,000 words of short fiction to get above the poverty level, or the equivalent of two 5,000 word stories every month. To reach the US median income per household member (about $26,000 in 2006), you’d have to sell nearly 300,000 words at that rate each year. Per household member of course.)

  132. Brian Nolan: “I think the answer to that is pretty clear.”

    It is to me: Research the markets, find the best paying ones with the best distribution, and submit to them.  If rejected, try other markets until they reach a personally defined minimum.  Always start at the top.

  133. Brian: “So, what’s better for an aspiring or up and coming writer? I think it’s obviously better to be published in a semi-prozine that has shown longevity and has thus got a loyal readership than to be published in a new big-splash start up magazine that dies after a year”

    Obviously? Why? It seems that implicit in your argument is the same thing Jenn has been saying: You have to achieve sales in the “right” markets to be considered a “good” enough writer. Jenn argued that collecting enough semi-pro sales tokens would qualify a writer as good enough to submit to a pro market and get read. All you’ve done is massage the data while keeping the exact same flawed principle.

    How do you define what is “better” for an aspiring writer? Something is better than nothing? What is your criteria?

    What if my criteria for what is best for up and coming writers is that they improve their writing as quickly as they can and get paid as much as they can? To improve your writing, you need to write and get good feedback. You’re not going to get that from the submission process, so you need to join a writers group, or get writers you know who will read your work.

    But the submission and sales process does nothing to improve your writing. Which means that what you get paid is IRRELEVANT to making you a better writer. So, payment is orthogonal to improving your skill as a writer. If you get paid 1/5th of  a cent per word, or 5 cents per word, or 20 cents per word, it does nothing to improve your writing skills. So, if there is no writing-skill-improvement benefit from how much you get paid, then how much you get paid should be chosen for other reasons. What are the other reasons?

    Here’s a reason: You’re afraid of rejection and think you’ll have a better chance of getting accepted in a 1/5th penny per word market than a 20 cent per word market.

    OK, now, ask any pro writer, any pro editor, any pro in the industry at all, what they think of this reason. Most of them will tell you it’s a dumb, dumb, dumb, reason. Anyone who has actually gone through the process of writing, rejection, writing, rejection, writing, paid acceptance will tell you that selling yourself short on money to try and brace up a shaky and weak self-image is doomed to failure.

    What happens when you’ve published 50 stories for lots of money, but then no one will buy your 51st story?

    If you’ve got a self-image based only on what other people pay you, then every time you have a failure, a rejection, you’ve got a massive problem to deal with. You’ve got to somehow psych yourself out of this bottomless well of self-loathing to even get the courage up to submit again.

    And that’s about the WORST possible situation a writer could be in, whether they’re successfully published many times, published once or twice, or never published but trying. What is BETTER for any writer in that situation is to STOP tying their self-worth and self-confidence to what others are willing to pay.

    The US has been in a recession for  a year. Unemployment is the highest its been in decades. People are unable to get other people to PAY THEM for their labor. How healthy do you think it would be if all those unemployed people decided there must be something fundamentally wrong with *them* for not being able to get  a paying job?

    Rejection is part of the job of a writer. One workshop I was in had a novelist talking about recently getting rejected by a big-name publisher. He’d been published by them before, but they rejected his latest novel. The point of action at that point isn’t to make the rejection mean something about the author, but to move on to the next submission. And the sooner authors, and up-and-coming authors, learn that, the better off they’ll be.

    Anyone who is defending semi-pro-rate markets on anything that even remotely smells of “I need a semi-pro sale to boost my confidence as an aspiring writer” is little different than the person who says they need to see their book in print to feel good about their writing and end up paying a vanity press money to print bound copies for them. The only difference is what price you’ve settled on.

    The myth is that it’ll be a bunch of rejections and then you’ll “make it”, after which it’ll always be acceptances, and it doesn’t work that way. And once you get a pro sale, you can still get rejections, and if you still tie your self-worth as a writer to getting acceptances, you’re in for a miserable life and career as a writer.

    The best thing an aspiring writer can do is disconnect their self worth from their sales, and to have confidence in themselves in the face of rejections. 

     

     

  134. Black Matrix reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes strip I have hanging over my desk. In it, Calvin has set up a lemonade stand where he’s charging $15 a glass. When Susie points out that he just threw a lemon in some sludge water he counters that he had to cut costs somewhere (just not in the outrageous profits he expects for himself, of course). Sounds a lot like BM’s business plan.

    Why should anyone want to be a slave for these clowns?

  135. People seem to be resurrecting the idea that anyone (particularly the sneering pros) is against semi-pro zines, or even token-paying zines, as a lump. Not so.

    Resume.

  136. Brian, the problem with your comment is that your ascrbing a position to the pro writers out there that none of us is espousing: semi-pro=bad. No one is saying this. No one has been saying this.

    What people have been saying is that you need to assess markets based on a number of criteria and that paying pro rates is one of the more important criteria. Not the only criteria. Not the overwhelming criteria, just one of the more important ones.

    Like most of the pros who’ve weighed in here I’ve piled up a fair heap of rejections (something north of 400 last time I counted) and I’ve been published in a variety of venues. My first sale was to a pro market, Weird Tales. My second went to a respected* semi-pro that has published people like Eleanor Arnason and Neil Gaiman, TOTU. My third was to another pro, Writers of the Future. All of those stories racked up a number of rejections before they first sold.

    It’s entirely possible that I could have built up my self-esteem by sending those same stories out to absolute bottom tier markets like BM* first and quite possibly selling them there right out of the gate. But by starting at the top and working my way down, not only did I manage to build my self-esteem (if more slowly than by following the other route) I also built up my bank balance and my professional reputation.

    If I’d started out at the bottom tier markets and sold the stories there, I would never have learned that they were good enough for the better markets and I probably wouldn’t have ended up expanding that first short into the novel that was my first sale to Penguin. In short, aiming low is not a good idea for the up and coming writer.

    *i.e. shitty pay, no reputation, no other obvious redeeming features.

  137. Lou Antonelli’s point seems to have been lost in the malestrom here. 

    Personally, I second his point.  While I don’t have as many stories out there, I have appeared in Interzone and Apex Online formerly Apex Digest. 

    One point I want to make about Apex Digest.  When I made the choice to submit my story to them, my primary consideration was whether or not The Limb Knitter would fit the market.  It didn’t seem to fit anywhere else and rather than grouse about that, I sent it to Jason Sizemore to see what he thought. 

    When I sent it to Jason, Apex Digest was a print mag available at Barnes and Noble (where I first encountered an issue).  The pay rate was one cent per word but I didn’t care.  It was print and I like print mags on principle.  The story was accepted and I figured, “Well, the Knitter found a home.”

    Strange thing happened on the way to press.  Jason transitioned to an online model and upgraded the pay to 2.5 cents.  He graciously agreed to pay me the new rate.

    Then he doubled down and offered the SFWA rate.  Again, I was upgraded.

    Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing.  Instead, I sent my story to a place where it would fit and find a readership.  The Limb Knitter found a home and it did well enough to receive a mention in the YBSF’s Summation and an Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’ anthology. 

    I don’t know how Black Matrix will perform over time.  Perhaps as Rachel Swirsky has said elsewhere, it will fall apart under the strain.  That is possible.  On the other hand, I have a story or two that might fit there.  I just might send one or two their way.  I’m willing to take a chance and see. 

    And I got to say, this fracas does seem like a bit of snobbery.

    Or more like the union workers telling the rest of us not to undermine their economic position.  Fortunately, there is no picket line to bypass.

    Respects,

    S. F. Murphy

    On the Outer Marches

     

  138. Where did I say that Black Matrix would collapse? I’ve chattered away a bit, so I’ll believe I did, but I don’t remember saying it. I would say that I’m not optimistic about their chances of survival based on what they’ve presented about their business plan, but I usually try to avoid strong statements like “this will collapse.”

  139. “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing. “

    Except that isn’t his argument and never has been so, as has already been established in this thread and elsewhere. His argument was that BM, unlike other semi-pro magazines, was taking advantage of writers. Other semi-pro magazines offer writers a respected venue, a good editor, an attractive product and good distribution — benefits to the writer — and the best rate they can manage. What BM seems to have done instead is say we can have four magazines or pay writers 1 cent a word — we’ll go with four magazines. We can have really glossy production values or pay writers 1 cent a word — we’ll go with glossy production values. We’re going to charge $10 for our publications, but pay less than 1 cent a word to the content providers. And what Scalzi was pointing out is that this makes BM a lousy publisher whom authors might want to think twice about working with, as well as any other publication that makes business plans like this, and to start aiming higher for publications that treat their authors much better, like the pros and like semi-pros like Apex. 

    Jen’s view of fiction authors, fiction publishing, and especially of SFF magazines (which I like to call the industry of love and cookies,) is pure hokum. That she’s in a MFA program and believes all this is saddening. I agree with Andrew Wheeler about Internet dogpiles and I wish her well in her writing career, but I’m sorry for any person who believes illogically that SFF authors are locked in viscious competition, trying to spike each other’s careers, while pro editors laugh and spend their days rejecting submissions they don’t read.

     

  140. I love this debate if for no other reason that it gives name and voice to all the good or appreciated magazines out there where a writer might seek to be published. Some of these names I knew but some I didn’t and I’m sure that is true for others. I might not want to be published in all of them but it opens up new possibilities.

  141. I didn’t want to say anymore on this, but I really don’t like people puting words in my mouth.

    “but I’m sorry for any person who believes illogically that SFF authors are locked in viscious competition”

    KatG, I never said this. This is what people assumed I was saying which IS pure hokum. What I did say was that “major editors and authors with large clout slamming on a small non-pro market feels just wrong.” We all want space out there AND there IS space out there for everyone. There is NO competition, especially when the little guys are not regulated to be “crap.” All this has been cleared up in previous comments above. Please read them.

    Now, back to our regular programming…

  142. SF Murphy sells story to Apex for five cents a word, concludes from this that it is good to sell story to someone else for one-fifth a cent a word? Well, I think we’ve found the end of this conversation.

    Guide for the perplexed: how could SF Murphy have found a “pro” home for Apex without submitting it to semi-pro Apex? The answer is simple—had Murphy only ever submitted to “pro” venues, he still would have submitted that story to Apex once it raised its rates and the editor of Apex still would have liked it.

  143. I am thankful to have stumbled across this blog because it has given me some food for thought.

    I’ve submitted to the big 3 and others and been rejected. I have a few publications at for the love and token markets.

    I’ve been writing about a year.

    I don’t feel that my writing has reached a pro-level rank yet, but I have grown a bit in my writing from comments that editors have made on my stories.

    Thank you everyone for this discussion.

  144.    So, Jenn, what exactly did you mean by the following from your original post?

       “The chill I feel is the people at the pro level pulling up the ladder saying, ‘you stay down there, kid.'”

       “If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all.”

