In this age of electronic publishing it is so easy for someone to call themselves an editor and put out a call for submissions for an anthology. Personally, I scan the market listings almost daily, looking for new and fledgling markets, more places to send my short fiction, because I’ve got quite a bit of it. Unfortunately, for writers, this landscape is a minefield full of traps. I felt moved to write this post as a result of some of the recent market research I’ve undertaken.
If you are a new or aspiring writer, make sure you do your research, and that’s not just about background material for writing a story. There’s a number of writer’s market listing out there, Ralan, Duotrope, others, and though they provide a valuable service to we who require homes for our stories, though they do monitor the responses and the turnaround times, they are not the gatekeepers of the quality of the markets themselves. Just because something is listed, does not mean you should send your work there.
Following, here are some of the steps I go through and the questions I ask myself when considering a market. They appear roughly in the priority of the question.
- How much do they pay?
- Is it a recognised market?
- What does the website look like? Does it look professional?
- If you were accepted would you feel comfortable with having your name associated with the publication?
- Who have they published before?
- Do they actually ever come out with any issues?
Do not be fooled by markets that claim exposure as payment. Exposure is not payment. Exposure is something you can be arrested for. Also do not be fooled by the oft-stated payment is a percentage of profits. What profits? Anthologies are rarely profitable, and after all of the ‘administration fees,’ ‘distribution costs’ and anything else they might cite, there is likely to be a vast profit of less than zero. Up front (or on publication) payment is better, even if it is a token, because that’s really all you are likely to see.
Certainly, I will make exceptions to these rules. But, and it is a big but, those exceptions are driven by conscious decisions. Things that might influence that? I know and respect the editor and his or her work. I know and respect the publication and its reputation. I particularly want my work to appear in a certain venue for other well considered reasons. So, do your research. Know why you are sending a story somewhere before you send it.
And one last thought. The desire for publication is fine and it’s undeniable. However, try to start at the top and work down. If you start at the bottom, you will never know whether the top markets might have bought your story in the first place.