If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I often advocate seeking out small press magazines, anthologies, or electronic publishers to submit your work to if you’re just getting started. In my previous post, I wrote about some the benefits of submitting to smaller publications, but now I’d like to talk about some of the potential drawbacks.
And while the name of this blog may be Write Good Books, I’m going to be talking more about short stories in this post, even though some of why I say here may apply to book publishers as well.
Anyhow, I’ll start with the two most obvious reasons smaller markets may not be for you: less pay and less exposure. A lot of the newer markets struggle to make any profit at all, so working for free and paying their writers the bare minimum (if anything at all) is the only way they can stay afloat as they try to build an audience. Theme of Absence, for example, began as a non-paying flash fiction ezine. After a few months, I decided to take the
write-off risk of making it a token paying site. A few months after that, I opened the site up to short stories as well. Point being, the site grew in both terms of traffic and submissions with each change. So while I still pay bare minimum, the goal remains to eventually move up to semi-pro. But until then, a site like Theme of Absence may not be the type of market you’re looking for if pay is your only goal.
Also, while on the topic of pay, when it comes to royalty-only anthologies, there is often a high chance of not getting paid at all. The publishers of small press anthologies will usually need to recoup their costs before sharing profits. That is a perfectly acceptable practice, and should be stated in the contract, but just be aware that if the book doesn’t make any money, neither will the contributors.
Another problem for writers submitting to newer markets is you have no guarantee that the market or project will be around long enough to publish your short story. (You won’t see this problem with Theme of Absence, by the way. We’re not going anywhere.) But in other publications, more often with online magazines than with print ones, it’s not uncommon to see a new publication pop up with tons of activity and new material for a few months and then fizzle out and become a “Sorry this website cannot be found,” before the end of their first year.
Another potential problem with a smaller market is turn around time. The fact that the publication is most likely not turning a six-figure profit (And as editor of Theme of Absence, you can take my word for it), they’re understaffed and might take a long time to get through the slush pile. I’m able to keep my turn-around under two weeks in most cases, but say the number of submissions I receive were to double. Or triple. That response rate could jump pretty quickly.
You know, in many ways, aspiring publishers have it just as bad as aspiring writers.
So while I still support smaller markets and not only one, but have also been published in a whole bunch of them, I think it is important for new writers to be aware of the potential drawbacks I listed here and make informed decisions about where they send their short stories.
So thanks for reading, and if you can think of any drawbacks of small markets I left out, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know!