100 Followers

bob's burgers tina

My blog reached 100 followers last night, and I want to celebrate that. Hooray!

I’m always particularly excited when I hit a milestone here, since everyone that follows me is always so engaged. The conversations I have with people on WordPress about writing, publishing, and books are always more insightful than on other social media platforms.

Here’s to you all, because you rock!

 

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Writing Tip: Never Pay Submission Fees

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Today’s post is brought to you by the letter S. Or more specifically💲.

I’m preparing to submit another round of short fiction, and noticed quite a few “start up” magazines (especially on the gross-but-necessary Facebook) are charging submission fees. This isn’t cool, and I’ll try to explain why without it turning into a rant.

Suffice to say, you should never pay anyone to read your writing.

Submission Fees

Are bull$h*t.

Also known as “reading fees”, many literary magazines and journals claim they need these to cover production costs or to pay their editors/slush readers. You should never submit your work to a magazine that is asking for a reading fee, and here are a couple reasons why.

🎩 ::puts on curmudgeon-y businessman hat:: 🎩

  • It’s not your problem if they operate at a loss.
    • Many of these tiny journals are passion projects. Nonetheless, they probably get way more submissions than they can or will accept. Lit mags have notoriously low acceptance rates, and that means you’re subsidizing someone else’s creative endeavors for them to potentially read one sentence (if any) of a story and chuck it in the trash. If you DO get accepted and published, you likely won’t get any payment.
    • Most writers aren’t rolling in dough. You need to save money for more important things involving your own work
  • You don’t know their readership or margins
    • Often they ask for a fee, but either don’t pay the accepted authors or pay them in token copies
    • Sometimes the journals are “online only” which means their overhead costs could be next-to-nothing
    • If they ARE selling the magazine, you’re paying them to take your product (writing), and then make money off of it, essentially “double-dipping”.
  • The project may never happen
    • Not all ideas come to fruition. I like to believe people are good, but there are plenty of scammers out there who prey on idealistic writers and disappear without ever creating a journal due to “circumstances beyond their control”, but by the way “no refunds”.

I’m not saying all literary journals should be operating at a loss, but the legitimate ones that you see on Duotrope and Submission Grinder are usually stable enough to accept work without charging, even if they don’t have enough of a budget to pay the accepted authors. They understand that writers are providing their hard work for either a token payment, or exposure to a wider audience.

In my opinion, “Pay to Play” is never an acceptable model.

Exception: Contests

Here’s where I contradict myself.

If a writing contest is requesting a submission fee, because it intends to pay a cash prize to the winner, then a SMALL payment is usually OK. You should still do some research and only enter legitimate contests that have been around for a while. You can usually spot sketchy ones:

  • They’re “annual” but this is the first year they exist
  • The fees are much higher than the final collected pay out to the winner
  • There is little-to-no information or backing, other than an address to send money and writing to

I know some authors who have hard & fast rules about never giving their writing away. I don’t feel I’m at that level yet, so I’m open to opportunities that don’t involve direct payment. However, I will never pay money to either submit (or be published), and I’d encourage you to never do that either.

The entire reason publishers and magazines exist is to build a readership by selectively publishing the work of authors they feel deserve merit. It’s not our job to keep them in business.

That’s what readers are for.

 

Become a Better Writer for Under $20

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How many times have you seen someone selling you a course or some other product on the internet that claims it will make you a better writer, or purchase a book that can supposedly help you get published, only to have it contain nebulous tips like “practice writing every day”, “be persistent”, and “create great stories”? Or worse, corporate buzz like “grow your brand”.

I really hate these things, and they seem to be proliferating across the internet as people try to take advantage of hungry writers.

In an attempt to subvert that which I do not care for, I’m creating this post. It’s a list of 5 things that should cost you under $20 total (in fact, probably under $10 if you’re not a pen snob like me) and will absolutely make you a better writer.

Here they are in no particular order, as pictured above.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E.B. White

This is the book if you want to improve your craft. The gold standard since around 1919, its beauty lies in simplicity. It provides straightforward, common-sense rules and style suggestions for writing the English language. Plus, clear examples of each rule so they are easy to understand. It’s quite short and easy to reference whenever you need it.

Buy it in paperback. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket if you don’t wear tight pants. My copy (pictured) is a tapestry of margin notes, dog-eared pages, and highlighter fluid. I own a bunch of writing references, but this is the one I use 97% of the time.

Cost: $5 to $10 depending on the retailer.

A Pen

People tell me they can be mightier than swords. Get one. Two if you’re prone to losing things.

Cost: $1 to $500 if you’re rich and crazy, but you’re a writer, so you’re probably just crazy.

Index Cards

Use the pen to write on these. Write notes, edits, even alternate plots and character bios. The beauty of index cards is you can re-arrange and lay them out. I’m a very visual person, and being able to “re-structure” a story by using these like Flashcards, or simply compare alternate ideas to what’s on my screen. If you have Scrivener you can type them into its “index card” system later. There are a million things writers can do with index cards, and stacks are cheap.

Cost: $1-4 depending on retailer

Notebook

Buy one and keep it with you, because inspiration shows up at the most inconvenient times. If you splurge on a pretentious one cough…Moleskine…cough they have a handy little pocket in the back where you can stash some index cards for easy access.

Cost: $1 for some Mead spiral-bound or Lisa Frank glittery unicorn action, up to $25 for the really overpriced ones that people make Youtube videos about.

Highlighter

I’m one of those people who highlights and makes margin notes in my books. Some people feel that is sacrilege. I disagree, because highlighting and writing notes is a sign of critical reading. Writers are constantly told to read, but reading critically will help you improve much faster. On top of that, I read a lot of books and I can’t possibly remember all the things I like about them them. The Kindle has a lovely “highlight” feature, but when it comes to ink on paper, I leave a yellow trail in my wake like a slug.

Cost: $1 to $1 (seriously, just buy these at the dollar store).

So there you have it. A kit for less than twenty bucks that is guaranteed to help you improve as long as you use all the tools it contains. It won’t help you “build a platform”, but it will help you with something far more important – your writing craft.