       “I know that people are scared to say anything to these bigwigs in the field. I guess I’m just stupid enough to do it (I prefer gutsy, but I digress.)”

       And here is what you said in comments that followed:

       “Unlike others, I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me.”

       “What you are doing here is pulling up the ladder and you ARE in fact looking after your own interests.”

       Seems to me you still believe that this divide between pros and new writers exists, and you’ve said nothing to indicate that your position on this has changed.

  145. Yes, Mike, thank you. What you said, Jen, was that big name writers were trying to keep you out of pro markets (“pull up the ladder”,) that those markets were closed to you, that they do not look for and discover new talent, that name writers were trying to denigrate semi-pro markets in their own self-interest to make writers published in those semi-pro markets look bad (because for some reason you’re all a big, bad threat or something — i.e. viscious competition,) that you suspected the pro mags didn’t even read submissions, and various crap like that. And when confronted with the inaccuarcy of your comments, as well as your misreading of the people you were criticizing, your response wasn’t really an apology, but a demand to be reassured on one or two points and then you wouldn’t be mad at them anymore. But all the misleading things you said about the magazine industry and your fellow, more established authors, you pretty much let stand. And other new writers are going to believe that crap and reiterate it, as indeed some did in this thread. So thanks so much for perpetuating a Hollywood conspiracy theory of fiction publishing.

    Fiction writers do not directly compete with each other, and they are marketed symbiotically. The success of one writer can help other writers. Further, there is a tradition in SFF — started from the magazines in fact — of mentoring, of writers further along trying to help out other, newer authors — doing collaborations, giving them advice, publishing them in anthologies, teaching them in courses, offering blurbs for their book jackets, co-promoting with them, supporting them at conventions and so on. And Scalzi particularly follows this tradition. He has helped authors fundraise, let them talk about their work on his blog, talked them up on the Web, spent time putting together a Hugo award reader for his rival nominees and for awards he’s not even up for to get voters interested, because he felt it helped all the writers and the field. And that’s why he went after Black Matrix. Whether you agree or don’t with his advice (once you understood what that advice actually was,) your insinuations about his motives show that you’re pretty clueless about the market.

    As for the magazines, even the semi-pros don’t really have to look for new writers at this point. They can stick to the pros and the semi-pro authors. But even the pro mags want to find new talent. And so they all — pro and semi-pro — spend a considerable amount of effort reading through a lot of submissions to find the occasional story that might work for them out of the thousands they receive. It’s a bad ratio, but it always has been because a lot of people want to be published. Just because the odds are long and subjective doesn’t require you to accuse those mag editors of trying to con you or snobbishly ignoring you.

    You weren’t being brave, you were being spiteful and ignorant, and I don’t have to put words in your mouth because the ones you spit out were unattractive enough as it is. And the really funky thing is that the SFF community won’t hold it against you, especially if they think your stories are good. We still will wish you good luck, and as I said, I do. But if you’re going to continue in the fiction market, you might want to stop trashing other fiction writers as your rivals and magazine editors as slimeballs, and start actually learning about the business instead of making up fantasies about it. Because your version of things is incorrect.

     

  146. Nick, the pay didn’t matter to me, that is the point I was making.  Apparently not clearly enough for you since I didn’t use my ballbat.  

    Rachel, you didn’t specifically identify Black Matrix, however on your blog you did mention that you will wait to see if a market is viable, maybe a year or so.  Is that not correct?  Granted, I’ve been grading finals so maybe I missed something.  

    KatG, Scalzi’s offering a dressed up version of the Union argument against scab labor.  How does he know that Black Matrix isn’t going to become a respectable market?  He is judging apparently based upon word rate alone and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even see where he has a dog in this fight.

    BTW, how many non-American writers have weighed in on this pay scuffle?  I’m kinda curious because I know that SFWA isn’t exactly popular with non-American SF writers.  Be nice to know how many Brits, Aussies and the like are onboard with Scalzi.

    In any case, the great thing about this is that I really don’t give a shit what every other writer in the SF community does.  I’ll continue to do things my way, which even Scalzi says I have a right to do. 

     

  147. S.F.Murphy:

    Strange thing happened on the way to press.  Jason transitioned to an online model and upgraded the pay to 2.5 cents.  He graciously agreed to pay me the new rate. Then he doubled down and offered the SFWA rate.  Again, I was upgraded. Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out

    Yeah, uhm, so, you put a all your chips on 22-Black, the little white ball landed on 22-Black, and so that makes it a good strategy for everyone to play by????????  Because that’s what folks are talking about here: good strategies for aspiring writers, right? And your advice for submission strategy is to submit to a non-pro-rate market on the bajillion-to-one odds that between acceptance and payment they jack their rates up? I hope you’re not grading math finals.

    Jenn:

    but I really don’t like people puting words in my mouth

    Speaking of putting words into people’s mouths, please grep this thread for the string  “people … saying blah”. And if putting words into people’s mouths isn’t enough, you’ve asserted a number of statements about the way the SF markets work that are contrary to the facts. Patrick Nielsen Hayden from TOR has already pointed out that they accept submissions from never-been-published-before authors and buy some of them as well. And yet you assert that semi-pro-rate markets provide an “open door” to unpublished authors that pro-rate markets don’t, that the pros maintain a two-tier system, that pros try to “pull the ladder up” on the non pros, that pro-markets return non-pro submissions immediately via email without reading it simply because they’re submitted by a nonpro.

    You completely misrepresent reality and ignore all the people pointing out this misrepresentation to you. And the one thing you object to is a subpart of a subparagraph of KatG’s post that isn’t actually quoting you, but is summarizing all the myths about the publishing industry that you’ve made up.

    Here’s a couple of simple yes/no questions to clarify what you’re trying to say on this thread:

    (1) Is it general policy of pro-markets to reject non-pro authors without even reading their submissions? This is what you imply and accuse in your original post.

    (2) Are you saying Scalzi is “pulling the ladder” up on non-pro authors because he wants to say to the non-pros “you stay down there, kid” (also from your original post)? This being the same Scalzi who is one of the many grossly underpaid instructors at Viable Paradise that *helps* aspiring SF/F writers?

    (3) Given that pro-rate markets like TOR accept and sometimes buy stories from never-been-published-before authors, doesn’t that match your definition of an “open door” that your original post said only existed in the semi-pro markets?

    If you really, really, really, want to delve into the accuracy of people’s statements, then by all means, lets start with the accuracy of the statements in the original post of this thread.

    You’ve been telling a lot of stories about the SFF industry. Most of them aren’t true.

     

  148. SF, I was simply pointing out that your claim:


    Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing.

    Was 100 percent wrong. If pay was your primary objective, you would have simply submitted that story to Apex when it announced its new per-word rate, and you would have sold it at that point.

    If pay isn’t relevant to you, well, why don’t you just send the money from that sale back to Jason? WHy not rip up the checks when they are sent to you? (Those are rhetorical questions, by the way.)

     

     

  149. S.F. Murphy: “How does he know that Black Matrix isn’t going to become a respectable market?”

    Well given the following facts:

       1) BM Publishing is planning on putting four magazines out.

       2) Black Matrix pays at a rate that was low in the 1920s.

       3) BMP Publishing is putting forth two book lines.

       4) Said book lines aren’t paying advances.

       5) BM Publishing circled their wagons saying “we’re in this only because we’re fans” only when publicly called out for paying insultingly miniscule rates.

       I’d say it’s pretty clear that respectability is not going to be theirs… ever.

  150. Nick, nice and slow.

    Pay

    Was

    Not

    My

    Primary

    Objective.

    Say it with me three times.

    I am willing to accept what the market in question is willing to pay.  If Apex can pay five cents a word, then I’ll take five cents a word.  If they can pay one cent per word, then I’ll take one cent per word. 

    Pay

    Was

    Not

    My

    Primary

    Objective. 

    Finding a market that fit my story was the primary objective.  If Black Matrix is a fit for one of my stories, I’ll send a story to them.  If I have another story that fits at Apex, I’ll send it there. 

    Hell, maybe if the stars pop into alignment, I might even send something to Strange Horizons (ha, never).  I’m looking for the right fit, not a set pay scale.

    Besides, over the last nine years of tracking this community on the internet, I have heard this phrase over and over again.  Writers shouldn’t be in this for the money.  But then we talk out of the other side of our mouths and demand five cents a word.  Which is it?  One, or the other.

    Another point is this.  There are plenty of five cent markets to be found but the word counts are low.  If you are a writer who is comfortable around 7000 plus to 15000 plus words, you are going to have a superbitch of a time finding a viable pro-market.  Many of the pro markets have word counts lower than five thousand, which, if you’re strength is 7K plus, isn’t a happy situation either.

    In fact, I believe there is a marekt called Panverse, edited by Dario Cirello.  Pay is $75 per story running 12K on the word count side.  I’ve not done the math but I suspect that isn’t much different from the Black Matrix situation.

    And so what if Dario is paying that rate?  He does have respectable writers submitting to Panverse.

    Mike, per your point, how do you know they’ll never be respectable?  Because you don’t like the current set up that means they’ll never be acceptable?  And so what if they are fans?  Bewildering Stories pays Zero and yet stories there get mentions in Dozois’ YBSF as well. 

    No one answered my question about non-American writers and their feelings per this matter.  Since the foreign blogs are strangely silent about this I’m guessing they are probably saying, “Tis muchado about nothing.” 

    Which it is. 

     

  151.    Murphy, my point is that Black Matrix Publishing is trying to build a business with four magazines and two book lines, and they’re doing it by shafting the writers and paying them in breadcrumbs.  When called on it, they bascially responded with “we’re not a business, we’re just in it for love of the genre,” when their own website seems to indicate otherwise.

       You have to give respect to earn it, and with an abysmally low pay rate, BM Publishing is being disrespectful to the writers.  If it had been one mag run as a fan-zine, I imagine those of us with professional aspirations and have actually approached this as a business and a craft as well an art would just say “yeah, right,” and move on.  These guys had an advert on the Locus website, along with the afforementioned publishing plan, and are registered as an LLC.  Looks like a business, smells like a business, guess what?  It is a business, and it’s one that short changing the people upon whom it depends on to supply it with material so that it may exist.

       This is something that Scalzi has pointed out on Whatever already.  So pay may not be your primary objective, but personally, I want to be a writer for a living.  The best way I can do that is to hit the pro-paying markets again and again, until I succeed.

  152. “KatG, Scalzi’s offering a dressed up version of the Union argument against scab labor.”

