Today’s guest blogger is Jim Woods; his credentials as a writer are long and impressive, and can be found at the end of this post.
While browsing the numerous writer sites on the Internet, I was presented with a new one heretofore unfamiliar to me, Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP). I clicked to look, and promptly clicked on Membership. I was rewarded with a comprehensive listing of related magazines and publishers, alphabetized, and profiled. I set about to winnow the list to suit my particular interests. I had no immediate need of the material but the gift presence of the listing inspired me. I did not count the listings available but once into it I realized the total was a thousand at least and likely more.
At the outset, I knew that a large number of the listings would be online publishers, and my interest is real copies, products to be sold for payment in which the author should share. So I de-listed the online publishers whose work is freely accessible on the Internet. In so doing, I thinned the ranks considerably.
Apparently, publishers contributing their listings to the CLMP site were provided a check-off profile, with one box to be ticked being Author Payments. Options include: None; Copies; Copies and Subscription; Cash; Cash and Copies; and Cash, Copies and Subscription. I quickly removed adherents to the first three. The next eliminations were the publishers whose profiles indicated author payment but investigation of their websites failed to verify such intent or practice. The list was dwindling.
Actual payment listings included the non-specific “nominal lump payment.” Others admitted “low or modest payment,” perhaps too low or modest to admit the actual numbers. Several magazines paid by the page; not the manuscript page but the final, laid-out finished published page. Page rates range from five dollars to fifty dollars, some magazines setting minimum or maximum limits. Other publications paid by the word, one to eight cents. Others provided a fixed honorarium, fifty or one hundred dollars, no matter how many words or pages.
In all, I found seventeen magazines out of the more than one thousand listings in my polling sample that pay somewhere between a pittance and a dollar level that could be considered respectable. The numbers translate to less than two percent of the magazine titles recognizing an author’s work has value. Look at the opposite side of that percentage breakdown and the unavoidable conclusion is more than ninety-eight percent of those publishing houses in my survey classify the author’s work they solicit, creative work without which the magazine could not or would not exist, as worthless. The author’s creativity is worthless. The author’s education and dedication to craft, worthless.
The condition is not limited to this list of publications used for my study. I subscribe to a writers opportunity list that comes to me in daily e-mail. The opportunities are labeled as calls for submissions, meaning donation, and seldom as solicitations for potentially paid work. Those prospects usually are disguised in one of two cloaks: a plea for the authors’ very best work for which they are assumed to be so grateful for recognition alone that they gladly relinquish their literary creations in the name of charity; or as a contest entry for which the author must pay a reading fee. Once again the author’s work is seen as having no value—give it away or pay someone to haul it away like the Monday-morning trash pick-up.
I once was asked by a large non-profit writing group, of which I was a member, to collect, edit and shepherd through production a themed nonfiction/memoir anthology. The cause was good and I was active in the organization, and I had the expertise the project required. I agreed to accept the responsibility with conditions that including the writers would be paid. I did run into some resistance from the board of directors I couldn’t quite understand; this a group of writers all of whom have been exposed to the nonpaying “markets” I alluded to earlier. Note that “non-profit” does not mean “lack of bank account.” The organization collected annual dues and monthly luncheon fees from two or three hundred members, and had accumulated an excess of unspent funds. I was adamant and won the point. I established a page-rate payment; an equality factor that acknowledges the longer and more complete essays contribute more to the finished project than the brief ones. The book was commercially published and is available from the publisher and booksellers, with royalties going to the writer organization, not to the individual authors who were paid in full for their contributions. A win-win situation. Considering the number of contributors, thirty-seven in this case, dividing and posting quarterly or semiannual royalties to so many would be time costly and the individual payments would be negligible.
I continue my resolute position that authors deserve to be paid for their work. But I will back-pedal just a bit. I have contributed to charitable literary works where the cause was just and the budget was flat. A just cause is not, however, making money for the publisher at the expense of the authors. The profits must be shared, and I recognize too that publishers and distributors have rights to their portion of the earnings produced by the printed product. I simply want those publishers to respect similar rights of the authors. That said, I close with voicing my sincere appreciation to those publishers who do pay their contributors, for recognizing those authors’ professional contributions to the publishing community. I just wish there were more like you.
Jim Woods is an independent editor assisting book authors, small presses and corporations with line, style, and substance editing; applying his expertise to novels, short story collections, nonfiction and corporate image. Formerly, he was in-house Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with (then) Petersen Publishing Company, Beverly Hills; and satellite Contributing Editor with (then) Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. His professional associations include American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and Outdoor Writers of America (OWAA). He is a world traveler, having set foot in more than six-dozen countries on six continents, and is a worldwide big-game hunter. In addition to sixteen print and e-books he has published some four hundred articles in national magazines, including Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Popular Science, Guns & Ammo and Southern Outdoors, and contributed to various fiction and nonfiction anthologies. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at: http://users.dakotacom.net/~jwoods