Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 26, 2011 - 10:38am

Every writer wants to be published. For many, it’s the Big Thing. It’s the external validation, the justification for continuing on with all this madness. But in today’s world, it’s also very easy, and writer exploitation is a rampant nuisance.

 

Like most writers starting out, the first paid fiction sale was my main goal. Not word count, not long-term project completion, not mastering the craft; I wanted, first and foremost, to be published.

And in August 2010, I received an acceptance for my first story, “Night of the Widow” — not a great story, but one I was proud of at the time. It was purchased — or at least contracted for — by Bill Tucker of the Library of Horror Press. Mr. Tucker is a great guy, so far as I’ve been able to tell, and has worked hard for the Library. I went on to sell three more stories to Mr. Tucker for various Library of Horror Press anthologies, one of which was paid for and published. The other three, I just read on the publisher’s forum, have been cancelled, for financial reasons. So they’re no longer listed on my bibliography page, and will likely never see print. I’m fine with this, despite my initial disappointment.

But what troubles me, aside from my own interests in the matter, are other writers’ reactions to this small press going broke and subsequently cancelling upwards of a dozen — if not dozens — of announced themed anthologies. Each of these books was conceived as a themed collection of stories, and then an editor (to be paid on release of the anthology, like the writers — the editors have been equally wronged) would read, select, and send out contracts for chosen stories. Then a table of contents would be posted, and a vague, tentative release date such as “Spring 2011″ would be posted.

Due to financial difficulties — i.e., poor sales — the projects were simply abandoned. And writers, editors, and cover artists were left unpaid (I’m assuming — cover artists were perhaps paid on completion of their work) and unpublished — which happens all too often in this industry. I’d read the horror stories more times than I can count, and yet I always assumed nothing like this would ever happen to me.

But the writers involved are fine with this! They’re disappointed, sure, as I am — but they’ve offered up propositions such as:

accepting a one-time advance of $5.00-$10.00 in place of the contracted 1 cent/word + contributor’s copy
attempting to use Kickstarter as a way to fund books that have already been compiled and contracted for
and even: paying for the publication of the books in place of accepting payment!
Are we so fucking desperate? Do we never want to have careers?

The writer is such a delicate artist, such an utterly senseless creature, that he is willing to look past simple business sense, accept no payment — which he was promised long ago, perhaps over a year ago, when the contract was signed — and be happy about it?

Involved parties have suggested that a penny per word is itself a problem, that the publisher wouldn’t be going broke if it hadn’t customarily promised writers compensation of 1 cent/word plus a contributor’s copy, and then only the editors and cover artists would need to be paid. Fuck… Aren’t these books of stories? Written by writers?

Anyway, my anger is not toward the publisher — a labor of love with a very passionate community surrounding it — and certainly not toward the editors, but toward the writers themselves, who are too stupid to recognize the seeds of exploitation, who are fully willing to forego payment of any kind, or even pay the publisher to fund the book’s release. This is not the way publishing works — it was never intended to work this way, and it shouldn’t ever work this way.

If someone is in such a big damn hurry to be published, he ought to take ten minutes to convert his document to .mobi format and throw it up on Amazon. Or put together his own pay-on-demand anthology project — and hell, don’t offer contributors any sort of compensation for their work. Maybe they won’t mind.

But dammit, writers, stop giving away your work for free. Writers get paid.

Reposted from http://kanearts.net/wordpress/2011/10/26/bad-news-and-troubling-reactions/

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 11:27am

I'm not sure if I was able to follow your post entirely but anthologies frequently fall through. I'm not sure what poor sales has to do with an anthology that hasn't been published yet unless the poor sales of earlier books caused the publisher to change their mind about publishing the forthcoming anthology.

Small press anthologies usually pay very little. Anthologies don't sell well and neither does single author short story collections. But it is more likely that a publisher will accept an author's story collection if the majority of the stories in the book have already been published in anthologies and journals rather than remaining unpublished. If writers don't really have anywhere else to submit their stories besides low paying anthologies and journals, then that's what they'll do. This is why it's best to "start at the top" in the submissions game. And although "payment is exposure" is such an insulting term, if a writer has books out, there's a chance that readers of anthology where their work appears will like their story so much that they will buy one of their books. Trying to earn a living as a writer of short stories is probably the most futile career decision in existence.

