Submitting to non-paying venues

While I’m posting free fiction, I’d also like to say why I generally don’t. I’ve been a puppeteer, professionally, since 1989. When I first started out, I did some freebies for exposure and you know what? I didn’t get a single gig from any of those. I have yet to see a venue that offered exposure as its only form of compensation, which has had any impact on my career.Where I got gigs, was from referrals from people who paid me, even a little.

So, let’s take fiction, which for me, is just one more of my freelance jobs. We all know that advice to start from the top market down, when submitting, right? Now, why do that instead of submitting to a non-paying market while building up your chops?

For me, the bottom line is that one should not be sending out stories unless one thinks they are good enough to appear in a paying magazine. Consider this, if it’s not good enough to appear in a paying magazine but one gets it into a non-paying venue for the exposure, what is being exposed? Work that is not one’s best.

That’s not how one pays dues as a writer. Those get paid by working with critique groups, studying, going to conventions and most importantly, by writing.

So, what if it’s a good story? Then send it to the highest paying magazine that takes that style of story. Otherwise, you’ve given up your First Serial Rights, and there aren’t that many publications that will take a reprint. Basically, what you’ve got now is a good story that’s been used. Imagine trying to sell a used car at new car prices. The moment a story has been published, it loses its value to most other publishers. The publishers of magazines and journals maintain their audiences by presenting material that the audiences can’t get anywhere else, i.e. unpublished stories.

Now, there are cases where a non-paying market is worthwhile. Take the Elemental anthology. That would have been worthwhile because the proceeds went to charity and the authors in the magazine were very high profile, so if you got in, your own stature would rise. But that’s an anthology and a rare exception.

So why did I post my first sale here? Because I think it’s a good story, but it’s a used car now. You know, it’s been around the block and there’s not really a resale market for its model. But I like it, and given a choice between sending it to the landfill and recycling it here, I’ll put it up here. But I thought about it a long time before I did. If I thought there were a resale market, I would have done that first.

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2 Responses

  1. Rick Novy

    I published my first two in a non-paying venue and I’ve regretted it ever since.

    The first one I’m turning into a novel, significantly different yet on the same theme. The only advantage here is I can point to the story if anyone else tries ty hijack my copyright, which is about as lame an excuse as they come since that isn’t going to happen.

    The second one was simply not very good, and now it’s in public.

    Why did I submit there? Don’t know. Mainly impatience, I suppose. Not worth it, but maybe I’ll post those wasted stories on my own web site. Or maybe not.