In a previous post about pay scales for short stories, I mentioned that I wouldn’t personally recommend publishing with non-paying print markets.
First, let me get it out of the way that I’m not a fan of the label “For The Luv.” In fact, I hate the phrase and the attitude it represents. In my opinion, the it implies that writers should be writing out of “love” only and shouldn’t be concerned with pay. I’ve even seen some “FTL” publishers imply that writing for pay is greedy, or even immoral.
Besides needing to be beaten over the head with a copy of Atlas Shrugged, these publishers should be forced out of the market. (Note that I’m only metaphorically beating them over the head with the large novel, and am not advocating literally beating anyone over the head with a book–not even to FTL publishers who may or may not deserve it.)
Fortunately that attitude is rare. Most non-paying publishers are not greedy scam artists and are simply new to the writing/publishing world and trying to build an audience. A lot of them also claim that they hope to offer royalties once they become a little more established. I’d like to encourage them to avoid the “FTL” label and use a more accurate terms such as non-paying market or exposure only, but I don’t question their motives. I would, however, recommend they skip the non-paying part and offer royalties on sales or at least contributor copies right off the bad, just to make themselves seem a bit more legitimate.
Besides not getting paid, there is another drawback. By publishing with a non-paying market, you may be losing out on another market somewhere else down the line. Selling a previously published story to a more established magazine can be difficult, and more often than not, professional paying markets won’t accept reprints.
Finally, to you, the writer, I’d like to make the point that if you consider yourself a professional, you really shouldn’t be writing simply for a love of the craft.
And if you want another point of view on the topic–one much harsher than mine–check out this post from Books of the Dead Press: Why For-The-Luv Publishing Needs to Stop.
But what about e-zines?
I do make the exception when it comes to non-paying e-zines, as long as you, as the author, retain full copyright to the story and that the story is readable, free of charge, over the web.
The reason I think it’s important to have the story readable over the web, as opposed to a print or e-book format is so that you can link to it from your own site. Non-paying print markets can claim “exposure only,” but let’s be honest, how much exposure are you actually getting from them? If they had a large reader base, they’d be paying more than nothing. But if the story is free and searchable on the web, you can generate exposure for it through social media and your own writing platform.
Another benefit of publishing your story to an e-zine over the web is that it gives you the opportunity to give readers a free sample of your fiction. If they like what they see, great. Maybe it will convince them to pay for some of your other work.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that just because an online publisher isn’t paying you for a story, that doesn’t mean you should send them your crappiest work. Don’t have the attitude, “Well no one else has accepted this, so I might as well publish it for free.”
For one thing, even though the acceptance rate is slightly higher for non-paying than it is for paying site, in general they still reject far more stories than they accept. (My token-paying e-zine, Theme of Absence, accepts just over 25% of the stories submitted.)
Remember: Stories posted online can serve as your advertising. These are the stories that you can show as samples of your work. It makes no sense to send potential readers to a story you’re embarrassed by.
And if you have your best work appearing in an online magazine, paying or not, it helps bring traffic to them while increasing your fan base.
So to summarize, just remember the following: Don’t ever submit to non-paying print markets. You may consider non-paying online markets, as long as they are free and open to the public to read.
Finally, treat your writing like a business. Have fun with it and even if you do write “for the luv,” remember that there is no shame in hoping to make a career out of it.
Have you published in FTL or non-paying online markets? Was it a good decision or a bad one? Leave a comment and share your experience!