Thursday, 3 December 2009 Rant Alert

There’s an interesting discussion doing the rounds regarding the small press and (lack of) payment range. Start checking it out here.

This is something that’s been talked about many times before and will, no doubt, be talked about many more times in the future. There was a similar debate a while back between Ken Wood (of Shock Totem) and Brian Keene.

It seems to be a fairly wide-spread opinion in certain circles that anyone who either publishes or writes for the small non-pro-paying press is basically one step away from self-published fan fiction.

Traces of shite on the shoe of worthy, real writers.

That no talented wordsmith would lower themselves to such base and degrading, exploitative shenanigans.

Now, I have nothing but respect and admiration for anyone who makes any kind of living (be it full or part time) out of writing fiction. After all, they’ve played the game the right way and they’ve won. It’s where I want to be one day.

But, have these people forgotten how difficult it actually is to break into the right markets?

How many pro-paying markets are there, especially pro-paying horror markets? Not many, and a quick look at Duotrope shows that most of these actually range from either token or semi-pro payment in the first instance.

Cemetery Dance? Well, they’ve been closed to subs for a year and their publication schedule is erratic at best. When they open again in 2010 with an average of 500 subs a month then, what are the chances? They publish around 8 pieces of fiction per issue and most, if not all, of those are (quite rightly) by established writers.

That’s pretty formidable opposition.

I’m not saying that I won’t be banging on a pro-mag’s door, but there’s very little realistic chance of a hearty welcome and a seat by the fire.

Not without stubborn persistence and saint-like patience, at least.

Does that mean I shouldn’t try to get published elsewhere in the meantime? That there aren’t worthy publications out there that can’t pay a great deal, but still want to produce something of value?

In short, are we wasting our time carving our stories as ice sculptures to be seen by few?

In my first year of trying to write seriously, I’ve been treated well by the small press, received some great feedback, made some new friends, shared TOC's with people I admire and respect, and have some publication credits that I’m proud of.

Next year, I’ll see my name in print alongside Peter Straub and Joyce Carol Oates amongst many others. Not bad for an exploited small press amateur.

It’s true that there’s a lot of crap in the small press, but there are also a lot of truly talented writers toting their wares in little seen publications too.

And they deserve better than belittling comments from people further along the road.


Michael Stone said...

I've got no time for successful writers and editors who look down on the small press, and I agree with 100% of the above post. Well said, LR.

Aaron Polson said...

What Michael said. The internet seems made for bullies. (and those who wish to pile on later)

Lou Antonelli's comments (#103 on the original thread) made it all worthwhile.

Barry Napier said...


I made the personal decision not to sub to non-paying markets sort of as a motivator for myself. While I obviously enjoy writing, there IS some work that goes into crafting a final draft. Since I would not do any other form of work for free, I chose not to write for free, either. Of course, I have no qualms with the semi-pro pubs. Payment is payment.

This makes me feel like a snob sometimes, but it's simple a personal decision I made a while back.

(Oh, and I'll be sharing that same TOC with you...Joyce Carol Oates and Peter Straub...still can't believe it).

Rebecca Nazar said...

I'm with you, like Michael, 100%. Small presses have been great to me too. They are the little engines that could . . . and deliver.

Cate Gardner said...

I heart the small press, they've been very good to me for the past two years and I've got to know some wonderful, talented people.

L.R. Bonehill said...

Good to know I’m not on my own here. We all have to start somewhere and if that’s the token or semi-pro paying small press, it’s fine with me. Many fine writers started out this way.

We strive, we push forward and we move on.

This is a long journey, not a whim.

BT said...


Alan W. Davidson said...

Well said...a nice 'shout out' for the little people of writing, still trying to have their voices heard.