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In amongst last Friday's 'Interesting posts' collection, was one about non-paying markets, by my friend, aalford. in which, he lists some of the non-paying sites that he enjoys reading.
The question of why many writers look down on these types of publications also came up, as well as one about whether or not his readers would ever submit to one.  I gave him my answer (for me, some form of cashy-money payment, however small, is a matter of principal), but it got me thinking about this from the other side. 

Assuming the publication or e-zine is attempting to make money - even if it's just to cover costs - I'd say they darned well ought to pay their writers, just as they no doubt pay their printer/site designer/web-host etc.  I really can't see the downside of offering (say) $5 per story as opposed to a big fat zero.  Unless writers don't care if they get paid or not, in which case, why bother offering, right?

There's certainly all manner of non-paying markets, so maybe it's just me.  Maybe most other writers submit to paying and non-paying markets alike.  If they don't, then I'd say the non-payers are making a mistake, 'cause their paying competitors are getting first dibs on all the good stories.

How about you?

Is asking for free materiel a good business strategy for a publication?

Do you ever submit your work to non-paying markets?

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Nov. 4th, 2009 07:27 pm (UTC)
No, it's not a good idea, and I'll give you one good reason. I made the mistake of working for a lot of magazines that pleaded poverty in the Eighties and Nineties, and all of them had the same MO: "We can't afford to pay right now, but we hope to pay in the near future once we're successful." Problem is, if they're getting you to work for free, why the hell would they ever want to become profitable and then have to share profits with the people happily working for free?

A case in point: until 1996, I worked as a regular contributor to Science Fiction Eye, once one of the most prestigious of the science fiction essay magazines to come out of the zine boom. Shortly after I came aboard, I noticed that the editor/publisher, right after jettisoning the guy who actually made the magazine what it was, went out of his way to scuttle any chance of it being successful. He deliberately categorized the "Eye" so the vote was split for the Hugos. The magazine became later and later, and he'd come up with insane lies as to why it was late. (My favorite was that he had a printer in Wisconsin that shipped copies by truck to him in North Carolina, and the six-month delay between issues was that the truck broke down...in Alabama.) For years, I'd joked about how he'd constructed his business plan on too many viewings of The Producers, and it wasn't too far from the truth. He finally scuttled the magazine in 1999 after it received the nickname "The Last Dangerous Magazine", and he didn't even have the decency to let the subscribers know so he didn't have to offer refunds.

Likewise, I had a lot of reasons to quit writing, but the final decision came when I received a query from yet another E-zine, wanting me to write something - anything - for the premiere issue. Considering that I was working at a liquor store and desperately broke at the time (I could afford groceries or rent, but not both), I made the mistake of asking about pay rates. I immediately got back a snotty letter stating "Well, since I'm not a well-heeled trust fund baby, we aren't going to pay until it becomes successful," and that's when I realized that I could look forward to a life of these entitlement brats continuing to demand content and then gleefully walking off the moment they didn't become as famous as they expected.

Likewise, one of my oldest and dearest friends worked as an artist for a whole hell of a lot of semi-pro magazines and zines in the Eighties and Nineties. If you were reading US science fiction magazines in the Nineties, you probably saw a lot of his work. He had the same epiphany about five years ago and quit art for being a librarian, because of the same attitude from editors and publishers. As he told me, "Every time I asked about pay, I was told 'you have to pay your dues.' I've been doing this for fucking 20 years: when do I stop paying?"
Nov. 4th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC)
I bet those guys weren't telling the printer to pay his dues.

Every month, I compile a list of newly opened horror/science-fiction/fantasy markets for the GSHW's newsletter (taken from Duotrope's excellent weekly updates emails). The non-payers outnumber the payers by a ratio of about 3:1. I never see them mentioned on LJ. I wonder how many fold within a couple of issues, if they even manage a first one.

Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed comment. I appreciate it :)
Nov. 4th, 2009 09:02 pm (UTC)
You'd be amazed at how many never get past the first issue. In fact, that used to be a standing joke during the zine days, as you'd get new publishers telling everyone without the slightest bit of irony how they'd use the money made from the first issue to pay for issues 2 through 5. When they didn't make the money they thought they were owed, or didn't get any attention, they shut down the magazines in a huff.

Now what's sleazy is that a lot of these characters took and continue to take subscription money, and figure that the person who takes over the magazine will make good on that. In some cases, such as what Warren Lapine has been doing with Realms of Fantasy, that's literally true, and I have nothing but respect for Warren because of that. However, for every one of him, you have fifty dogfelchers such as Seth Friedman of Factsheet Five, who screwed over subscribers, advertisers, and contributors, myself included, with promises that he had a new buyer for the magazine and all debts would be paid. Last I heard, Factsheet Five still didn't have a buyer, especially not at the $70,000 Friedman seemed to think it was worth in 1998, and he was still cashing subscription checks as late as 2004. I personally know one crew here in Dallas that decided to put out a science fiction magazine in 1989 and promoted it heavily, getting quite a few subscription offers. The magazine fell apart as its multiple editors fought over getting "their share" of the profits before the first issue ever came out, and I understand that several subscribers had to threaten legal action to get refunds.

The other thing to remember is that while a lot of writers are willing to work for free for a short time, reality is going to get in the way sooner or later. Back at the end of 1996, I got involved with a monthly magazine in Portland, Oregon called Anodyne, and should have seen trouble when the first staff meeting noted that the publisher couldn't afford to pay writers. While writers were expected to work for free, and I had been laid off the very day of that staff meeting, the myriad editors were all stabbing each other in the back for the opportunity to become the first full-time editor on staff. I quit when the Comics Editor threw one temper tantrum after I apparently hadn't scanned his mind enough to know exactly what he wanted from one article, and threw another about how I wasn't willing to skip out on a job interview in order to make a last-minute deadline. I'll note that the job I got from the interview paid a hell of a lot more than the magazine ever did, and that editor's tantrums managed to drive everyone else away. It was easy for him, seeing as how his parents were paying for him to stay in Portland, but some of us had lives other than writing for a shitty monthly that couldn't get advertising other than from cigarette companies.
Nov. 4th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
Isn't it weird how some people seem to have had their common sense surgically removed?

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