Tag Archives: twitter

My Policy on Non-Paying Markets

Because I sometimes get obsessed with such things, I was thinking about my submission queue today and about how I pick markets to send stories to. You can read that thread on my twitter starting with this tweet:

This train of thought eventually led to the question of how a market pays. My policy on this is simple: I will always* submit a story to pro-paying markets before I try it on semi-pro markets, and I will almost never dip below semi-pro payment ($0.01/word minimum).

My reasoning is simple: I value and believe in my work. Not submitting to pro markets first is basically saying “yeah, this story is ok, I guess.” I don’t submit stories I think are just ok. If it’s just ok, it goes back to my writing group or other friends for further critique.

So what about if I run out of pro and semi-pro markets? Do I send to token and non-paying markets? Simple answer: no. If I can’t sell a story to the available pro or semi-pro markets, I’d rather sit on the story than send it to a non-paying market, and I won’t consider a token market unless it pays over a certain threshold.

Why? See above: I value my work. And writing is work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I’ll take the last few stories I’ve sent through workshop as examples: each of them is around 4000 words, and each one took me probably six hours to get to draft 1. Each of them has been through at least 4 drafts with my writing group and various other beta-readers, and each additional draft has taken me at least an hour to make revisions on, bringing my own investment of time up to at least ten hours and probably more like twelve or fourteen.

I have a day job that consumes a lot of my daily spoons, so when I make time for writing, which I try to do every day, that’s a Serious Investment for me. Likewise, if I take on freelance work, that’s an investment of time that I then can’t spend writing or with my family. I do not work for free. I do not give away time that I could spend with my family.

I know that writing short fiction alone isn’t going to pay my bills. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t pay anything. Short fiction writing doesn’t pay by the hour, it pays by the word. If I sold a 4000 word story at the minimum pro rate specified by SFWA, that would mean I’d made $240, which is pretty decent money. If I’ve put 16 hours of work into that story (and chances are good that by the time I’ve sold a story, I’ll have put in a lot more), that comes out to $15/hour, which is the local minimum wage.

With $240, I can take my wife out on a nice date and still have money left over to put into savings like a Responsible Adult. I can’t put “exposure” in the bank. I can’t pay for a nice meal with my byline.

Do I think it’s wrong that there are non-paying markets? No. I’ve even been published by a few during and immediately after college. (I will say, though, that those pieces were all written as class assignments.) Do I think I’ll never sell another story to a non-paying market? Probably not? There are some non-paying audio reprint markets out there that are great. But at that point, I’ll have already sold the story once for money, so.

*I can imagine a scenario in which there was an anthology or similar that was only paying in the semi-pro range before sending to a pro market if that semi-pro market was the perfect fit for a story.


Tools for Writers: Twitter (Seriously)

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I fuck around a lot on Twitter.

Like a lot.

I also joined Twitter way back in 2012 because I thought that as a writer, I would need it someday, even if I didn’t need it right then, because I saw a lot of authors I look up to using the platform successfully as a way to reach out to their fans and probably (at least for Scalzi) bring in some new fans of their writing based on their being entertaining on Twitter.

I’m not going to pretend that I know how this happened, but somewhere in the last four years, Twitter actually went from being just a place where I could make random observations about bikes, tech, and writing to a place where I actually have a little baby network of friends and acquaintances. (But if you pay me a couple hundred dollars, I’ll totally tell you my Social Networking Secrets so that you, too, can sit at the Cool Kids Table™ on Twitter.)

What I’m getting at, then, is that, used wisely, Twitter can actually be a useful tool for writers, and not just as a part of your Brand.

I’ve gotten great writing prompts from Twitter in the past, both from soliciting prompts and just from latching onto ideas that have flitted across my feed. Better than that, I’ve gotten some amazing, insightful feedback from folks who I’m friends with on Twitter (many of whom I’ve never met in real life), and I’ve been able to offer critiques for other folks as well that (I hope) have helped them improve their stories as well as giving me insight into my own writing through critical reading.

So, yeah, I would absolutely say that Twitter is a useful tool for writers.* If you’re a writer who’s on the fence about joining, maybe give it a try. I’ll leave it to others to talk about all the things you shouldn’t do on Twitter (and anyone who says you must do something on Twitter is either lying or trying to sell you something—probably both).

*I will offer the caveat that, as with all things, not every tool works for every person. Just because I’ve written pieces of novels and entire short stories in Vim doesn’t mean that’s the right tool for everyone else.


Even More Tools for Writers

The other day, on Twitter, Seanan McGuire put out a call for help

A lot of people responded, and they all apparently missed the mark by many miles, but author and Writing Excuses panelist Mary Robinette Kowal came to the rescue with a tool that I always (in a vague, back-of-my-mind way) thought should exist: the reverse dictionary.

(As a side note, I can’t seem to get the parent tweet in that conversation to not show up here, which is bothersome to me because reasons.)

As somebody who on occasion likes to use precise language but also sometimes totally forgets words, this revelation is world-changing.

This second tool is no less useful, but its target audience is a little smaller.

I discovered Markdown during the last NaNoWriMo.  For those of us who sometimes like to write in plain text but still get to have italics and other formatting options available to us without having to go through any tedious editing work later to add them in, Markdown is brilliant and wonderful.  Learn the syntax (which takes its cues from plaintext email formatting), write, and then Markdown turns your work into beautiful, valid (X)HTML, ready to publish straight to the web (if that’s your thing).  (You can also just open the HTML with your browser locally and then copy/paste into your word processor of choice for final manuscript preparation if you like to make things more complicated like I do.)

With Markdown, Vim can play right along with Word/Pages/Writer as far as I’m concerned (and it’s one of the best low-distraction writing environments I can think of).  For ease-of-use, if you’re a *nix user, just drop this into your bash profile, and you’re set:

alias md='perl /path/to/Markdown.pl'

(Vim users can also get Markdown syntax-highlighting scripts from github–I’m using the files from tpope/vim-markdown.)


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