The idea of anthology contributors paying for the printing of the book where their work will appear is ridiculous and I've never heard of the practice (with the exception of a controversy a little while back concerning BlazeVOX books asking for financial assistance from authors after they accepted their books for publication rather than being upfront about it in their guidelines, but their was a big uproar about it and I believe the publisher changed their practices because of it).

I think it's perfectly fine if an anthology doesn't pay as long as the publisher is upfront about it. Writers are free to make their own own decisions in regards to where to send their work.

I've pretty much stopped writing stories entirely and only write longer things like novelettes, novellas, and novels. Although it has less to do with the lack of income that a sale for a story or a story collection's royalties provides and more to do with the fact that I really just don't like writing stories anymore. I enjoy writing prose poems (which I can compete in one sitting and feel a sense of satisfaction) or projects that are more long-term. As far as a short story, it might take me a couple of weeks to finish, and once I start really getting "into it," I'm almost done with it, which I find pretty unsatisfying. So whenever an editor solicits me for a story, I just write a prose poem for them in an hour or two (assuming they are okay with something that's so short). And I'm rarely paid for my prose poems. Although I thoroughly enjoy writing them. Writers write short stories because they enjoy the process of writing them. If they submit their stories to markets with shitty pay, they do it because they want to share their writing with others. It has nothing to do with making a profit. But as I previously mentioned, they should start with the appropriate publication that pays the highest (and will also have the highest readership) and work their way down pay-wise when it comes to receiving rejections. Some writers may be okay with never having anyone read their work, but I believe that most write with an audience in mind.

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 26, 2011 - 12:17pm

Brad, I agree with the "start at the top" method you're describing -- it's what most of us try to do, I think -- but I'm not a big of fan of exposure as payment, so you'll have a hard time convincing me of that. An editor pays for the right to publish a work; it's a privilege to print quality fiction for its first appearance. In this instance, the publisher had established a rate of 1 cent/word and failed to pay the editors or the writers, and simply cancelled the projects -- in several cases, after the writers had waited one or two years from the time between signing the contract and hearing this news.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 12:39pm

I'm not trying to convince you about "exposure for payment." I'm saying that writers are free to make up their own minds as far as whether or not they want to actually submit to non-paying markets if those markets are upfront about it. You're free to submit to wherever you want and avoid the non-paying or low-paying markets. Although the higher paying anthologies are definitely not immune to falling through. If they're small press anthologies that pay well, I'd say the chances are much higher that they will fall through compared to lower paying anthology since anthologies that cost less to produce are more likely to happen and often small press publishers bite off more than they can chew when it comes to promising a decent pay rate.

If you're interested in the slight possibility of actually earning a living earning through your fiction writing, stop writing short stories and devote your time to writing novels.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin October 26, 2011 - 1:13pm

Writers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

It's a good article, and it makes good points.

Immortal Technique business model. I spend a lot of time thinking about the economics of the trade, and as such I really enjoyed it. 

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 26, 2011 - 3:45pm

Brad, again, you're right on both counts. I write short stories because I enjoy writing them, enjoy reading them, believe they'll gain me some credibility, and help me to learn the craft more quickly. That said, my current project is a novel, so I'm finally heading into that territory after almost two years of short fiction. The novel market is definitely where the (little) money is at in this business.

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound October 26, 2011 - 5:10pm

One of the first places I submitted a short story too (and got accepted for) contacted me months after about wanting me to contribute a story to their first print anthology. Admittedly, on both counts it is unpaid (first time being they don't pay for the website, secondly because it's a risk for the editor putting out the anthology, financially.)

I sacrificed payment to have my first story in print (although technically I'm meant to have another one out next year with a different press, who at the time paid $5 for my short story to be online and in the anthology. But I guess considering the story was only like 250 words and took me as many seconds to write I don't mind.)