    No, he’s not. There isn’t any writers union in written fiction, the pro magazines aren’t union publications and the semi-pros not, and all the writers in all the semi-pro mags are no threat to Scalzi whatsoever. (Neither are the ones in the pro mags because writers are not directly competing.) This is not about who belongs to the SFWA or not. Dozens of established U.S. authors don’t belong to the SFWA. What he’s talking about is that Black Matrix is a lousy publisher that is treating their prospective authors badly. Whereas other semi-pros treat writers responsibly, trying to give them either decent pay rates or equivalent benefits. Now, it’s a matter of debate whether Black Matrix is making bad choices out of stupidity or deliberate intent, which Scalzi himself acknowledges, but as long as they are making bad choices, they remain a dubious market for anyone’s work. And because, as we’ve seen with Jen, new writers often don’t understand that and how it effects the short story market as a whole (hint: it effects it badly and further kills it off,) Scalzi’s advice was don’t go with the stupid or deliberately misleading guys because it makes it worse for you and worse for the market for writers as a whole. He was suggesting that writers be more strategic, take more chances and shoot for the best venues. If you go to the lower paying ones, at least try to go to the ones that will give you something out of it.

    The reality is this: pro magazines look at new authors, with or without credits at other mags. Semi-pros look at new authors, with or without credits at other mags. Both pros and semi-pros can only publish a few new people per issue, but they are dedicated to keep doing it because they feel new authors are important, both to their magazines and to the field. Pro magazines love semi-pro magazines. That the short fiction market for SFF survives and is as large as it is, is a miracle and semi-pro mags are very much part of that vitality. But semi-pro mags that take advantage of authors for the sake of their own advancement are bad for business. Established authors like semi-pros too because they help keep the market for short fiction percolating, and even though the established authors don’t really make any money off of short fiction anymore, it’s still seen as an important part of the field. Established authors also like new authors and most of them try to help the newer ones out, because new authors bring excitement to the field and excitement means more sales for all. Established authors got helped, and most of them pass it on. It’s not about having a dog in the fight, but preferring to not let new authors get torn apart by dogs, because that makes it worse for everybody else. You want the market to be healthy and supporting writers, not just using them.

    Can Black Matrix be more respectable? Yes, if they stop making bad choices and start making smarter ones that allow them to pay writers decent rates. But do you really want to be their guinea pigs in the meantime? Some writers will, because they’re desperate, they don’t know any better or don’t care, and/or because they have a Hollywood notion of how fiction publishing works, like Jen. But it certainly doesn’t hurt anything for Scalzi to call this magazine out and say, “your business practices suck” and warn authors that they aren’t helping themselves by thinking this is okay.

    You can disagree with that viewpoint in the case of Black Matrix if you want. But saying that established authors are trying to keep new authors down or attacking the semi-pro market, and that pro-markets are trying to shut new authors out is patently false.

     

     

  153. “You can disagree with that viewpoint in the case of Black Matrix if you want. But saying that established authors are trying to keep new authors down or attacking the semi-pro market, and that pro-markets are trying to shut new authors out is patently false.”

    Once again I ask you to look at the comments above:

    “I think the confusion is generated by the fact that no one — including me — will specifically name the magazine names that make them wince (well, apart from Black Matrix).”

    Both Rachel and I agreed that this was the sticking point. This was cleared up. I said thank you and as far as I’m concerned this beef is over. Move along kids. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say things that I didn’t say and most certainly didn’t mean.

  154.  “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say things that I didn’t say and most certainly didn’t mean.”

       Once again, Jenn, what exactly did you mean by the following from your original post?

       “The chill I feel is the people at the pro level pulling up the ladder saying, ‘you stay down there, kid.'”

       “If it were left to editors like Rachel Swirsky there would be no new writers at all.”

       “I know that people are scared to say anything to these bigwigs in the field. I guess I’m just stupid enough to do it (I prefer gutsy, but I digress.)”

       And here is what you said in comments that followed:

       “Unlike others, I don’t worshop at the alter of John Scazi and he for damned sure don’t scare me.”

       “What you are doing here is pulling up the ladder and you ARE in fact looking after your own interests.”

       These are your exact words as posted in this discussion.  You have not said anything to indicated a change in stance since, so I can only come away with that you still believe that this divide between pros and new writers exists, and you’ve said nothing to indicate that your position on this has changed.

       So Direct Question time: Do you believe there is some divide between professional writers and those not yet in the pro markets, and do you beileve the pro writers and editors are trying to keep new writers out of what you consider the big leagues?  I should warn you, not addressing this question will imply a “yes,” based on what I’ve quoted here, and your attitude in general.

  155. ‘That open door is provided by the semi-pro and non-paying markets, NOT the pro-rate ones.’

    That is an assertion of fact which is patently false; claiming that you did not say it in the first place is also patently false. This is not the way to build a readership…

  156. Have you notice no is beating this dead horse but you guys? It’s over. All missunderstandings are cleared up. More than 160 comments discussed this issue. It came to a head then a conclusion.

  157. jenn, if you don’t wish to participate in the conversation, by all means don’t. Nobody will come to your MFA program, drag you kicking and screaming out of your Tuesday-morning workship and superglue your hands to the keyboard.

    But you posted something on a site not your own, which invites comments to said posts. Your authority to tell people that they have to STFU and go home because you’re quite finished is zero, and your repeated attempts to pretend you have that kind of authority are risible.

    S.F. Murphy, you’re distorting the argument(s) a bit in your attempt to set up a false dichotomy. Perhaps I’m just not hanging out in the right parts of the Internet, but I’ve never heard an actual, professional writer argue “writers should not be in it for the money”, in the sense of meaning “you shouldn’t care whether you get paid or not.” I have, however, heard that phrase used to mean “if you think that you’re likely to retire to Cabo on the proceeds of your epic sword-and-sorcery novel, think again”. This is particularly sensible given that many professional writers – including that ladder-pulling bastard Scalzi – make, or have made, their living selling the kind of writing that is done almost solely for pay (journalism, business copy) rather than as a feat of creative expression.

    BM is making a two-faced argument. It is telling writers that their work is worth an insulting pittance and they should be grateful for the chance to be published, but it is telling readers that same writing is worth just as much, if not more, than work published in an SF/F magazine that pays pro rates.

  158. Jenn:

    as far as I’m concerned this beef is over. Move along kids. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say things that I didn’t say and most certainly didn’t mean

    I quoted you, verbatim, on multiple points you made in your original post.

    As much as you want to pretend that “All I was saying was that smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap”, that isn’t the case. If you want to *continue* to pretend that’s all you ever said, then you wrote words that either (1) you didn’t mean what you said and have no idea how your words are landing on your readers (lousy writer) or (2) you did mean what you said but now you won’t take responsibility for the untruths you stated (irresponsible human being).

    If you want to just tuck tail and stop replying that’s one thing, but to actually repeatedly come out and say that all you were saying was “smaller markets shouldn’t all be lumped together as crap”, and tell people to move along, then turn around and accuse people of saying things about you that you didn’t say or mean, when people have *quoted* you verbatim, well, that’s taking things to a whole new level of Dick Cheney-ness.

    If  you don’t want to undo all the untrue statements you made about the SFF market, fine. But don’t pretend people are misquoting you when they’re quoting those untruths of yours verbatim.

     

  159. SF: Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out (on 5 cents a word)

    SF: Pay was not my primary objective.

    So, your first statement is bad logic. as pointed out before, if you followed Scalzi’s pay argument, you would have submitted to Apex after Apex announced their new rates. That would probably mean you would have submitted it to one or two markets in between when you originally submitted it to Apex (at semi-pro rates) and when you would have submitted it at the pro rates.

    If you followed Scalzi’s argument, you would have submitted to Apex, they would have still accepted your story (unless you’re saying they changed their acceptance criteria), and you would have followed Scalzi’s pay argument AND gotten published. There would have been nothing you would have “missed out” on by following Scalzi’s pay argument with Apex, other than a couple month delay.

    All your second statement says is that you did NOT follow Scalzi’s pay argument. So what? If you did, you wouldn’t have missed out anyway, except for a couple month delay. And you woudl have still gotten published.

    SF: Finding a market that fit my story was the primary objective. 

    What does that mean in any objective sense? That they would publish your story? If they accepted your story and published it, doesn’t that mean that your story, by definition, “fits” the market? So, if an aspiring writer is going to find a market that “fits” their story, doesn’t that mean they’d find the market that will publish it? And if that’s the criteria, getting published, then wouldn’t pay rate be orthogonal to getting published, to “fitting”? So, wouldn’t the best advise to an aspiring writing be to get published in a market (“fit”) that pays the best rate?

    If you want to play subjective literary games with what “fit” means other than “they published it”, then all you’ve done is blow smoke and use mirrors to hide that what you’re really saying is that you submit to the market least likely to reject your story, regardless of how little they pay.  If you look for “fit” first, that means you look for the most likely to accept your story and publish it, and if you don’t look at pay rate, then that means you’re playing some kind of weird “the rich are wrong” or “the poor are good” fallacy.

     

  160. “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say things that I didn’t say and most certainly didn’t mean.”

    Well now you know how Scalzi and Rachel felt, don’t you?

    But you did say them. You made assertions about what was possible for new authors in the pro mag market, which were wrong. You made assertions about Scalzi which were wrong. And you didn’t make much of an apology for it when you were corrected. And when I responded to other people’s posts asking questions about Scalzi’s position and questions they asked me about my posts, I’m supposed to ignore them? I don’t really care if you feel you’ve been sufficiently spanked, Jen, I’m more concerned with people who believe the falsehoods you presented. It’s not really beating a dead horse if people are still confused because you confused them. I agree that what needs to be said has pretty much been said, but your misunderstanding had consequences. And I hope that this isn’t the way you continue to operate in the SFF field.

     

     

     

  161. myth, it was said frequently at Asimov’s Form over the last nine years per the money issue and short stories.  And it isn’t just said in the SF writing community.  I have heard that from writers (published, paid, professional) outside of SF. 

    KatG, I suspect you don’t know me, which is probably a good thing.  But everything you are writing about the slush piles is not news to me.  I’ve been at this game for nine years.  There is not a union per se, but SFWA is the default trade organization and they do impose a five cent a word standard their guideline for what they consider to be a professional market.

    Now, if I went by that guide (and I don’t) then Interzone would not qualify.  Yet by every measure, it is a professional publication.  If I went by the argument of simply lining my pockets, I would never have sent my first story to see print to Interzone. 

    Conversely, I am aware of writers with no credits getting published in the pro mags (I was very nearly one of them back in 2004 until I got screwed, blued and tattooed by an editor which just took the helm of one of the pro mags, which I think is something worth grousing about). 

    Further, I think you are assuming that I’m just another aspirant.  I’m not.  I have two story sales (Interzone and Apex) two Honorable Mentions, two reprints and one publication in an upcoming anthology.  In addition, I do military research on the side for novelist John Birmingham.

    In other words, I know the drill. 

    And I’ll repeat what I said previously. 

    <b>I select markets based upon whether or not the story will fit that market.</b> 

    If that market happens to pay five cents, then fine.  If it pays what Black Matrix pays, then fine.  If if pays nothing, then that is fine too. 

