Monday, November 17, 2008
I've just had an interesting demonstration of commercial considerations in writing. I regularly check the submission guidelines posted at ERA, partly to look for markets for things I've written, and partly for inspiration -- I've had a couple of good short stories out of reading interesting calls for submissions there, including my vampire short Promises To Keep, which is published by Loose Id but was originally written to submit to an anthology edited by M Christian. And there was a period when I tried to come up with something for every appropriate call there, not necessarily with the intention of submitting it, but as a writing exercise.
I've just been over there for pretty much the first time since I started the new day job, and started skimming the listings. And skipped right over the one for pulp sf shorts -- because it only pays $25.
There was a time when I'd have been moderately pleased with $25 for a short. I probably wouldn't have written a story especially for such a market, unless the call itself inspired me to something, but I'd have spent time considering which stories in hand best fitted which markets before submitting them. Now, it's not really worth my time doing even that, not if the money is the only interest I might have in the market. I'm a lot better off spending the time working on my next novel, because I'll get a much better return on my investment of time. That vampire anthology would have paid me $50 or $75 plus 2 copies of the book (the usual rates for presses like Alyson or Cleis), but I've had something like $650 so far from the Loose Id ebook.
That doesn't mean I won't submit stories to low paying markets. Money isn't the only concern, and there are no-pay markets I'd happily submit to because I respect the editorial team. There's another anthology paying $25 where I regret not having time to write something. But if it's just about the money, then $25 isn't enough.
So yes, I'm writing for the money. But I'm in the happy position of being able to write what I love writing, for the money. I have more interesting ideas than I'll ever be able to write, and if I pick and choose amongst them based on commercial considerations, I'll still have nothing but stories I wanted to write anyway. And there is this consideration as well -- I don't write purely for the money, but if I'm writing for publication at all, then I'm writing for an audience. And if you want to know how many people like your work, then knowing how many liked it enough to pay for it is good. Money is a way to keep score.