Thursday, 4 October 2012

Wot, no payment?

I wrote a short story way back in 2004 when I was at an early stage in my writing career. I was quite pleased with it, and sent it off to a couple of womags, but it was rejected. Then I sent it to a non-paying online magazine, the Rose and Thorn. They accepted it and duly published it.

Fast forward to January this year. I received an email via the contact page on this blog, asking for permission to republish that same story. It was from a fellow called Robin, not Rose & Thorn. I was naturally a bit suspicious, and emailed back, asking where they wanted to publish it, and would there be any payment? He must have googled my name (I have a fairly unusual surname) and followed links to find this blog and email address.

Robin replied, explaining that he worked for a company who were helping the Texas Education Authority put together exam papers. They wanted my story as part of an English course assessment paper. They offered me US$500, and asked for 10 years exclusive rights over it, after which time all rights revert to me. (For which reason I can't post a link to the story on this blog until mid 2022!)

I googled the company to check them out, and discovered they were huge and definitely legitimate. I agreed to the publication, and was duly paid by bank transfer.

Why am I telling you this? Just to make a point that sometimes, having work published for no payment, can work in your favour. Who knows who might be reading it? That little story of mine earned nearly $1 a word, and is studied by Texan college students, which I find oddly amusing.


I do think that if an organisation can afford to pay writers then they certainly should. I was as incensed as everyone else when a magazine with a good budget and high readership tried to fill its pages last summer by holding a fiction competition with the only prize being publication (thankfully they backtracked and quite rightly ended up paying for all stories they published).

But I also firmly believe there's a place for small, non-paying markets, run by people with enthusiasm, passion but no budget. Professional writers need not use time and effort submitting to these places, but for others - beginner writers, hobbyist writers, or maybe writers with years of experience under their belts and a stack of unpublished stories gathering dust - such outlets are in my opinion, certainly worth investigating.





26 comments:

blogaboutwriting said...

Well said, Womag. And if anyone mocked you at the time for 'giving up' your story for free well, you've certainly had the last laugh! $500 is a fabulous amount to earn for a short story. Good for you - and thanks for sharing your news.

Anonymous said...

Well done, Womag. It's like having a little lottery win. I bet you're curious to know what the Texan students think of your story. I would be. Good wishes KH

Laura Besley said...

Food for thought...!

Geraldine Ryan said...

How flattering! I'd be thrilled! Yes, you cast your bead upon the waters there and got lucky.

Geraldine Ryan said...

Bread, I meant. Though "bead" as in "jewel" might be more apt!

Maria said...

I love stories with a happy ending. Well done!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a fabulous outcome! And yes, I completely agree with allowing the odd story to be published free, depending on the reason and source. I also love the fact we never know who is reading our work!

Pat Posner said...

Oh, that's lovely, Womag.

Geraldine Ryan said...

I've donated myself to charity anthologies, so I'm not entirely anti!

Rena George said...

How wonderful, Womag. Many congratulations. What an inspiring story. x

L said...

Result!

Anonymous said...

That's fantastic, womag - well done.

Sam

Laura Marcus said...

My point about writers giving their work away for free is that the printers don't. Nor the distributors, utility companies, landlords etc etc. Everyone else is paid. But there wouldn't be a publication without the writers. So why are we at the end of the queue?

There is still far too much expectation that being creative means we do it for love and will be happy with publication.

I'm glad your story has a happy ending womag. But I'm afraid I'm entirely unshakeable in my opinion that we shouldn't work for nothing.

parlance said...

I'm interested in what Rosemary Gemmell said, that we never know who's reading our work.
I write exam questions for a private organisation that gives students practice sessions. We aim to make our questions as like as possible to the real exams, and I spend hours searching the internet for just the right picture prompt, quote, or provocative article.
However, we use things that are copyright free.
On the other hand, a friend of mine who had a story in a recent anthology of award winning stories was thrilled to be asked if part of her text could be used in the same way as you're reporting, Womag. The pay was pretty good, as far as I know.

Pat Posner said...

I think, by now, Laura M. we are all well aware of your feelings on working for free - or for what you consider a 'too low' payment.

Edith said...

What a great outcome! Thanks for telling your story. x

womagwriter said...

Thanks for all the congratulations, folks. It was a while back - I didn't mention it at the time because, well, because I didn't want to. But following the discussion on the short story app post, I felt it was the right time.

Laura - unshakeable opinions are good. Just don't expect everyone else to share them.

Parlance - your friend's experience sounds very like mine. Well done to her. Just shows, you never know who's reading your work, once you send it out into the big wide world.

Patsy said...

Congratulations on the sale, Womag. I think giving away work for free is often speculative. We might gain something from it in the way of publicity or future sales, but we won't know that at the time and it's often hard to measure that success later.

Kath said...

That's brilliant, Womag - what a result. I think it's true that many people volunteer to work for free in many spheres of life, with good results - I know that both times I've offered my services for free to an organisation I've ended up with a paid job out of it. Sometimes seems to me that it's around my two main interests - writing and knitting! - that people feel most strongly that they should always be paid a reasoanble rate for what they're doing. Maybe because both skills are probably under-rated, which leads to over-sensitivity? Don't know, but I think there's a difference between a major magazine running a competition with no prize and someone trying to start something from scratch and hoping fellow writers will cut them a little slack for a while.

womagwriter said...

Absolutely, Kath - there IS a difference! This issue is simply not black and white. For some organisations or publications not to pay writers is outrageous. For others, it's completely understandable and the only way they can survive.

Nan Sheppard said...

The other good thing about writing for free is that it is great experience, and if it's online, you may get feedback. I write parenting columns, and the years I spent writing for a parenting website and answering readers' questions have been so valuable. My second feature in Green Parent Magazine is due out in November, their 50th edition! And I have articles in other great magazines too. Not enough to quit the day job yet, but maybe one day!

Vikki (www.the-view-outside.com) said...

Congratulations!

Just goes to show :)

X

Anonymous said...

Well said, Laura M. Many others share your unshakeable opinion and exercise it daily!

parlance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
parlance said...

I used to write for a magazine about miniatures and dollshouses, until the editor and the owner decided to go their separate ways. I had been recruited by the editor, so I lost my connection to the magazine.

A friend was excited to be asked to write about her own online business for the new-look magazine. I was surprised to learn that she had to write the whole article, which they tweaked to look like an interview with her. She provided the photos (which I had done for my articles). She was not paid. The idea was that she should be grateful for the advertising.

I didn't think that was fair, but she was happy with the arrangement. I did not ever write for that magazine again, because I was a writer, not a craftsperson, and I needed to be paid.

J Falkner said...

An inspiring story!