The term paying dues is generally synonymous with work for free. Boxers, professional wrestlers, artists, writers… the type of folks whose passions burn with or without the promise of fame or fortune. Toiling to better ourselves, our art, our talents.
And those who aspire are always looking for a place to perform. We imagine a ladder that needs to be climbed and those of us who want to build something will often try to enter our respective fields in showcases that encourage the artist and the struggle.
For the Love markets have been around a very long time. Low pay, no pay venues have often been a great vehicle for the talented wordsmith eager to start and build a brand. Many pro authors who feel you are only a true writer if someone pays you (purists who will in no way confess to the blatant nepotism and who you know politics of certain circles but that isn’t the point of this article) and some who are struggling still but would rather not make it without professional validation, condemn many venues for the struggling ink-slinger. But I assure you there is nothing wrong with contributing to a for the love anthology or magazine. The sad, hard truth is that few generate income with their writing. There is no shame or failure in not having a lucrative book deal with one of the few traditional publishers left. Really, only a handful have made it that far.
I have witnessed quite a few immensely talented individuals emerge from For the Love publications. I think the Indie market is vital to the continued growth of the horror fiction market. But there are also ways that I think the market can improve itself.
I have appeared in a few non-paying anthologies in the last year. I will usually contribute if the rights are flexible or the publisher doesn’t mind a reprint. I am not against appearing anywhere as I am always trying to attract new readers. If I only gain one new reader from an anthology appearance, it was worth it. I have no issue with contributing, but there are a few things that I expect in return and there are a few practices that I think could be improved. I am not out to shame any publisher because they are a vital stage to perform on. But here is a BIG suggestion that I think would improve the market:
Expose me. That is what you promised to do and it is the only reason I agreed to let you publish my story. When I go to a book listing on Amazon and see the anthology I am featured in with a thin synopsis and only an editor listed as a contributor, it pisses me off. It is lazy, not marketed properly and, guess what? If you booked me for your anthology and haven’t listed me, even in the book description, I can’t add it to my author page.
You know something? I sell a decent amount of books. And when someone reads something of mine, they usually go to my Amazon author page and look for other books to buy. If you are not tying me to the anthology, then I can’t add it to my online bookstore. No one knows I am there and I am not going to promote something that doesn’t acknowledge my contribution. This has happened twice now, and both times I said something. These publishers aren’t bad people. Quite the opposite. They are warm and creative people who want to help other authors.
But don’t be lazy about it. I did a For the Love anthology with Journals of Horror: Found Fiction. I promoted it. I got it out there. I listed every contributor in press releases and on Amazon. JOH also made the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Awards in anthologies. I still promote my anthology every few months with paid promotions. I owe it to the authors who trusted in me as an editor to get their tales in front of people. And I am.
If you are a publisher and people are giving you stories for no payment, the very least you can do is present a sharp book description and acknowledge the people who are in your book. Market the damned thing. Promote it. Submit it to Awards juries. You owe it to your contributors to feel they walked away with something.
And a few suggestions to authors who are thinking of submitting to these type of markets:
Rights: Make sure you aren’t losing these all together or for an unreasonable amount of time.
Contracts: If there isn’t something in writing, pass. If there is, read it carefully (see Rights).
Credit: Yes, you have every right to ask if you will be mentioned/listed as a contributor to the book. Amazon only allows so many contributors, but there is no reason that a publisher can’t include a full contributor list with a book description.
Be Professional: Even if you aren’t getting paid, use this experience as a primer for dealing with a professional market. Conduct yourself in a proper manner. Don’t think that you can’t start a bad reputation at this level. You can.