    And how is it patently false that this is not an attack on Black Matrix for the purpose of keeping the market tight? 

    One problem I have with many of the existing markets is that their word counts are too low.  Another problem I have with some markets (Strange Horizons being the prime example) is that they have a list of Thou Shalt Nots which run nearly 19 pages when it is printed out.  I don’t need Jed, Susan or Karen writing my story for me.  That is my job not theirs and I’ve been round and round the merry go round on that issue.  Another problem I have is that many of the markets in the US especially are particularly hostile to any story which might feature the Midwestern US in anything but a negative light.  They are also actively hostile toward stories which concern matters military that again portray those matters as anything other than negative. 

    Of course, there is the simple fact that as a reader of science fiction, I find very little that interests me these days.  Most of it tends to be very heavy on the polemical and very light on actually telling a story.  If one is going to proceed to lecture me about the political in their story then I’m going to put the story down almost every time.  E. P. Thompson usually did a better job of it anyway. 

    So, Kat, given all that, I find that while I am certainly welcome to send my material to many venues, I also find that I can’t bring myself to write the sort of story they are most likely to buy. 

    In other words, my stories aren’t going to fit a place like Strange Horizons.  In fact, if I had sent Tearing Down Tuesday or The Limb Knitter to that market, they’d have rejected them both.  They both violate the lengthy list of Thou Shalt Nots (and I defy anyone to show me how I could have gotten around that list while maintaing the integrity of the story). 

    On the other hand, perhaps Black Matrix has a market where one of my stories will fit.  If they do, then rest assured, I’ll send them the story. 

  162. Jenn,

    Please answer the direct question I made in my pervious comment.  Do not attempt the color the issue by saying things are “resolved” without actually addressing the things you did say, and have been quoted here repeatedly.  As Greg has put out, you’re marking yourself as either a bad writer, or an irresponsible person, but at this point I’m inclined to believe you’re acting both roles here.

  163. There’s been some good discussion in this thread, and Rachel’s list of ‘zines was worth the price of admission. However, it’s starting to feel like we’re returning all the way back to the beginning when significant progress has been made in the comment thread, progress which seems to be being ignored. For the people still banging on what Jenn said in her original post, what should she do, practically, to satisfy you? Update the original post itself to say, ‘I was mistaken about some things, others were unclear about others, we’ve been through all this in the comments?’

    Without defending John Scalzi (who certainly doesn’t need any help defending his own self), it does appear to me that Black Matrix Publishing (BMP) was trying to have it both ways, claiming to be a Pro market while paying well less than Pro rates. When they were called on that, they tried to duck behind a technicality, fooling nobody who’s been paying attention to the discussion. Lou Antonelli (whom, in full disclosure, I have happily published myself) manned up and tried to take the responsibility for the flap by noting that he’d promoted BMP at Locus through the Blinks mechanism. While taking responsibility was a really stand-up thing to do, it really wasn’t Lou’s fault, and I think people understand that. Furthermore, it’s clear that the buck stops back with Guy Kenyon and the BMP people and their marketing decision to charge their customers market rates without paying their authors market compensation. Scalzi observed that was dirty pool and called them out. If you’re an author that doesn’t care about such things, fine, but you’re going in with your eyes open.

    Along the way, there was some real confusion about what the Pro writers were saying about the virtue or lack thereof writing for non-Pro markets. That has been pretty soundly worked out, as well. Other than continuing to bang on Jenn, I’m unclear on the point of continuing to drag this thread out (unless schadenfreude is the only thing remaining, which isn’t either helpful or sporting).

  164. Are we already at the point where SF simply repeats his initial claim because he is literally incapable of thinking?

     

    I was pointing out, simply, that when you said “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,” you are factually wrong. If you’re basing your silly point on the experiencing of publishing with Apex, that makes your point rather worthless. The end. That is the alpha and the omega. Scalzi’s plan would NOT have led you to miss out. The same exact story would have appeared in the same exact publication for the same exact pay under Scalzi’s plan. Period.

    But do go on with your right-wing crankery (oooh, unions bad!), your unattributed source claims about what people are say, and your endless hype of your two whole publications. And the Internet will point and laugh.

     

    Jenn—if you’re feeling uncomfortable because the grown-ups are still talking about your little hissy fit, then you should take the lesson: don’t have big public hissy fits.

  165. Greg, Scalzi’s argument or any like wasn’t in my mind at all when I sent The Limb Knitter to Apex. 

    Nice and slow, I’ll type it again.

    I

    Sent

    The

    Limb

    Knitter

    To

    The

    Market

    That

    Fit.

    Say it with me three times. 

    What does fit mean to me?  One of the bits of advice all publications give to writers is to read a few issues and get a feel for what they are looking for.  Apex was looking for a combination of SF and Horror.  Conversely if you go and look at Strange Horizons’ very long list of Thou Shalt Nots, there are all sorts of provisos on the use of violence (it used to say some nonsense about it being artful which often prompted the quip, “Does that mean when I blow someone’s head off that it has to make a butterfly pattern on the wall?”) and sex. 

    TLK wasn’t going to fit SH.  My first story, Tearing Down Tuesday, wasn’t going to fit at someplace like Asimov’s.  It did, on the other hand, fit at Interzone. 

    I pick the markets that I think will be a fit for my stories.  I don’t see what is so difficult for you to understand about that. 

    On the pay front, I got lucky.  It went up.  I asked if I could have the pay increase.  Jason gave it to me.  He could have said no and I’d have replied, “Cool.  Look forward to seeing my story in print anyway.” 

    Why?

    Because The Limb Knitter fit Apex.  If I’d have been a snob about the pay issue I’d have put myself a year behind on selling The Limb Knitter.  If I had waited too long I’d have screwed myself royally because Jason lowered the word count limit a few months later.

    So the likely response would have been, “Gee, Murph.  I love this story, but it is too long for me.  Good luck selling this piece.  I really liked it.”

    My point is pretty simple, perhaps it is too simple.

    You can cheerfully screw yourself out of an opportunity if you stay wedded to that five cent a word pay rate.

  166. Dance, monkey, dance.  Keep pretending you didn’t say

     “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,”

    Look, I’ll repeat it a few more times.

     “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,”

     “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,” 

    “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,” 

    “Now, if I followed Scalzi’s pay argument, then I’d have missed out if pay was my primary objective in writing,”

     

    Hmm, nope, repeating it didn’t help. Still wrong! Still a stupid lie! Just like your shrieking about the military and the midwest (hilariously, in your conjunction with your glorifcation of Interzone!), just like your babble about SH’s guidelines, just like every other bit of babbling nonsense you’ve been spouting for years and years.  You’re not even a good troll; they evolve their schticks occasionally.  Not you, though — you have your little life of failure and pretend enemies all set up, so why change? 

     

    Pathetic.

  167. <i>
    Along the way, there was some real confusion about what the Pro writers were saying about the virtue or lack thereof writing for non-Pro markets.</i>

    Real confusion, John, or real defensiveness and attempts to obfuscate the issue for fifteen seconds of fame?

  168. Nick, did you take your meds today?

    I suspect you didn’t. 

    Gotta admit, I really don’t care if you get it or not. 

  169. Well, then it will hardly matter that I do, indeed, get it—specifically I get that you are wrong.

     

    It is always fun to see you waddle out out of your cave and embarrass yourself again though.

     

  170. Rachel, you didn’t specifically identify Black Matrix, however on your blog you did mention that you will wait to see if a market is viable, maybe a year or so.  Is that not correct?  Granted, I’ve been grading finals so maybe I missed something.  “

    Hi Stephen,

    I tried to post this earlier, but it didn’t go through for some reason. I did say that I wait a year. Nick has suggested that my reasons for doing so are not very well-thought out, and he may be right. There’s more back-and-forth about it on Vandermeer’s blog.

    Good luck with grading finals.

  171. S.F., lots of things are ‘said’ by different people, some of whom write SF/F. I don’t see that this proves that the pro SF/F writing community is claiming that writing should be for love alone but also should receive high word rates.

    Accusing writers of criticizing BM to ‘keep the market tight’ is a pretty serious charge. You’re claiming that professional writers are flat-out lying about their motives and are attacking an otherwise worthy market purely for the purposes of shutting new writers out of the field. Is that really your argument? It’s handily irrefutable, I suppose; having painted someone as a liar with base motives, you can handily dismiss any counterargument they make because, duh, hello, they’re a liar with base motives!

    If love is the only motive for your writing, then there’s no reason to submit to BM. You can publish on your website, or to a community blog, or heck, start your own online semipro or amateur publication that fits the kind of things you write. But selling to BM is not ‘for the love’. They are paying you the equivalent of a pat on the head, and then turning around and reselling your work for prices equivalent to (or greater than) a professional, for-money-not-love venue. They sure aren’t doing it for the love.

    If money is at least part of the motive for your writing, then again, BM is a poor idea. See previous and detailed posts by others about the economics of writing. And, again, BM is not reselling your work at the level of what they’re paying you for it.

    It’s a bit like taking up with an obnoxious, abusive partner who treats you poorly and raids your paycheck because, well, at least s/he’s a great cook and besides, you have a very hard time finding anybody else. And then lashing out at anyone who criticizes your SO because they clearly are jealous.

  172. enn—if you’re feeling uncomfortable because the grown-ups are still talking about your little hissy fit, then you should take the lesson: don’t have big public hissy fits.

    Posted by Nick Mamatas on Saturday December 12, 2009 at 2:08 PM

     

    Oh, look everybody! Nick’s going to demonstrate what it’s like to be a grown-up! Go ahead, Nick. ;)

    I agree with Nick in that one must be careful when posting a rant, for it invites criticism of that rant (and, subsequently and apparently, every relevant and non-relevant thing about you, check local listings).

    Meanwhile, regardless of Jenn’s naive and provocative initial post, she did have a valid concern, which has subsequently been clarified and put to bed in the course of the thread. Furthermore, Rachel posted a fine list of publications as examples. Finally, the girls (ladies? women? Rachel & Jenn?) have already gone ahead and arrived at consensus while the boys are still comparing the size of their members.

    I think Jenn meant that since I didn’t name the markets that make me wince, she was worried I was wincing at markets that she really likes. Luckily, the markets that she really likes are the same markets that I really like.

    Posted by Rachel Swirsky on Thursday December 10, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    Thanks, Rachel. Yes, that is what I meant.

    Posted by jenn on Thursday December 10, 2009 at 3:09 PM

     

    …I think this all was some weird misunderstanding on everybody’s part. Rachel and I pretty much cleared it up with this statement –

    “I think the confusion is generated by the fact that no one — including me — will specifically name the magazine names that make them wince (well, apart from Black Matrix).”