Just saying sometimes there is good links from publishing online for free.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers October 26, 2011 - 6:08pm

Not to talk bad about Mr. Tucker or the press he works for, but I was one of the authors in The Zombist: Undead Western Tales http://www.amazon.com/Zombist-Undead-Western-Tales/dp/1450502903/ref=sr_... (sorry, I don't know how to do the link thing here) published by the same press. Every single thing went exactly as they planned, the book is out, and I received my small payment. My gripe is that other than one nice soul who took the time to reveiw the Kindle Edition of the anthology, no one else who frequents the forums there has taken the time to review it. Was the book that much of a stinker? In my opinion, no, not really.

I have repeatedly posted at the forum that all the people who read it should post a review at Amazon, whether good or bad. (I personally will not review an antho I have a story in because I think that's tacky. I'll promote the shit out of it, but reviewing tends to be more biased, and I've read reviews by people who frown upon authors reviewing collections they have stories in. )

Five to ten minutes of their time, that's all. Only one person has ever reviewed the damn thing, and it's been well over a year. It's as though they want to talk about how great their forum is, and the awesome collections they have out, yet no one wants to take time to write a simple fucking review to perhaps help promote the damn thing. I have promoted it to the best of my abilities, especially when it first came out. Now, I cannot wait until my contract with them expires so I can place my story with a magazine with a wider reader base. 

Alex, I'm sorry about what happened with your stories and the collections. It's truly sad. Fortunately, you still have faith in a press that I could care less about. That's one less oportunity for me, and when opportunities are so far and few between, I need all I can get. Good luck with them. 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 6:46pm

Maybe I'm the only one who pays attention to publisher's names on Amazon, but it comes off as really amateurish to me when a publisher's book is listed as being published by CreateSpace rather than the name of the publisher. It makes it seem like it was self-published, although anthologies are a bit different in this regard compared to single author books considering anthologies can never really be self-published, although perhaps they can be thought of that way if a publisher and an anthology's editor are the same person. But still, an anthology's contributors cannot self-publish themselves in an anthology. I wonder how difficult it would have been to have changed the "CreateSpace" listing to "Library of the Living Dead" or whatever. Maybe it would have cost a few extra bucks, but it would have been worth it in my eyes.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers October 26, 2011 - 7:13pm


I wonder how difficult it would have been to have changed the "CreateSpace" listing to "Library of the Living Dead" or whatever. Maybe it would have cost a few extra bucks, but it would have been worth it in my eyes.

Bradley, my sentiments exactly. I cringed when I saw that for the first time. 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 26, 2011 - 7:52pm

They published a story that was written by my friend (who is also my editor) in one of their bizarro horror anthologies. Perhaps their only bizarro horror anthology. And they spelled his last name incorrectly in the table of contents. Although perhaps I shouldn't say anything considering I once made a similar editor on the back cover of one of the issues of my own literary journal and listed Anthony Neil Smith's name as Anthony "Michael" Smith. But perhaps my error was a combination of the existence of Anthony Michael Hall and the fact that prior to working on that issue, I worked with another editor on the journal and his name was Michael Smith (it seems as if he has vanished into thin air since the last time we spoke a long time ago--we lived near each other until I moved away). I guess it's sometimes difficult to track down people on the internet when they have generic names.

Alex Kane's picture
Alex Kane from west-central Illinois is reading Dark Orbit October 26, 2011 - 9:18pm

Alex, I'm sorry about what happened with your stories and the collections. It's truly sad. Fortunately, you still have faith in a press that I could care less about. That's one less oportunity for me, and when opportunities are so far and few between, I need all I can get. Good luck with them.

No, my faith in them is lost. I won't be sending them another story, ever.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 27, 2011 - 8:03pm

They published an entire anthology of bacon-themed horror stories a few months back. 240 pages. I wouldn't read it, but I am suddenly very impressed.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 1, 2011 - 9:16pm

I feel like there are a few conversations going on here, and I only really have insight into one of them. What is wrong with writers choosing to fund a project they believe in? Or submitting when they know they will not be paid? My biggest, longest gig that got me the most exposure was a labor of love. I got signed on with the promise of shared profit, and I worked endlessly and received very little in compensation, but I believed in the project and I believed in the person I was working with, and I swallowed a lot of pride before I decided to move on. In that case, exposure WAS payment, I was sitting on my couch dicking around on facebook when I got an email that asked me what type of essays should go into a book related to our little niche market, I replied, and then got one back basically saying "cool, want to write that?" First time I ever saw my name in print outside of the school newpaper. Was worth a lot of the BST, and I've made some good connections in the meantime.

