Monday, July 13, 2009

It's A Struggle

I sat down tonight to write a story. But nothing wants to come out. My muse is telling me more pressing things need to be written.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Ummm . . . how about talk about all of those struggling publications out there?”


“Because you are a writer and without anywhere to submit to then who is going to publish your work and why would you continue writing?”

“I enjoy it.”

“Come on, AJ, tell the truth. You want to be published.”

“Well, yeah.”

“What if all the zines shut down? Where would you get published?”

My muse should have been a lawyer.

So, here I sit, keyboard in front of me, paper of notes beside the computer for a story I wanted to start on. Instead, I am going to write on something that affects all of us writers: what if there were no markets out there?

Seriously. What if we writers had nowhere to submit our stories? What if we had no one to read our works?

This is no laughing matter, folks.

Right now, the horror genre seems to be losing publication upon publication. There are many reasons why: the inability to finance those publications, under budgeting and over spending or just not being able to get enough quality submissions to fill the pages (even online pages).

It is this last part that I want to talk about.

Writers want to get paid for their work. Am I right? Of course I am. Why give something away for free when you can sell it? The good ol’ American philosophy. It may not even be an American philosophy but a philosophy nonetheless.

So many folks say, “I’m not just going to give my stories away.” And, guess what? You’re right. You shouldn’t just give your stories away. Payment is nice, but does it always have to be in money? What about getting published and receiving free publicity? What about having your story out there so the world can read it?

But, AJ, if I give my stories to a free publication, then I can only sell it as a reprint. Yup, you got me there. This is true. But, sometimes having a story appear in an e-zine where people don’t have to pay for it will get you more reads.

But, AJ, many of these e-zines don’t have much of a following. Yup, you got me there, too. You folks are good. Some places don’t have that big of a following, but hey, what if, say, maybe a story is accepted at one of these free-zines, as I like to call them, and the writers actually advertised that their stories were there?

But, AJ, a lot of folks do that. Yes, they do, but not a lot of folks advertise when they get into a free-zine. It’s a publishing credit; it builds up the resume, but a lot of folks don’t say, “Hey guys/gals, go on over to Choking Chickens dot com and read my new story about choking chickens.” If it’s good enough to submit to, then it’s good enough to advertise that you got in it.

But, wait, I’m not throwing this completely on the writers.

No, part of the blame for these free-zines or small paying markets not getting enough subs falls on the zines themselves. What? How dare I? It’s easy. So many free-zines or small paying markets won’t take reprints and this is where I think they fall down. The best places to sub to aren’t just the places that pay you, but the places that want your story, regardless if it is an unpublished story or a reprint. The point is if it is a good story, then it’s publishable.

The key to the reprints is to make sure that the author has the rights to the story and that the publication that it first appeared in is duly noted. I’m not saying accept stories that came out within the last year, but to be open to accepting reprints. Chances are, if someone thought it was good enough to publish one time it may be good enough to publish again.

But, we want all original content. Yeah, everyone does, but many writers aren’t willing to give up a story for free or for little money. It’s just the facts.

With the state of our genre and so many magazines folding for various reasons, mostly financial, some compromise may need to be given to both the writer and the publisher.

“I don’t give my stories away.” Okay, but what about reprints?

It’s a struggle to get published, especially in the paying markets. It’s a struggle to get good submissions, especially in the non-paying markets. Some of these small zines just need a boost. A name writer or two giving them permission to use a reprint could go a long way to helping the zines and the writers.

For the publications the name of the game is staying in business, getting good stories and showcasing writers. For the writer, it’s about putting one’s self out there. And being rejected over and over again. Sometimes, those free-zines can get one’s name in the light.

We writers and publishers need to compromise a little. If we don’t start compromising then there won’t be many places to submit to. Or maybe none at all. That’s not something I want to see happen.

For now, I’m AJ and I’m out.


  1. Great post, AJ. And something I've struggled with, and I don't know why it's been such a big deal for me. I've always submitted to places I heard it's harder to get into (I like a challenge). And pretty much all of my submissions are sent to paying markets. But I think you're right, free zines and exposure and helping each other survive are very important. I do what I can supporting small presses by buying their books, but maybe I need to do more for places like Liquid Imagination and the like. You just taught me something, and I appreciate it! Kudos, brother.

    Lee Thompson

  2. Me, I'm even worse than wanting the paying market, I want the print market. That's my old fashion snobbery showing. But I love the online 'zines, and I am trying to submit to them more often (well - I'm trying to submit more, period). The thought about reprints is quite valid, especially for places that cannot pay the authors. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking blog.


  3. You make some great points, AJ.

    As of right now, I'm looking to get paid for a story. I've gotten some money from a story, but I would like a some-what kind of real payday. I'm still considering all markets, though, so there is that.

    I always advertise my stories, wherever they appear! I want people to read them, and if the stories are free, all the better!

    So, thanks for posting a great blog. Hopefully this reaches the people it needs to and we'll see a recovery in our genre specific markets.