    By not naming names it could be thought that what was being talked about here were ALL small low-paying, non-paying, and semi-pro markets. You may not have seen that, but a lot of new authors did. That’s what I was upset about. The original posts may not have *meant* that to be the meaning, but many–including myself–saw this as the meaning. And that’s what I meant by “pulling up the ladder.” It looked like what was being said was that if you cannot get into a pro market then anywhere you did get into was crap. I can see that Rachel did not mean that. It just read that way by many.

    As much as I’ve been beat up today, I’m still glad that I wrote the post. It gave people a chance to clear up this misunderstanding. A lot of new authors would have walked away from this discussion with the wrong impressing of the smaller markets.

     

    Posted by jenn on Thursday December 10, 2009 at 3:41 PM

     This thread was ultimately helpful even if it got off on the wrong foot. (What are the chances we can leave it at that?)

  173. SF: You can cheerfully screw yourself out of an opportunity if you stay wedded to that five cent a word pay rate.

    OK, OK, I think I understand the issue here. You, SFMurphy, are a genius and slightly empowered with the gift of prognostication. You can tell, in advance, which market will publish your story and which will not. You can prove this because statistically speaking (Oh, wait, you’re no good at statistics) your acceptance rate is far higher than anyone else who has been submitting as much as you have. All the others submit higgledy piggledy and get lots of rejections, you, oh thou great seer, can tell in advance the one perfect market that simply cannot refuse to reject your stories. In fact, you’ve never been rejected, because you always find the market with the right “fit”.

    Well, I wouldn’t want to insult your amazing abilities of divination, nor could we possibly question your acceptance rate far above any other writer in your caliber.

    So, I won’t.

    Nope.

    Not me.

    But what I will say is that your advice, if given as advice to a new, or aspiring, or up-and-coming writer, who is not gifted with the soothsaying gene like you are, then I will say that your advice, as far as it applies to the aspiring-muggle-writers, then your advice is crap.

    You might as well tell a newbie skydiver to only go up in planes that aren’t going to burst into flame on takeoff. You of course have the gift of forsight to know which planes will go splewy on the runway, but the others won’t. So, your advice is crap. It’s useless.

    Oh, certainly, you know the drill. You’ve been in this game a long time. You’re the master of your domain.

    You’re not just another aspirant.  Oh no, you’re not.  You have two (count them, two) story sales (Interzone and Apex) two Honorable Mentions, two reprints and one publication in an upcoming anthology.  In addition, you do military research on the side for novelist John Birmingham.

    None of the folks here who have disagreed with you or who have raised an issue the Black Matrix have anywhere near as many publications as you.

    But for all the others out there who are aspiring to become professional writers, your advice is probably harmful to them. They just don’t know the drill the way you do.

    So, to the muggle-writers out there, I would say this: Write the best story you can write (take courses, workshops, join writers groups, get critiqued) and then find all the markets that might publish it, and submit them in order from the highest pay-per-word market to lowest. And while you’re waiting for each response, write another story. When you get a response, if it’s a rejection, then go to the next-highest-paying-market on the list, submit it there, and get back to writing your other story.

    Any aspiring writer who is submitting to a cheap market first because they think they’ve got better odds of getting accepted, rather than submitting to a possible pro-paying market first, all to avoid and minimize the number of rejections they have to deal with, is selling themselves short as a writer. And the last thing I would want to see is some aspiring writer submit to what he thinks is an “easier” market to avoid rejections and then try to hide that fact behind your “advice” that he thinks the cheaper market is the better “fit”.

    I know you’re too gifted to do such a thing, SF. But you’re like a 10th level wizard giving 7th level advice to 1st level mage wannabes. And your advice might end up making some writer play the part of Mickey Mouse in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. They’ll get themselves in trouble.

    So, again, to all the aspiring writers out there, write the best story you can, submit it to the best-paying-market-that-might-publish-it first, and while you’re waiting, write another story.

    And don’t worry, SF, this doesn’t apply to you, because like you said, you know the drill.

    I would not want to question your skill in that regard.

  174. Hmm, Johne, let’s say you get off a couple more vague insults (dick size, etc.) and then call an end to the conversation…how do you think that might go?

    You’re impressed with Jenn’s transparent attempt to save face by pretending that nobody was naming names of good non-professional markets, or, for that matter, that naming names matters at all as regards her post or her claims. And, frankly, Johne, you’re doing the same thing. You’ve been doing it since the beginning of this discussion at Scalzi’s.

    Here’s the post that started it all:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/12/01/in-the-spirit-of-the-pulps-and-paying-even-less

    Your comments from the beginning have involved throwing up the same flak and prevarications, the same nonsense about “places where up-and-coming authors can learn their chops” etc.  Let’s call it the Little Lie technique—start talking about something else and pretend that some agreement has been reached when other people say, “Yeah yeah, but we weren’t talking about that and we already said that.” You and Jenn and pretending that “Yeah, Yeah” is the whole of it. It’s not.

    Jenn is doing it, you are doing it. It is simply not true that this argument was about people failing to “name names” when it comes to good semi-professional venues. There was no confusion about Black Matrix or semi-pros, except for the confusion purposefully sown by, well, you and Jenn and a few others. That’s it.

    If Jenn wishes the conversation to end, she should just acknowledge the factual errors she made and apologize for propogating them and for defending them so viciously with personal attacks. She hasn’t done so, not by any real definition of apologizing. The one thing that comes even remotely close — “God, you guys are reading a lot more than I was trying to say. Yes, this all got very personal. For any part in that I played appologize. But some stuff is being said here just is going too far” — is a variation of “I’m sorry you’re all a bunch of assholes.” It’s childish crap.

    Rachel, rather inexplicably to my mind, has apologized for several things which were in no way wrong or incorrect. That’s on Rachel, not anyone else. Lots of people apologize just to make whatever nitwit they’ve found themselves entangled with shut up. Maybe Rachel’s doing that, maybe she’s not. It hardly matters though.

    If Jenn wants to be treated with anything other than contempt, she should act less contemptibly.

     

  175. About 17 years ago I was a member of the local school board. We had a long, drawn out protracted debate among ourselves on some motion, and after maybe 45 minutes of everyone holding forth, I was speechifying myself.

    After I talked another ten minutes, I realized that while the debate had been cathartic, we weren’t going to accomplish anything, and thought it would be a good idea to ask the motion’s proponent to withdraw the motion.

    So I asked, “who made this motion?”

    And the other six members said in unison, “You did!”*

    It’s nice that everyone had their own opinion. It’s also nice that this is a free country. We can all do what we want. As for me, while this subject – in all the places it has been carried on – has been interesting, I think at this point we are beating a dead horse into mucilage.

    That’s probably why we are degenerating into ad hominen attacks.

    I will continue to write what I like and submit where I like, in the order I like, for the pay rates I like. I hope everyone else out there does the same. There are some aspiring writers out there who may have learned something from all this. I don’t think my attitudes and experience are typical, so I wouldn’t hold myself out as an example for anyone to follow. For myself, I know what I want and what I am doing in the field.

    The issues of what you are willing to sell a story for, and to whom, are intensely personal. The subjects of what you need, want and care for are also personal. I also think that the best advice is always personal. I’ve had some people over the years tell me some tips and encouragement I have given them – when buttonholed at some convention – have been a great help. That’s because I ask questions back, look them in the eye, and size them up a bit.

    Advice gleaned from these kind of internet intrigues are, I believe, are much less useful. But if you learned something helpful, that’s fine. For my part, I don’t think I learned anything about the genre. I may have learned something about some people, though.

    Merry Christmas, y’all. Peace and goodwill and tranqulity abound. At least for a little while.

    Lou Antonelli

    * Yep, I didn’t win re-election.

  176. I didn’t sow confusion as much as radiate it. Nick, you write I have been asking the same questions since the beginning of Scalzi’s thread, and that is completely true. I have been consistent throughout because I was genuinely confused, and clearly was not the only one. We were asking questions which weren’t being answered initially, and kept asking them until they were. That hardly seems sinister to me.

    In the course of these threads, some (many? most?) have been more than patient, some have been barely civil, and some have been dicks. But that’s par for the course for internet threads, so no-one should be terribly surprised. What is surprising that so many writers who have the reputation of being careful observers of people were not perceptive enough early enough to know that they were not being understood.

    When Jenn made her post, replete in naivete and bluster, I understood where she was coming from. Without endorsing her defiance or her flip attitude (especially toward John Scalzi, yikes!) I understood Jenn’s confusion and her feelings that some were acting superior and condescending. Acting rude and sophomoric at the outset didn’t help Jenn’s cause, and I’m not defending her initial tone.

    However, some good things have unfolded here, and Jenn has modified her attitude from her initial defiant posture. That goes more to the patience and the willingness of the mature community to come together one more time and make these issues clear than anything, and kudos to all who took part, both in Scalzi’s handful of threads, elsewhere, and here. It took some time to explore the other side of the BMP issue, but I’m very glad it was. It was apparently necessary to others just coming into the scene and who did not understand the unspoken subtext which was apparently clear to the Pros.

    The intent of the hangers-on who seem bent on punishing Jenn further puzzle me. There’s a fine line between discipline and bullying / abuse. I have had kids, and I understand the purpose of discipline. It is about restoration, not punishment. It is twofold: to correct behavior, and to restore relationship. It is not about punishment, it is about teaching, where a more mature person patiently helps a less mature person become better. It seems to me that both purposes of discipline have already been accomplished in this thread. Good has been done here, awareness has been raised, and the primary purpose of the thread seems to have been long fulfilled. Sticking around to continue to batter Jenn is pointless, rude, and small.

  177. “For the people still banging on what Jenn said in her original post, what should she do, practically, to satisfy you? Update the original post itself to say, ‘I was mistaken about some things, others were unclear about others, we’ve been through all this in the comments?'”

    That would be nice, along with “I apologize for trashing the short fiction market without knowing what I was talking about and calling Scalzi the equivalent of a chucklehead” but I doubt we’ll get it. Again, my big concern isn’t Jen but the people she continued to confuse with her confusion. I don’t have any need to punish Jen, but this was her ill-considered attack on other people, not mine.

     

    SF, I wasn’t trying to dis your publication credits. I was just clarifying what Scalzi was saying and why Jen was wrong in her comments about the market. The SFWA is not a trade organization. It’s a writers group that advocates for writers and helps them promote and get information. There was some grousing at their narrowing their membership requirements, but they are entitled to set them, and you can’t really blame them for wanting to see writers decently paid. Their rates are suggestions and the people in the SFWA do not think that the semi-pro magazines are crap. But they are considered semi-pro because they can’t offer authors full rates. Black Matrix is not even offering standard semi-pro rates. Interzone may not offer the “pro” rate, but it does try to offer a pretty decent rate and it offers other benefits — reputation, good editing, a decent audience and distribution.

    “And how is it patently false that this is not an attack on Black Matrix for the purpose of keeping the market tight? “

    Because they don’t want to keep the market tight. You’re applying a model to the short fiction market that doesn’t actually exist.

