Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Error #1: There is No Ladder

I used to perceive a ‘ladder’ to publication. First I would beg people to take my work, and they would print it for free. After some time doing that, I would have accumulated a series of non-paying anthologies, and from there I would move up a rung to onto the ‘token’ payment anthologies that pay between $5 and $10 per story. After I placed many stories in ‘token’ anthologies, I would tentatively step onto the next rung, semi-professional payment that pays between one and three pennies per word. Only then, when I had paid my dues and have the weight of several dozen stories pushing me on would I even dare to query a pro-pay magazine like Weird Tales or The Book of Dark Wisdom.

Not only is this not true, it’s self-defeating. I started on the lowest possible pay scale, and since my work got accepted there, I never even looked for anything better for that story. What, did I think I would take it to a higher-paying venue later? How stupid is that? An actually intelligent person who has thought about this starts with the highest-paying venue that would possibly take his work and then proceed down the pay scale. Because I’m going to stop with that sale, aren’t I? And the editors don’t really care who I am until I’m a name. Until then, they’re much more interested in my story than my other publications. A hundred stories in a hundred anthologies the editor has never read or heard of do me absolutely no good if my story is no good. And they’re not going to care if this is the first story I have ever written if it’s brilliant.

Let me show you where this thinking lead me. I recently received a copy of an anthology I placed my work in for free: Atlantean Pub’s The King in Yellow anthology.

First of all, Atlantean Pub has a free website. That’s OK, because not every publisher has to have a good website. However, EVERY publisher has pictures of their books, even if they have a really cheap website. Now, I’m, not getting down on Atlantean Pub. They never mislead me, I mislead myself. I never saw any pictures of their product, so when I assumed that they were going to be small but printing actual books, an assumption on my part that had no basis. I never saw a cover to a single one of their books, and I filled in the blanks with rosy dreams.

A few weeks ago, I received my copy of Atlantean Press’s King in Yellow, which no one has ever heard of, and no one is going to read because it has no ISBN. Thus, it cannot be sold to a bookstore, or even on Amazon. And in fact, it’s not even a book, it is in fact photocopies held together with a binder clip. I could have written the best King in Yellow story God has ever seen. No one is going to know because this isn’t actual publication.

The solution? As you see on the score sheet to your right: I’m, now shopping “Sire” as a reprint, and I make less money the next time I sell it. Meanwhile, I’ve missed other opportunities to get it into paying venues.

Publication is worth what I get paid for it. When I put something in an anthology that didn’t pay, I was competing with people who think their work can only be given away. I’m better than that, and my work is better than that.

Articles and reviews, 1,400 words

Which Way to Mecca, Jack by William Peter Blatty

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