What is the opposite of a sellout?

Filed under: The Writing Process — marcia at 2:23 pm on Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kelly Spitzer of “SmokeLong Quarterly” and Ellen Parker of “FRiGG” ask a group of writers about money … Do you only write for publications that pay? Do you pay reading fees and contest entry fees?

They seemed to agree that pay wasn’t a concern when considering where to submit their stories.
Dave Clapper, also of “SmokeLong Quarterly,” said of reading fees:

When working as a stage actor, I never had to pay to audition (and the potential pay there dwarfed these prizes, while the potential audience was smaller). Why should writing be different? Do painters pay galleries to have their work considered? Sculptors? Dancers? Singers? Maybe I’m wrong and some of these disciplines do require fees to be considered, but it seems like literature is the only artistic field where this is the accepted norm. Why?

Me? I’d prefer to submit to places that pay, even if it is a token payment that simply acknowledges that you gave them something of value. However, I wouldn’t call it a hard-and-fast rule, and it would depend on how much I loved the publication.
As far as reading fees, I feel like “labor of love” goes two ways. OK, publication, I concede that you aren’t in it for the cash either. But if you want to be a publication, you have to process the submissions that come your way. I realize it’s not a racket. These literary publications aren’t laughing and rolling in piles of money on round, velvet-covered beds. But if you are using writers to fund anything, your publication will probably go under soon anyway.

Reasonable contest fees are a little different, since this is a competition for a prize. There will be a winner and, if you win, you will get something. (Unless the contest is judged by Zadie Smith, see previous post) As long as it’s not some literary Ponzi scheme, these fees can be a way of ensuring a contest remains manageable with serious entrants, in addition to providing some funding. (This differs from a reading fee in that fewer people will submit something without the promise of a financial pay off)

What do you think?

–Marcia

1 Comment »

Comment by Robin

February 12, 2008 @ 12:00 am

It’s funny that writers will gripe about sending ten bucks to enter a contest, but will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars annually on various books and seminars promising “the secrets to success as a writer.”

Any profession with a lucrative high-end deserves reasonable investments of time, effort, and yes, money. (Oh yeah – don’t make any of those investments if you don’t at least possess a hint of talent to begin with. Eldrick Woods would never have become “Tiger” if, when handed a golf club at age three, he immediately impaled himself on the shaft).

The important thing to consider in doling out the dough is whether it is a sound investment. Case in point: see that previous post on the writing contest. One should reasonably hope that next year’s contest will not be heavily entered, and those that do submit their works are perfect representations of the time honored phrase “a fool and his money are soon parted.” Okay, so it’s a free competition. Time is money, yo! Reading fees outside of contests, on the other hand, are an even better representation of that quotation.

As for selling out, any time a writer takes a job that wouldn’t ordinarily interest them, they have sold out. I’ve done so, and I feel no shame in the label. It was far more important to me that I eat than march around the room pounding my chest while shouting “Look at me! I’m a proud writer!” (For the record, I took no credit – just the money. Oh, and I’m naturally skinny.)

Writing is, first and foremost, a passion of mine. I’ve done a lot of writing for which I will earn no money, nor any prestige. I also write because it is my God-given raw talent. I wish the Gods gave me the ability to shoot a hockey puck through a two-inch gap while skating at twenty-five miles an hour with a pair of defensemen hacking at my knees, but you take what you’re given in this life. I got fingers that occasionally erupt volcanically with words, and when they blow, it’s a bona fide hoot.

I’ll write for free and do so with gusto, but all the same, I’d like to know who is paying first.

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