    “One problem I have with many of the existing markets is that their word counts are too low. “

    They have to weigh production costs with how high they can price the magazine. Publishing longer stories means publishing fewer stories per issue (and fewer new writers.) So magazines choose. The bigger magazines can do longer pieces usually. Reader preferences are also sometimes involved.

    “Another problem I have with some markets (Strange Horizons being the prime example) is that they have a list of Thou Shalt Nots which run nearly 19 pages when it is printed out.  I don’t need Jed, Susan or Karen writing my story for me.”

    And they don’t need authors telling them they have to buy a story that isn’t going to interest their particular audience. It’s not a Thou Shalt Not list; it’s a our readers don’t want this list, which is probably compiled out of A) things they see a lot that don’t interest them; and B) things they know aren’t going to interest their audience. As you say, they need stories that are going to fit.

    “Another problem I have is that many of the markets in the US especially are particularly hostile to any story which might feature the Midwestern US in anything but a negative light.  They are also actively hostile toward stories which concern matters military that again portray those matters as anything other than negative. “

    I find this an odd assertion, given that I’ve read western and mid-western stories that were positive in the past and that military SF — which often shows military folk in a positive or semi-positive light — is exceedingly popular in the States. (In fact, Scalzi writes it.) You may have run into an editor with a preference, but overall, I’d caution about believing rejections are a matter of prejudices rather than that the story didn’t grab them.

    “In other words, my stories aren’t going to fit a place like Strange Horizons.  In fact, if I had sent Tearing Down Tuesday or The Limb Knitter to that market, they’d have rejected them both. “

    Well since Strange Horizons has their list, that may well be the case, but it’s rather hard to know for certain whether a particular magazine is going to reject your story or not unless you submit it to them. Writers have limited time and have to choose, but ignoring better markets on the presupposition that you’ll be rejected seems rather self-defeating to me. Short fiction marketing is largely a matter of playing the odds — the more stories you have out there and the more magazines you submit to, the better your odds. But submitting to a publication that doesn’t know what it’s doing and takes advantage of writers doesn’t seem like a very sound strategy to me. But every writer gets to decide.

    “On the other hand, perhaps Black Matrix has a market where one of my stories will fit.  If they do, then rest assured, I’ll send them the story.” 

    I’ve had too many friends enter into similar situations that I would be interested in Black Matrix, because the benefits are slim to none and there’s often a cost. I’d rather take a shot at a pro or decent semi-pro publication. Stuff like Black Matrix is pulling tends to help shrink the market and turn off readers. But again, it’s the writers choice. Take Scalzi’s advice or don’t.

     

     

     

     

     

  178. Johne: The intent of the hangers-on who seem bent on punishing Jenn further puzzle me.

    Good lord. The intent of *Jennifer* is what puzzles me. She’s the one who keeps coming into this thread announcing nonsense like “All I ever said was” and then rewrite reality. I’m certainly not “bent on punishing” her, but I do respond to her posts when they’re chock full of nonsense. And her posts have been full of nonsense.

    But even now, I’m not “bent on punishing” Jenn, I’m replying to people like you who also seem to have an amazingly selective memory.

    I don’t expect Jenn to apologize, or to say “yes, I said that and that was wrong”. And I don’t expect you to either.

    But what you *can* expect is every time you post something on the internet that is untrue, don’t be surprised if people respond by pointing out the untruths. That’s not “bent on punishing” anyone, that’s just putting a spotlight on malarkey that needs spotlighting.

    Jenn said a bunch of nonsense. People called her on it. Her most recent statements about the whole thing are that she only said one thing and everything else has been wiped from her memory. Course, people can still read the nonsense in the original post. She just can’t remember it and appears to have trouble focusing on it.

    Oh well, at least she stopped trying to say “We all agree that all I ever said was…”

    And then there are folks like you:

    When Jenn made her post, replete in naivete and bluster, I understood where she was coming from. Without endorsing her defiance or her flip attitude (especially toward John Scalzi, yikes!) I understood Jenn’s confusion and her feelings that some were acting superior and condescending. Acting rude and sophomoric at the outset didn’t help Jenn’s cause, and I’m not defending her initial tone.

    What Jenn did in the original post is make numerous statements about other people that were flat out untrue. What I find just absolutely hilarious about that entire paragraph of yours up there is that of all the descriptors you manage to use, not one of them acknowledges all those untruths that Jenn wrote.

    It wasn’t just naivete and bluster, it was untrue. It wasn’t just defiant and flip, it was untrue (especially towards Scalzi, yikes!). It wasn’t just confusion, it was untrue. It wasn’t just rude and condescending, it was untrue.

    And yet, of all the words you can find to describe the original post, “untrue” never comes up.

    OK. Fine.

    I don’t expect Jenn to acknowledge the untruths she wrote about other people any more than I expect you to call those words the untruths that they were.

    What I expect is people like you calling the truth some kind of “punishment” that you just can’t understand.

     

     

  179. Alrighty, Greg. You’ve revealed the truth about the truth of the truth. Truer words were never as true. (People like me? Greg, there’s nobody else like me. You can thank your lucky stars or favorite deity for that!)  ;)

  180. Strange Horizons and Asimovs both publish Deb Coates who writes fantasy that takes place in a positive, peaceful midwest. (Mostly mentioning this because I <3 her stories and everyone should read them.)

  181. The Corporations Division database maintained by the Oregon Secretary of State says that Black Matrix Publishing LLC is a Domestic Limited Liability Company. It’s not a nonprofit. Here’s the basic link if anyone wants to look at the info or pay to get a copy of Black Matrix’s Articles of Organization, which were filed in March 2009.

    http://www.filinginoregon.com/index.htm

     

     

     

  182. So, Johne, given your non-reply, I take it that you agree with every single word that Jenn has said? It’s all true? The pros are out to keep the non-pros down? The pro markets shut all the doors to non-pro authors? Pro authors beat up on non-pro-rate-paying markets simply to remove the ability for non-pro authors the ability to get their “tokens” and keep them out of the pro markets? They’re pulling up the “ladders”?

    It’s all true? the only thing that needed to be cleared up was that one and only thing that Jenn “really” said, which was that not all semi-pro markets should be lumped together as “crap”. Right? Everything else stands? Don’t call all the semi-pro markets crap, be sure to clear that up, but all the nonsense about the pros and pro markets is the gods-honest truth.

    Glad you cleared up the truth for us, Johne.

    Oh, that, and you pay ten dollars for stories over 1,500 words. That’s the truth. Or maybe that’s just a fact. Either way, I guess it’s less than half a penny per word for most stories.

    So really, you’re only concern here was that RGR not be labeled “crap”. Everything nasty said about the pro market was just, what, water under the brider? Venting frustration? Doesn’t count because people had their fingers crossed when they said it?

    What’s hilarious is that no one actually called RGR “crap”, but you seem to have had a dog in this fight specifically because that’s how you took the attack on Black Matrix. You decided it was an attack on you as well. Meanwhile, Jenn spews forth a litany of false statemetns about pro authors, pro markets, and pros in the field of SF/F, but you just can’t be bothered to sic your dog on those untruths, can you, Johne?

    No, now that poeple said for the millionth time that no one ever said all non-pro markets are crap, well, everything you or Jen or anyone else on your side ever said just sort of fades from memory. Just because Jenn wrote it, and just because it wasn’t actually true, well, who keeps count of stuff like that. What’s important is that “ray gun revival” didn’t get lumped in with the label of “crap”, right? The rest of it was really irrelevant.

    Come on, Johne, mock the concept of truth one more time.

     

  183. Greg

    I am holding you personally responsible for the mouthful of croissant that I have just scraped off my keyboard; the next time you refer to a website could you please give some warning?

    I appreciate that the blurb on RGR isn’t meant to be funny but that’s no excuse.

     

  184. Johne, what can I say? I don’t think you were honestly confused. I think you were and are just running interference for your own magazine. I think so because this is what happens, in broad strokes, any time this discussion comes up. Not with you, necessarily, but with anyone who might be frequently submitting to bottom-tier publications or running one.

    I just find it more than a little amazing that the “confusion” people experience tends to adapt exactly to their perceived short-term self-interests, and turns them into the heroes of their own little dramas. And that it happens every single time.

     

    I’ve never been so confused in my life.

  185. <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Times New Roman”; panose-1:0 2 2 6 3 5 4 5 2 3; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:50331648 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:”Trebuchet MS”; panose-1:0 2 11 6 3 2 2 2 2 2; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:50331648 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Trebuchet MS”;} table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-parent:””; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

    Greg, do you always put words in the mouths of your opponents? You’ve certainly put a lot in mine. I’ve already said what I think, and it is more nuanced that you have restated.

     

    There’s opinion and there’s perspective and there’s fact. Truth? I leave truth to philosophers and theologians.

     

    My observation is that Jenn had an opinion based on inaccurate facts. After the facts were clarified, her opinion was apparently modified based on those facts to more accurately reflect reality.

     

    My observation is that this discussion is substantially over and has been for quite some time. My opinion is that to continue to bang on Jenn’s first post after subsequent ones displayed a changed opinion as she better understand the real facts seems brutish to me, and I questioned the value of beating dead horses, and the sportsmanship of flaying the author of a post when so much has happened since then.

     

    Reading anything more into my own perspective is silly.

     

     

    Nick,

    In John Scalzi’s original thread, he wrote:

    Johne Cook:

     

    You know what, not a single goddamned excuse in the world justifies paying a writer today a rate that would have been pathetic during the Depression. 

     

    Taken at face value, as one who is, indeed, editor of a token payment rag, that was a very chilling. But after thinking about it, I figured that couldn’t be correct. I’m a token pay editor looking at things through that perspective. I figured context is important, and it gradually became apparent to me that John wrote his post from his own perspective, that of the Pro author. That was consistent with the primary point of the post, and perhaps should have been assumed. A number of us asked the question in a number of different ways, and to the best of my knowledge, he never answered those questions in that thread. However, he did make a new post a day or two later that settled that question for me as far as he was concerned. Others, however, continued to say what Scalzi was not, that writers, especially up-and-coming writers, would all be better off only submitting to Pro (or Semipro) publications. So while my confusion was clarified as far as John was concerned, the issue was not completely addressed.

     

    When I read Jenn’s post, while I didn’t agree with her tone and questioned her conclusions, I understood where she was coming from, and hoped that her questions would be answered.

     

    They were, as were my lingering ones. For this, I am grateful. That’s it.

  186. After the facts were clarified, her opinion was apparently modified based on those facts to more accurately reflect reality.”

    Philosophizing over the definition of truth will get you nowhere.  Please cite exactly where Jenn says she doesn’t believe there’s a divide between pros and non-pros, and the pros aren’t “pulling” the ladder up.

    I’ve Jenn that direct question twice, and I’ve yet to hear an answer.

  187. Others, however, continued to say what Scalzi was not, that writers, especially up-and-coming writers, would all be better off only submitting to Pro (or Semipro) publications.”

