May 25th, 2012

Writing and Money, Part 2

Here’s the second installment of my writing and money post. Here, I’ll try to get into details about what’s realistic for writers to earn on journal publications (in Canada only–who knows what they do in other countries). I’m not the be-all of knowledge on this stuff, and I’m not going to be able to comment on some things (poetry) so please chime in if you know more than I do! It turns out I have so much to say on the topic of finances that I’ll have to keep extending the series. Tune in next time for reading fees and travel expenses–yay!!

Publishing a short story. Among established journals with some grant money, a longish story often earns around $200-250. Younger journals and/or those with less steady funding often pay less, while some of the big-deal journals pay more. I’ve been paid everything from $50 to (only a couple times, and I’m not holding my breath for the next one) more than $500.

When is it ok to publish a story for free? Often–I do it regularly, if one ore more of the following conditions are met: (1) it gives you a chance to work with an editor your respect and who you think can help you improve; (2) it gives you a chance to expose your work to a section of the reading world you haven’t previously had access to, and you think they would like it; (3) a friend has asked you to do it as a favour and you want to do this for your friend. All of these are rewarding in their own various ways, often much more than a cheque you won’t even remember spending.

When is it not ok to publish a story for free? (1) If it’s a print journal or anthology that does not offer contributors copies. EVERY print journal/anthology should give EVERY contributor at least one free copy for their personal archives, even if no other payment is offered. A second copy (aka, the parents’ copy) is a nice touch, but not necessary. There is no reason you should publish and have no evidence that it even happened. Some of these are scams–they publish as many folks as possible and then sell mainly to them. Some are just woefully ignorant of what’s acceptable–they’ll learn, and you can submit to them later. Of course, none of this applies to online journals, as the internet is free for us all.

When else is it a bad idea to publish for nothing? When you don’t know the editors, the readership, or anything else about the journal and are just doing it “for the credit”–don’t do that. A list–long or short–of unknown literary publications after your name is just not impressive enough to warrant parting with your precious work when you have no other reason to do so. Money, while not in itself ALL that important, is often a sign that a journal is established, organized, and respectful of its writers. You shouldn’t necessarily take payment as a sign that the payer is legit, but…it’s promising, anyway. Many great literary enterprises are just some guy and his friends in the basement, but it’s hard to discern those from the fly-by-nighters if you have no other info.

This article is somewhat lame because I don’t know much about the markets for poetry, literary non-fiction, etc. Any thoughts?

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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