I view writing as an art, and sometimes the art is worth the blood, sweat and tears, even if a dollar sign isn't attached (take a look at Sheperd Fairey).

Now, obviously, pretending that the writers should be paid less or not at all so the binders, cover artists and publishers could get paid...a little ridiculous. I don't think you'll find many people here arguing that books rely more on cover artists than writers and editors.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 1, 2011 - 10:09pm

Publishers should never ask authors to finance the publication of their own work. It's cool if a collective of writers  get together to throw money into a figurative pot to finance the publication of an anthology where their work appears. And as far as the possible situation where the printer of an anthology (who also does the binding) will be paid but not the book's contributors, there's no way around that assuming the book is a print anthology rather than electronic book. If the printer isn't paid, the book doesn't exist. And although the contributors are more important to the project than the printer, that's just the way things are. Also, the writer usually gets a lower percentage of the royalties than the publisher when it comes to books written by single authors rather than anthologies (although I get a 50/50 split with my publisher, but I think that's uncommon).

Overall, writers submit to genre publications with the intention of making money and writers (who are usually college professors) submit to literary fiction publications for the prestige. This is because genre publications usually pay while literary publications usually do not.

I write because I have a passion to write. After a project is done and ready to be sent out to my publisher or submitted elsewhere, that's when the business aspect comes into effect. I don't think about it while I'm writing. I assume those that write books that could be classified as "popular fiction" may consciously attempt to write something that they believe will sell well while they are working on their books. Actually, honestly sometimes I think this way when while I'm developing a concept for a book prior to writing it, but not while I'm involved in the writing process.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 2, 2011 - 10:16am

Oh, I realize that, I didn't mean "less than the publisher", I meant less than the 1 cent per word, or not at all.

 

I agree with your last paragraph as well, I would be writing if publishing weren't an option. I'd probably share amongst friends and family and call it good. I love doing it and I have been doing it for as long as I remember. Being published is a good feeling, and maybe sometimes makes the blood, sweat, tears worth it, but over all, I wrtie because I want to, not because I have some strong desire to make as much money as Stephen King or James Patterson.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 11:16am

With the money that Stephen King and James Patterson make, I'm sure they write because they enjoy it rather than for the money considering they probably don't really need any more. Although there's a rumor that Stephen King's books have been written by ghost writers ever since someone hit him with his car (I think an article on this site mentions it). In which case, his books are obviously being written for the money. Although his accident was incorporated into the last few Dark Tower books, so it would be a bit weird if someone else wrote about it.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 2, 2011 - 11:25am

There are plenty of rumors like that about James Patterson as well. I'm tempted to believe some people need to find ways to criticize those who have success. Stephen King is a favorite author of mine, I wasn't implying he wrote for the money, I was just trying to illustrate that it isn't very likely even the most talented writers will see the success of King or Patterson, and that most of us are probably okay with that.

An aside: I don't think they are being ghost written. His writing has changed a little, but it still feels very much like King to me...

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 2, 2011 - 12:09pm

 I don't think they are being ghost written. His writing has changed a little, but it still feels very much like King to me...

 

I agree with you.  I don't think it is ghost written.  I think his voice has changed over the years, but it is still very clearly his voice.  No one does characters like he does. 

pinkpowR's picture
pinkpowR from Hogtown USA is reading Jitterbug Perfume November 2, 2011 - 12:10pm

Passion is driving the car while monetary compensation just decides the make and model.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 12:27pm

Stephen King is a favorite author of mine, I wasn't implying he wrote for the money,

 

Yeah, I glossed over that sentence where you mentioned him and Patterson and read it incorrectly.

An aside: I don't think they are being ghost written. His writing has changed a little, but it still feels very much like King to me...

Everyone's writing changes over the years, so that's no proof of a ghostwriter. Actually, I assume it wouldn't be too difficult to mimick his writing style so if his writing hadn't changed over time, the ghostwriter scenario would seem more probable.

 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 2, 2011 - 1:19pm

Bradley--I find it is a similar case with music as well, when a band grows and changes, the fans say "they're selling out! This is shit! Where is the OLD Band X?" but when they stay the same the fans say "They aren't growing! Every album sounds the same!".