    Who said this?

  188. Johne: do you always put words in the mouths of your opponents?

    I quoted Jenn repeatedly, more than once. I pointed out the untruths of her words and (1) she has replied that “all she said” was not to lump all the non-pro markets as “crap” and (2) she has ignored everything else.

    “to continue to bang on Jenn’s first post after subsequent ones displayed a changed opinion”

    If you don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, then don’t put words in Jenn’s mouth. Nowhere has she said any such thing that would indicate she has changed her opinion on *anything* with the one exception being that she now acknowledges that not all semi-pro markets are “crap”. She has not said word one about any of her other untrue accusations, several people have pointed out to her that her untruths still stand, and her only response has been that this conversation is “over”, everything is “settled”, and that we ought to “move along”. That’s your response as well.

    But I will note for those reading along who do *not* like putting words in people’s mouths, that Jenn never said anything that would lead anyone to believe that she has recanted all her other untruths.

    And if what Jenn was saying is not actually true, and Jenn has somewhere magically recanted it without being visible to mortal, muggle, eyes, why is it that when you used all those adjectives you used to describe Jenn’s initial posts, that the word “untrue” never came up? Of the litany of descriptors you used, you said they were everything but you never said they were not true. If Jenn has already made clear that she acknowledges the falseness of her initial claims, why did you avoid calling them false yourself?

    Because she didn’t.

    When I read Jenn’s post, while I didn’t agree with her tone and questioned her conclusions”

    Really? You “questioned her conclusions”? Is that a round-about way of saying that Jenn wrote things that weren’t actually really true? Bush/Cheney swore up and down that there were WMD’s in Iraq. Do you “question their conclusions”, or can you man up and say they *weren’t true*?

    See, here’s the deal. Jenn started out with a litany of accusations about people and the industry. All of them were wrong. She has since done nothing to address her untruths. Instead she has claimed that “all she said” was that the non-pro markets shouldn’t be lumped together as “crap”. Everything else, apparently, has become “unsaid” like in Orwell’s 1984 or something. And then she declared the discussion “over”, tucked tail and stopped posting.

    The one thing I’ll give her credit for is she stopped posting. Because every time she posted, she dodged the truth. You, on the other hand, keep on posting, and every time you post, you make it hilariously clear that truth isn’t your priority, that your priority was to get the concessions you wanted. And what you wanted was an “out” for Ray Gun Revival so you could pay half a penny per word, or less, and not be lumped together with all the other “crap”. Once you got that sorted out, everything, and I mean everything, else just ceased to be relevant to you. You couldn’t care less what Jenn said that wasn’t true, and you couldn’t care less that Jenn never actually corrected all the untruths she said.

    You simply wave it all away with your own assertion that she had a “changed opinion” that nullified everything, even though she specifically claimed later that “all she said” was that semi-pro markets shouldn’t be lumped together as “crap”. That’s all you cared about, so the rest of it didn’t happen as far as you’re concerned.

    So, don’t put words into Jenn’s mouth. She made a litany of untrue claims about pro writers and pro markets, and the only thing she every had a changed opinion about was that not all semi-pro markets are “crap”.

  189. Without naming names, for it is not my intent to pick a fight with the individuals holding these opinions, here are some representative quotes. None of them are ‘wrong,’ per se, but you might see where taken as a whole, there was room for a little clarification.

    In this first one, note that this author has no use for anything less than a straight-up Pro market.

    1) We have lesser teams to allow people the chance to practice and grow. In writing we have places for that called “critique groups” and “writing forums”. Looking at the non-paying and token, semi-pro mags handing out form rejections with no editorial advice… what does that teach? Nothing. What does getting accepted gain you? Well, for the semi-pros at least you know you don’t suck, but the rest is just confidence. Misplaced, mostly. There’s no point in showcasing crap. Get some feedback on it. Sppend time practicing. Take your rejections and keep on chugging. If I write something, and no one semi-pro or above will touch it, that says something to me: “This needs work.” I don’t take it to the lower levels for $20 bucks or some “exposure”. Noy everything is fit to be displayed. Them’s the facts, and there’s a lot of writers out there who need to suck it up.

    2) The problem, of course, is that as long as authors submit, magazine can offer very low, or no pay. And don’t get me wrong. I think they mean well. They mean to put out a good product and hope money flows in. I don’t blame the theory; I just don’t think it works.

    I’m a complete nobody author, but I decided early on that I’d start with the best paying mags and work my way down. I never submitted to the “no pay” or “exposure.” Why? Not because of my ego, but because I didn’t see the point. With no pay at all, and few readers, it would be the tiniest of blips on my “writing resume” and in some cases wouldn’t even be considered a real credit (I don’t decide these things, but those reading my queries do.)

    This is a nuanced post that creates a certain tone about the zines at the lower end of things.

    3) Writers shouldn’t publish “for the exposure” or with the idea that people starting out should start out in the non-pro markets. First of all, some credits are not worth listing; not only do they not impress, but they actually make you look like a bad writer–as in: “This is the level they’re at?”

    Better to have no credits than lame ones.

    Second, the exposure is not all that great. A writer looking at a site with [Vaguely SFnal Term] Magazine at the top thinks Magazine, but they might have a much smaller reach than, say, a popular blog. Frankly, I think a writer is better off trunking a story rather than sending it 4theluv. Or publishing it on their blog.

    The thing is, I get the theory, and understand the opinions. I don’t think less of the people for holding them. I’ve read variations of these sentiments countless times in various threads since John’s first post. I’ve read enough of them that when Jenn made her post, I understood where she was coming from. I can guess that she was reading many of the same comments that I was. This is why I balked at Greg’s insistence on defining what the ‘truth’ was. The truth is that there were enough people writing things that were skeptical of the value of the amateur and 4theluv publications that, well, some of us were looking for clarification.

  190. Greg, for a great lover of truth, you certainly have an affinity for twisting words. When I asked about putting words in mouths, it was clearly a rhetorical question referring to all the words you were putting in mine.

    I note that you give Jenn credit for stopping posting. It is difficult not to see you as anything but a bully whose primary interest was less about truth and more for the thrill of throwing your weight around. Unless, of course, I’ve misunderstood your motives and miscontrued your words as thoroughly as you have mine.

  191.    Johne, you were asked a direct question as to who said this:

       “Others, however, continued to say what Scalzi was not, that writers, especially up-and-coming writers, would all be better off only submitting to Pro (or Semipro) publications.”

       Not answering that question and “not naming names” only makes you a further laughing stock.  Cite your sources.  That’s what writers do.

  192.    Heck, Johne, I even asked you a direct question.  Do you realized how dodgy you look by not answering them?

       Greg is not twisting words here.  He’s quoting things said by other by other people verbatim that were proven not to be true.  Trying to further confound the argument and make yourself look like the victim only makes you look more the fool among people who do research the markets.

  193. I compiled the quotes from this link:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2009/12/01/in-the-spirit-of-the-pulps-and-paying-even-less/

    My interest is in the ideas from the authors and not who held them lest the authors in question think I have a grudge against them (and to be crystal clear, I have nothing against any of these writers).

    Greg made a big hairy deal about uncovering ‘truth’without stopping to understand Jenn’s perspective, which was the truth as she understood it. If her perspective was based on invalid facts that have since been clarified, I’m less likely to sit in judgment on her and wonder why Greg is so quick to. Reading his rant against S.F. Murphy, and then Jenn, and then myself, it is difficult to see him as anything other than an old-fashioned internet troll acting the part of a bully. Perhaps he believes that he’s fighting the good fight, but he’s fighting it in a bad way, and the net result does nobody any favors. I don’t care for bullies and stood up for Jenn, whom I don’t know, because of the tone of the attacks. Truth is important, yes, but truth without love is brutality.

    As it seems we won’t get out of this thread until the trolls bludgeon a confession out of somebody, I’ll give my own. I don’t agree with every single word that Jenn said. I never said I did. But by the same token, I did understand where she might have gotten her ideas from. I don’t think ‘Pro authors beat up on non-pro-rate-paying markets simply to remove the ability for non-pro authors the ability to get their “tokens” and keep them out of the pro markets.’ I don’t think ‘they’re pulling up the “ladders”.’ I don’t think it’s ever wise to tweak the Scalzi. I do think Jenn and Rachael achieved a consensus of sorts, and the list of publications was worth some misunderstanding. I’m glad Rachael was mature. I’m sorry so many others, including myself, have not always been.

  194. Johne:

    Jenn has not said anything to change her stance on the “pulling up ladders” issue, which is part of what Greg’s been about.  That you seem to consider people who ask direct questions of others trolls is rather disconcerting.

    The fact that you still did not cite your sources is even more so.  As an editor you should know who holds what ideas, and if you’re worried about a grudge, you should be upfront an honest about not bearing one.

    That you don’t seem willing to answer direct questions with upfront answers can damage you in the end.

  195. Thanks, Johne.

    BTW, the only thing I know about Raygun Revival is that y’all got caught up in some silliness where people tried to pull you from online archives because you were mistakenly identified as violating copyright on account of having used Asimov’s name or somesuch? I hope that got resolved.

     

  196. FWIW, I don’t need sources. I just wanted to know whether the impression was still that I, Cat, Tobias, etc, thought SFWA pro status necessarily made a market superior to a non-SFWA pro market. Knowing Johne got those comments from the original Scalzi thread makes sense to me — a couple of the comments made me blink when I first read the thread, though they may not be the same ones he pointed out. 

    I know some of the original charges were never retracted, like the ladder-pulling and my alleged hostility to new writers, but I don’t know if that’s a big deal at this point. I think Jenn meant to imply she was not standing behind those charges when she said her main point was to defend the semi-pros. If she happened by here later and wanted to confirm that, it would be nice, but I understand why she may not return.

  197. That’s why I’m asking John to cite things… if I know where he’s coming from instead of “not naming names,” I can try to take a different perspective and see the source of his arguement.  I admit to being adamant about “citing sources” but that’s what happens when you’re the son of a writer and journalist.

  198. Rachel, as far as I’m concerned all misunderstandings were cleared up long ago. You basically said that you didn’t mean to imply that all of the semi-pro markets were “crap.” I take you at your word.

  199. I do think a few of the commenters on Scalzi’s first issue gave the definite impression that they felt any mag not paying pro rates was beneath their notice.  And I can understand being taken aback by that–I certainly was.

    But that’s kind of irrelevant here–the original post did not say “some people commenting on these entries” it pointed at the entries themselves.  Which did not say what Jenn thought they said.  Rather transparently so, as has been pointed out.

    I think Jenn put up an ill-considered post in an unfortunately public place.  The reaction left her feeling cornered, and Rachel has given her an escape route.  I don’t blame her for taking it, and I think it might be to her benefit to be able to retreat, regroup, and reconsider.

