East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Non-paying markets are not markets


I’ve just submitted two stories to the same magazine – they accept multiple submissions, they pay ten cents a word, and they have only one slot open, so it’s really a long shot. Very hard market, lot of competiton from people that’s way better than me. Why not double the chances?

In fact I had mailed just one story, two days ago, but then I got caught in a discussion about paying and non-paying markets and…
Ah, I’m a bad person!

Because you see, one of my contacts was complaining of the fact that Italian markets for fantasy and science fiction are usually non-paying markets.
Which means they are not actually, you know… markets.
Because a market is a place in which something is exchanged for something else, and that something else is usually money, not exposure.

Anyway, that’s the state of affairs hereabouts – with few notable exceptions, you are asked to donate your work to people that will then sell it.
Why is it so, my contact asked, while in the rest o f the big great world they actually pay the writer?

The usual responses were provided, the most common being that the readers won’t pay for the magazines, so how and why should the publisher pay the writers?
But as usual it was also ventilated the hypothesis that foreign markets are not really paying markets. And yet I can bring my witness, as others can – we sell to English-language markets, and we get paid.

Our sales were countered with the observation that a certain specific magazine – to which I had submitted a story two days ago – would not pay the writers.
Posting the actual open call guidelines, that mention word-count requested and per-word compensation were dismissed with the fact that the magazine is disqualified anyway, they will pay late and probably less than promised.


Irritating in particular because this defense of non-paying markets comes from people that are not being paid, that raise in defense of those that do not pay them, but actually make a buck from their work.
They should be the ones that are pissed off, and are out for blood.
But if it is true that all they stand to lose is their chains, it is also true that many of them have a “real job”, write as a hobby, and their chains give them bragging rights.
Look, I’m a writer!

Just like Harlan Ellison used to say, this makes me so angry.

But there’s a good way to discharge anger, and it is do something constructive. So I went through my archive, picked a suitable old story, cleaned it up, and mailed it – right to the magazine I had been told is disqualified, it will not pay me, and I’m a fool for believing it.
Let’s double the chances of not being paid!

I am a bad person.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Non-paying markets are not markets

  1. Well, that was an anthropologically interesting conversation. Each contributor had its own group of friends to take side of and no actual experience on the topic – except that, hey, the others were so wrong! White noise to leave behind.


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