I don't think those who make it REALLY big can ever win. If King was trying to recreate Carrie or The Stand every time he sat down, it would be painful to read, but since he has grown and changed a little, people are upset that it isn't the same piece that grabbed them when they were the proverbial "nineteen".

But now I've derailed the conversation...

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 2:42pm

I totally agree about bands, but I'm disappointed whenever that happens and the music isn't as good as it used to be. I think every artist's work changes unconciously over the years, but only certain ones make a concious effort to make radical changes. And when that happens, the majority of their fanbase will probably be displeased. While the change will probably cause them to get new fans who like their current stuff more than their previous stuff.

So in regards to fans, it's best to allow the unintentional change rather than make an effort to fight against it and remain the same. And a radical change is a bad idea. But artists are likely to feel an irresistible urge to reinvent themselves and their work, and then the fans just need to deal with it. Although as far as authors who tend to write books in first person, they're really limiting thenselves and showing their weakness if all their protagonists sounds the same, so I feel they need to radically reinvent their writing style with each new book. But with writers who mostly write books in third person, they can keep on doing what they're doing and their writing will change over the years, but subtly and unintentionally.

I'm contastly changing the subject in threads and this thread's subject is long gone. 

In that article on Stephen King, it mentioned the rumor that his wife has been ghostwriting his books. I found that pretty interesting considering it was the first time I've heard that rumor since Gerald's Game came out. But that was years before his accident. I have no idea where I heard the rumors, but I remember people saying the book resembled her writing style more than his.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 2, 2011 - 4:17pm

I AM always impressed by a rumor that a woman is ghost writng for a man, you don't hear that as much.  Nice that the playing field in writing is becoming more level.  (yeah - that is how I choose to spin the rumor)   I remember the first time I heard the old one that Capote really wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, I was so mad about it. 

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 4:29pm

V.C. Andrews' ghostwriter is male. But she has a good excuse for having a ghostwriter considering she's dead. It's pretty ironic when there's a ghostwriter for a deceased author considering the ghostwriter is the one who is living.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 2, 2011 - 6:18pm

Ha!  Carolyn Keene (you know, Nancy Drew!) was actually several people.  But I believe the person who wrote most of the early books was a man.  Although this is just from memory, I could be mistaken.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs November 2, 2011 - 6:30pm

So was Franklin W. Dixon,and I'm going to assume they were all male. Wikipedia says that the guy who created The Hardy Boys (but did not wrote the books) "wrote most of the outlines for the original Nancy Drew series until 1979" with his two daughters (although they didn't write the books). It also says most of the early books were ghostwritten by a female author.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig November 2, 2011 - 7:17pm

I haven't actually gotten around to reading any of Tabitha King's work, so I can't really comment on similarities there, but in a way, it would make sense if her influence showed in his work, wouldn't it? I mean, when I hit a wall, I often look to my husband to help me sort out what I am trying to do (which is often an exercise in itself, as I don't let him read first drafts until they are done).

I do remember when I found out that Franklin W. Dixon wasn't a REAL person, it broke my little preteen heart. I never got into Nancy Drew, which now, I find a little funny, as I remember reading that the ghost writers overlapped on the two at some points...

Back to the bands for a second--I'm usually that die hard fan that loves almost anything that comes out, radical change or not. I think I am a minority in that way, but my tastes are so ecclectic these days that it sort of works for me. I find myself enjoying it--it sort of works the same with authors I've invested in, too, though. I just love the way Stephen King writes a character, so I've signed on to stories and novels that were pretty widely shunned by "constant readers". On the other hand though, my other favorite is Henry Rollins, and his style hasn't changed much, if at all (he did add photography to his latest book, though).

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters November 3, 2011 - 4:08am

I didn't read Hardy Boys, but i did get into Nancy Drew as a young girl.  I got a kick out of the corny little things in every book.  Her two "chums", her snappy blue convertable.  Hey, aren't you Nancy drew, daughter of Carson Drew, the famous criminal lawyer? 

There are only a small handful of King books I have not read.  I love Hearts in Atlantis and much as I love Carrie, I just love it for different reasons and in different ways. 

I like reading a wide range of authors, I think they all have something to show me.