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others - beginner writers, hobbyist writers, or maybe writers with years of experience under their belts and a stack of unpublished stories gathering dust - such outlets are in my opinion, certainly worth investigating.