“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
~ Groucho Marx
The Universe isn’t sentient.
Readers are sentient (mostly)
Neither the Universe or the reading public owe me a favour or charity.
It is popular to say, There is a remarkable sense of entitlement among writers. We all expect (nay, demand!) overnight success and that every man and his dog (good dog) read our every word and buy our books and leave reviews and so on and so forth.
Of course we all want that. However, the line that Shall Not Be Crossed, is the dotted yellow one with the ‘WARNING: DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE!’ sign above it.
This line is the difference between having readers, reviews and sweet, sweet cash, and being an entitled asshole.
But Paul! (you cry) How do I avoid crossing the line of demarcation?
Glad you asked. It is quite simple: you have to earn the rewards.
The simplest way to do that is get good at what you do. People become better at many things with practice; brain surgery stand-up comedy, driving, pleasing your partner sexually, and of course writing.
By all means, if you are the like the first fawn of spring, taking those initial tentative steps into the lush meadows of the publishing world, then you should be submitting to markets that don’t offer a cents-per-word payment, or a flat rate fee upon acceptance. You can settle for that mystical currency that only exists in the indie publishing short-story world called “Exposure.”
Exposure is the common term for Hypothermia. People die from Hypothermia. They die in the wilderness, lost, alone and wondering why no one read their stories.
You can be damn sure that the publisher (who may have funded this expedition with a dodgy crowd-sourcing fundraising campaign) got some money out of it. They can publish through Amazon and Createspace for nothing. Even if their mum is the only one who buys 100 copies of the magazine or anthology that you contributed your story to for Exposure! They still come out on top of the mountain. Which means the Search and Rescue helicopter finds them and they get to go home, have a hot cocoa and plot their next mission leading the naïve up a mountain and into the whiteout of no reward.
So, let’s say you cut your teeth on this type of payment for your fiction. You get some good feedback, you learn some grammar and your style asserts itself and people you don’t know start saying “Your story in the April issue of Exposure Only Magazine ($19.95 in eBook format) was really good.”
Years may pass while you write and submit, write and submit (this is where you might like to use a montage in your mind’s eye movie).
Finally, no longer the tremulous fawn taking those uncertain steps, now you are a 16 Point stag, lord of your literary domain and godsdamnit, Respect – it’s what’s for dinner.
If you are going to start defending an Exposure Only market don’t lump all writers into the fawn stage of their writing careers. Some of us have been humping this monkey for long enough to expect professional payment for professional work. That doesn’t mean we expect guaranteed acceptance to magazines or anthologies. It doesn’t mean we feel entitled to sycophantic praise and the love of a good woman (or a man).
It does mean that if I’m going to sub a story to you crowd-sourced anthology project – I’m going to expect details of the payment up front and if it’s a non-paying market, then I’m going to politely decline laugh at you and post long diatribes about what a waste of fucking space you are for any self-respecting, experienced keyboard jockey.
The exceptions to this (for me) are the charity anthologies. I happily donate stories to charity anthologies. Some of them are damned awesome. Baby Teeth and Gates of Hell (now preparing for subs to volume 3) are two examples of great anthology projects where the proceeds went to charity.
But shit, if you are looking to make money out of my story, then I sure as fuck expect to be paid for it.