May 4, 2015. The day the publishing industry rose up against the evils of non-paying markets. I was scanning my Facebook feed (as I often do, because I have no life), and I noticed a lot of my writer friends posting derogatory comments, pictures, posts, videos, and what the hell ever else, about non-paying magazines. Their argument was that a writer should get paid for his work. Alright. I can get behind that. I’m a writer. I like money. Make it rain! benefits
Then I realized, after hours of watching non-paying markets being vilified (I shall forever refer to May 4, 2015 as Literarischkristallnacht, or Literary Crystal Night…look it up) that non-paying markets aren’t the Great Satan my asshole friends were making them out to be. Sure, if a market can’t pay their writers in cash money (or, at the very least, a contributor’s copy), then chances are they’re not a very good market to submit to. I mean, the owner could just be lining his own pockets. You never know. However, there are good markets out there that don’t pay.
I know how that sounds, but hear me out.
It’s industry standard for these FTL markets to pay with “exposure.” That is, your pay is the joy of knowing your work is out there being read. A lot of markets that “pay” in exposure are also markets that don’t have exposure: They’re just another .com ezine lost in the crowd. There are some, though, that can provide exposure, and despite all the snide little memes (EXPOSURE ISN’T PAYMENT, ITS SOMETHING YOU DIE FROM, LULZ!) exposure, honest-to-god exposure, does it have its benefits, especially for young, beginning, or not-well-known writers. I won’t name names, but there’s a good FTL market out there, an onlize zine, that does very well for itself. It has several thousand unique hits a week, it’s published major authors (Piers Anthony, Joe R. Lansdale, Joseph Rubas), and its anthology series has gotten some great feedback on Amazon. For the beginning writer, this type of exposure is a godsend. It get their name out, and it pairs it, as it were, with some of the biggest names in the horror/fantasy/science fiction genre. Sure, they don’t pay, but when you’re just starting out, exposure can be more important than money. It can help readers find you. And without readers, you’re just another pen scribbling in the dark.
If your name is Stephen King, you don’t have to worry about exposure. You have a million dollar publishing house doing that for you. But if you’re a small guy, an indie, you will find that exposure is…tops. If you don’t expose yourself, who’s gonna do it?
Two things that you need to know, however:
One: For every good “exposure only” market, there are fifty, a hundred bad ones. Ones run by greedy assholes out to make a quick buck at your expense; ones that are genuine in their love for literature, but can’t rise above the herd, and thus remain lost in the void. It’s up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Two: The publishing industry (genre notwithstanding) is stuffed, and I mean stuffed with assholes. Imagine Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island. You know, the millionaire with the stereotypical Yale accent? You’ll find so many of those types you’ll wanna just give up. Fuck those guys. With editors, you have to be careful when listing your past markets in a cover letter: Though story should ultimately win out no matter what, a lot of them do look at where you’ve been published before, and, if your past markets are the lowest of the low (the FTL markets that can’t even give you exposure) they do hold their little brandy sniffers like flamers and say, “They’re just not our type, Lovey.” I’m friends with a lot of editors on Facebook, and I know for a fact one of them posted a brief update regarding a slight formatting error I made in a submission to him. Funny thing is, he sent me a form rejection two hours earlier that made no mention of it. Not even a quick “Whatever you did with the formatting? Don’t do it again.” Oh, but editors are SO busy. They can’t personalize your rejection. Well, they can sure as hell take the time to whip up a mocking Facebook status, now, can’t they?
Thankfully, the industry is changing, and writers now have the option of perusing non-traditional avenues. Those dickwad editors? Their days are numbered.
Anyway, yeah, FTL markets have their benefits, just make sure you find a good one. And don’t let what I said about editors scare you off. Even they can recognize a good FTL market from a bad one. If you have good ones on your resume, they’re more likely to not reject you out of hand.