Recently, I wrote a flash fiction story. I felt like it was pretty good and polished it up and decided to submit it to some online magazines that publish that sort of thing. I found a few on a list of magazines that pay for submissions, and started there.
With the piece being just over one thousand words, the first two publications I submitted to would have paid me upwards of $60 if they'd decided to publish (they did not, but hey, that's cool). This is considered by both Duotrope and SFWA to be the "pro-rate."
Of course, there are many magazines that will pay you less than that. In the list I mentioned above, there were quite a few paying anywhere from two to four cents per word, which is also fine. Heck, there are some publications that will pay ten to thirty cents per word.
When I struck out with my first two choices, I started looking for others. This led me to the other end of the spectrum; lit magazines that expect you to pay them for submissions. Say what?!
The lit magazine PANK lists its $5 reading fee as a "tip jar submission." Supposedly, you're just giving them five dollars because you love their magazine so much, and not so they'll take your submission, but this explanation makes no sense when they don't have a free submission option available. They also charge larger sums for submission of longer works, namely chap books and full manuscripts. Needless to say, I noped out of there quick, particularly since they offer no monetary compensation for the rights to your piece.
I'm pretty sure there's a special circle in hell for those magazines,
agents and publishers that charge a "reading fee." I'd equate that to
paying for the privilege of a job interview. Never pay the people who
are supposed to be paying you.
This also brings me to Flash Fiction Magazine. This is yet another publication offering no compensation, but they also don't seem interested in owning any rights to your piece. There is the possibility that in the future, you might get chosen for one of their anthologies, in which case, there is a contract and payment involved, but here's what bothers me; even before that, they don't want you to put the work that they published up anywhere else on the internet, including your personal site or blog, because it'll screw up their Google traffic.
They don't want to buy the rights to your work, or even own them for free, but they want to dictate what you do with it. What? Guys, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Either you control the rights to my work or you don't, and if you don't, then I retain the right to do what I want with it. Plus, it seems really stupid to think that that's something you can ask for when I get almost nothing in return. Bookfox clocks Flash Fiction Magazine's monthly visitor count at 11,000, which is much more than this blog, but it's not exactly a wide audience. I can't add this publishing experience to my writing resume because nothing impresses people you want to pay you for something like telling them that, in the past, you've given it away for free.
And nothing says prestige like the the line in the submission guidelines that reads, "We do not offer monetary compensation at this time." That means one of two things to me; either you're an asshole who doesn't pay your contributors, or your magazine is not successful enough for you to do so. Either way, I don't want to work with you. And if it's that first reason, I don't think other people should either.
Guys, submitting to these kinds of magazines, or really anyone who feels like you should be grateful for the free exposure, is detrimental to all of us. You just send them the message that this is okay, when it's not. There's no way that you should be okay with a magazine paying you less than you would make for an hour at McDonald's to work for hours, if not days, on a piece. The only reason magazines think they can get away with paying nothing is because we let them.
Yeah, we all want to get published, but don't do it for free. Work hard, hone your craft and get paid. It's not impossible, it just takes a lot of commitment, time and effort. It's not wrong to do something just because you love it. It is wrong for them to expect that work for nothing.
I've said my piece about writing for free. What do you guys think?