    I know this is very frustrating to those of us who are looking at the very obvious inaccuracies and untruths in the original post and seeing how they might  mislead new writers in the future, but I strongly suspect Jenn isn’t in a place right now to deal with that.  It may well be that if she attempted to deal with that right now, it would be in an unfortunate way.  She’s better off calming down first, and spending some time thinking.

    Maybe SF signal would consider asking someone to write a rebuttal–one that isn’t right down in comments, which not everyone reads?  I don’t know.  I don’t know the solution, but I think Jenn might really need to hide for a while before she’s ready to answer questions about whether she’s changed her mind.

  200. Jenn, repeating that over and over again isn’t going to help.  It won’t make it true, either.

    Seriously, take a breather from comments here and once you have your balance back spend some time pondering why so many people don’t think the situation is resolved.  It’s not–you would do well to work through why.  But you can’t do it from where you’re at right now, it’s clear.

  201. Johne: “I note that you give Jenn credit for stopping posting.”

    Yeah, well, see below:

    “It is difficult not to see you as anything but a bully whose primary interest was less about truth and more for the thrill of throwing your weight around. Unless, of course, I’ve misunderstood your motives and miscontrued your words as thoroughly as you have mine.”

    Bully much yourself there Johne?

    My motives are simple. Jenn made a litany of accusations: Pros like to “pull up the ladder” on non-pro writers. Pros like to keep non-pro writers “down”. pro markets don’t accept stories from non-pro writers. Pro markets will return submissions from non-pro writers without reading them.

    None of them are true. And yet after having several people point out to her several times that they aren’t true, Jenn has never actually addressed any of these untruths. Nor have people like you.

    Jenn: “Rachel, as far as I’m concerned all misunderstandings were cleared up long ago. You basically said that you didn’t mean to imply that all of the semi-pro markets were “crap.” I take you at your word”

    All misunderstandings? Really? So, the only misunderstanding was whether Rachael implied that all semi-pro markets were “crap” or not? What about you making blanket statements about all pros wanting to ‘pull up the ladder’ on non-pros? Or you making blanket statemetns that pros like to keep non-pros “down”. Or that pro markets reject non-pro submissions without reading them? Or that pro markets require authors to acquire semi-pro credits before publishing them?

    What’s hilarious, Jenn, is that you and Johne can say with a straight face that the ONLY misunderstanding was from Rachel, and that all the bad-mouthing you did in your original post somehow didn’t happen.

    You talked a lot of crap about real people, and now you act as if it didn’t happen.

     

     

  202. Hi, Rachel,

    Yeah, that was the SFWA v. Scribd flap over Labor Day weekend in 2007. That was all ulimately resolved well, I think, for the most part. SFWA leadership changed during the next elections, Scribd improved their service, our docs were restored, and I made some cool new friends. I do feel sorry for the President of SFWA at the time – he was a good guy, and got caught up in something that wasn’t his doing.

  203. And Rachel, I admit that I was a bit harsh on you in my orginal post. I was pretty angry and blind rage can be, well, blind. I assumed ill intent. I shouldn’t have. I don’t know you, so to assume ill meaning was inappropiate. I’m not sorry that I wrote the post, just the tone and the assumptions of your character.

    And John, I sent this to you personally, but I think it’s worth saying here as well: Thank you for your comments on this post. You gentle chiding of me is deserved and accepted. Your wisdom and observations on this matter were (are) impeccable.

  204. Amazingly, Johne, Scalzi’s quote doesn’t say anything about all semi-pro or token payment or non-paying venues being crappy.

    It says that there is no excuse for such venues paying writers a rate that would have been pathetic during the Great Depression.

    If you were really taking Scalzi’s claim at face value, you would have been able to stop at the issue of pay rate. Instead, you spent the last week sending up flak about mentoring writers and other such nonsense.

    Like I said, I’m amazed how easily “confused” some people are, especially when their confusion allows them to discuss and defend their own projects—while of course ignoring the real slagging and attacks on others—for more than a week.

     

  205. I’m beginning to sense the problem. Johne, in a very real way, is semiliterate. He literally does not understand English sentences.  For example, he cites this as a quote from someone who has no use for non-pro markets:

     

    1) We have lesser teams to allow people the chance to practice and grow. In writing we have places for that called “critique groups” and “writing forums”. Looking at the non-paying and token, semi-pro mags handing out form rejections with no editorial advice… what does that teach? Nothing. What does getting accepted gain you? Well, for the semi-pros at least you know you don’t suck, but the rest is just confidence. Misplaced, mostly. There’s no point in showcasing crap. Get some feedback on it. Sppend time practicing. Take your rejections and keep on chugging. If I write something, and no one semi-pro or above will touch it, that says something to me: “This needs work.” I don’t take it to the lower levels for $20 bucks or some “exposure”. Noy everything is fit to be displayed. Them’s the facts, and there’s a lot of writers out there who need to suck it up.

     

    Now, even ignoring that this quote contains the clause, “Well, for the semi-pros at least you know you don’t suck” (thus acknowledging that semi-pro venues publish work that does not suck) the commenter here is clearly simply taking issue with the claim (made explicitly by Johne in other parts of the thread) than bottom-tier publications are ways for authors to learn how to write. The commenter points out that they are generally not: form rejections teach nothing, and being accepted teaches nothing.

    (One can also add that anyone can be an “editor” of a bottom-tier market, so what actual editorial skills or mentorship they can possibly provide would generally be extremely limited, but the commenter doesn’t.)

    The other commenters were simply stating facts. Very tiny venues have few readers. Venues that do not pay do not pay. Nothing in those comments can be taken even remotely as the claim that all non-pro markets are crappy.

    So we are left with Johne simply not being very familiar with the English language. Not a good thing for someone who claims to run a magazine in order to mentor new writers.

     

     

     

     

  206. It’s all true, Nick. I think you were assuming I was smarter than I really am, and I freely admit it. They dont’ call me Cap’t ADD for nothing. If it appeared that I was floundering around trying to understand what the community stance was on pubs like ours based on the statements I’ve already quoted, I really was. I’ve already explained what my thought process was, and you have found it wanting. It is what it is.

    I am no Machiavellian genius trying to curry favor for my own enrichment. I clearly don’t know how to make money via creative writing and I misunderstood those who are my literary betters. This isn’t snark, it isn’t sarcasm cleverly designed to sting you with a zinger, and it isn’t me playing the victim. I own it all.

  207. ‘I’m not sorry that I wrote the post’

    Then you are an idiot. For the rest of your writing career that garbage will sit on the web, demonstrating that you are an idiot to anyone who Googles your name, and you can never take it back. The only way to mitigate that damage is to accept that the post was just plain wrong and to proffer a simple and sincere apology to the people you maligned. Instead you are still trying to justify your actions.

    And just to add to the idiocy you are still apparently incapable of grasping that whilst editors will forgive just about anything short of ritual sacrifice of their firstborn if you give them a really good story, readers don’t and won’t cut you the same slack.

     

  208. So Jenn, do you still believe that there is some divide between professional writers and those not yet in the pro markets, and do you beileve the pro writers and editors are trying to keep new writers out of what you consider the big leagues?

    A simple yes or no answer will suffice.

  209. I don’t see the point of jumping on Johne, myself. But what I am doing is not bullying Jen. Jen is someone who was trying to pick a fight and doing so without considering the consequences.

    Jen made an inflammatory post that was completely inaccurate about the short fiction market and accused Scalzi and Rachel of insidious motives and behavior. Her bonafides for these claims was that she’s in an MFA program and has published stories, which means really it’s quite strange that she had the view of the market that she did, but I am assuming she held it out of ignorance, not malice. She also misinterpeted what these people were saying, though she is not the first to do so.

    When it was first explained to her by people in the field that she was wrong, she didn’t listen much. But then she did eventually accept that Rachel was not trying to screw over new writers and sort of apologized to her. As far as I’m aware, she never apologized to Scalzi, nor did she ever correct her inaccurate statements about the short fiction market.

    And that’s the problem, not just that Jen made a mistake. Because while “all misunderstandings” may have been cleared up for Jen, they were not all cleared up for other people. Other people in the thread were still wondering if her inaccurate claims about the short fiction market were true and if Scalzi was dumping on all semi-pro magazines, etc. Which is the only reason I entered into the conversation at all.

    What is quite clear is that Jen is not going to acknowledge that her claims about the short fiction market were wrong, which I’m sorry, I’ve got little patience for. But I do think at this point people involved in the conversation have a better idea of things. I hope so. Beyond that, I have no interest in Jen.

     

     

  210. To be fair, Kat, I asked for it. I knew what I was getting myself into, and did it anyway. I may not be altogether smart, but I will own what I did in my well-intentioned stupidity. I jumped in to defend Jenn because of the tenor of the responses made to her, ignoring the tenor of her original post, as well as subsequent posts. I think those are fair statements, and I don’t duck them just because it makes me look foolish in retrospect. Perhaps it was a case of chivalry getting in the way of responsibility. There’s more than enough blame to go around. I’m not above accepting mine.

  211. I think people see a discussion that touches a nerve and get involved no matter how much of a nobody the original poster might be, and “for the luv” markets definitely touch a nerve. 

     

    Personally, I don’t think they’re a bad thing.  Short fiction, if not totally dead, is coughing up blood and having a hard time focusing these days, so seeing the hobby markets pop up and attract newbie writers isn’t a shock.  But to others who are pinning their hopes to the idea that there’s still life left in short fiction, they see these amateur/semi-pro magazines as devaluing their work.  If there is an army of amateur writers out there willing to give it away for free, why would anyone want to pay for the good stuff…  This is the Harlan Ellison argument, and it’s not necessarily wrong, just misplaced considering the state of the market.

     

    The only thing I do take issue with is the idea that there are no semi-pro markets in any other genres.  They are in EVERY genre, and in greater numbers than in SF or Mystery.  The biggest concentration of “for the luv” markets are in Horror fiction and Lit fiction.  Horror fiction pretty much died in the early 90’s and the only thing keeping it moving is the small press and “for the luv” markets.  And seriously, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting four or five semi-pro literary markets.  These places exist to cater to MFA students who will graduate in debt, unable to get a job teaching, and with a head full of bad advice and a portfolio full of over-workshopped, dull writing that they’re desperate to “publish” in order to make themselves feel better about their decision to waste time and money by signing up for the biggest college degree scam of the past 40 years. 

     

    But that’s a different argument.

     

    In the end, it all comes down to goals.  What you want and how serious you are about what you do.  These amateur markets that pay very little or nothing and have low standards for acceptance are going to either be irrelevant in a bio or count against you.  If, however, all you want is the quick, orgasmic spurt of seminal satisfaction that comes with any acceptance, no matter how irrelevant, then go with the “for the luv” markets.  My guess is eventually, once you’ve been at this for a while and realize how meaningless those “publication” credits actually are, you’ll think differently. 

     

    Or maybe not.

     

     

Comments are closed.