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What good is exposure, if any?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Feo Takahari, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    Is there any point at all to submitting to magazines that don't pay? Is there any value in getting "exposure" for your stories, or is it just a waste of time?

    Personally, I submitted one story to InD'Tale because I figured they weren't getting many submissions and I wouldn't have much competition. I assume the average publisher will have no clue what that is, meaning that saying I've got a prior publication in InD'Tale will be more likely to slightly help (at least I published something) than slightly hurt (I published in a non-paying market.) My goal is to get one more of these, then never touch non-paying markets again.
  2. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    I've just had a fantasy romance story published in a free anthology. The group who run the anthologies are planning to do at least 4 a year to get exposure. Obviously as it's free there is no money involved but it is a good way of getting your name out there as the stories all list the author's other works and websites etc. There is no reason why one shouldn't do both - paid and free. I suppose it depends what one wants out of the submission.
    I've also got another anthology piece coming up in the next couple of weeks and hopefully some paid ones later one.
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    This is something I've been mulling over myself recently. I've published stuff for free in the past, but I've gotten paid through some as well. Of course I prefer getting paid and I think my work is good enough to get paid at this point. Therefore, I'm very unlikely to submit something for free unless it's a charity deal or if I'm doing a friend a favor. It's not because I think I'm so awesome that I should be paid, it's just that I have to have confidence to aim for semi-pro or pro markets when I write stories that I think have a shot. I have loads of shorts that have sat in limbo simply because I want to keep polishing them and get them in circulation. My feeling is that if I can't get them picked up from a pay market, I may try self-publishing them at some point as a collection. I know those don't always sell well, but I figure it's worth a shot.

    I'm not totally against non-paying markets myself, it's just I rather try to get my work in pay markets nowadays.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I had a story published at Bewildering Stories. It was good for me because I had to write to a length, and because the readers there were reasonably critical, giving me good feedback and forcing one more rewrite before the story was accepted. All that was of a direct benefit to me.

    I'm more skeptical about the notion of getting one's name "out there". I'm not quite sure where "there" is. Sure, if someone searched specifically for my name, they would find some stuff, but mostly they would find my history articles, not that short story. They would have to know the name of the specific story. In theory some might come across the story by chance, but readership on sites like that are small.

    I think there is an idea that some sort of "there" exists and if only we do our marketing right, we can be "there" too. But the Internet, like the rest of human society, is fragmented, localized, and in constant churn.

    My goal right now is more to improve than it is to get published someplace specific. My eventual goal is to get good enough and successful enough to justify joining the SFWA. Not because it's so wonderful, but simply because it's a nice, clear benchmark. Beyond that, I suppose it will be to sell N number of copies of ... well, of anything, really. Sell a hundred, then a thousand, then ten thousand, and so on.

    One of the chief benefits of professional publishing, regardless of medium, is getting more professional eyes on one's work. The editor, the agent, the publisher. These people will give a kind of feedback that is much rarer in the amateur world.

    Here's a comparison. I was trained as a medieval historian. There are plenty of amateurs who write history, most of it rather bad. Few people would try to argue that self-published history stands on the same level as peer-reviewed, professional publishing of scholarship. The real key there isn't the credential, it's the peer review. It's pros critiquing pros.

    With due acknowledgement of some differences, I'd say much the same goes for fiction writing.
  5. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Exposure is worth it's weight in gold. ;)

    Personally, I tend to be skeptical about doing anything for exposure alone. Unpaid venues tend to have very small audiences, so even the "exposure" you get will be limited. The exception might be in certain niches. For example, maybe there is a small unpaid magazine publishing Lovecraftian-style fiction, and you want to connect with exactly that sort of audience. In this case, you're appealing to a small audience who don't have nearly as many places to go, so showing yourself as an option could be useful.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    The value of "exposure" varies. If you have a platform and other works out there, I think that it can do you some good.

    Case in point: I've read about half of Steerpike's anthology. I liked one of the stories quite a lot. Next time I have a lull in my reading list, I will look him up and see if he has anything for sell that I might like. If he does, that is a tangible benefit to him.

    I think there is value in an author making such submissions over and above the exposure, however. You need to test yourself as an author, and the ability to get accepted can be an indicator that you are on the right track,
    sleepwriter likes this.
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I can only relate my experience and what I've been told.

    For the anthology, as well as for the ezine I ran (both of which did pay), when someone listed credits with non-paying markets, it didn't impress me in any way, but it didn't hurt anything either. It was basically a wash. If someone listed credits with paying markets I knew, then it helped move them up the slush pile a bit.

    One editor with Baen told me never to submit to a non-paying market, and if I did not to list it as a credit. He said it only made a writer look like an amateur and that even the author didn't consider her work worth paying for. I think that's a bit extreme and probably not a sentiment shared by many editors, but it is out there and from an editor with a major publisher.
  8. Helen

    Helen Inkling


    Absolutely not.


    (don't do it!)
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I have a hard time with this advice. It still seems to me like there is some benefit if you have other products that you wish to sell.
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I probably wouldn't bother with exposure until I had something available for people to pay for; I mean, I'll google an author I liked a short story by, but if they have nothing else out at the time, I'll probably never think to do it again years later when they finally do.

    I'll write for free publications if I support the premise behind them (I wrote a story for a queer women's anthology once) or if they are charities. But just for exposure? Not until I can add in my author blurb 'her debut novel is available through X', because that sort of thing is basically a free advertisement for me.
    sleepwriter likes this.
  11. tlbodine

    tlbodine Troubadour

    That there is the key to getting "out there" IMO.

    When looking at exposure, the amount a publication pays is less relevant than the amount of readership it has. The problem with the free small presses is they seem to exist solely to stroke the owner's ego, and are read only by other writers looking to be published in them. If an editor isn't doing anything to make a magazine/anthology/whatever get settled beneath reader's eyeballs, it's not worth your time.

    But if you can be reasonably assured that the collection will find its way to readers, then you can instantly worm your way into a market that you otherwise might not be able to access. And people who read it may well look up your other work. In a way, a short story in somebody else's collection is like a commercial for the rest of your work.

    Another thing: Don't disregard the value of building a relationship with editors. I have a handful of what I would consider "true fans" and in every case they've found my work because I had previously written something for them and they took an interest in my career because of it.
  12. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    I don't have a prejudice against non-paying venues, but I also come out of writing literary stuff (some stories, mostly poems). I've received exactly one check ($40!) and lots of contributor copies. So I would say publish as widely as possible, especially if you're just starting out. There's a thrill in it. You empty out the cupboards; would you rather your story lay fallow when the half-dozen places that pay turn it down? And you do get some credits, which maybe you drop over time as you get into better venues. The fact is, if you're publishing in the free venues you're probably not getting picked up by Baen soon anyway.

    And yes to everthing tbodine said too.
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    It occurs to me that my discussion with the Baen editor was before self-publishing really hit the dramatic proportions of recent years. I think the idea of exposure in free markets when you have other works for sale, self-published, has some merit. Before, if you were traditionally-published you probably weren't going to be publishing in non-paying markets (barring charitable projects and the like). Publishing in non-paying markets probably didn't do you much good at all.

    I will say this, however - look at the non-paying market carefully. Many of them hope to generate revenue through ads, or through sales of published collections, or what have you. If the market is one that is trying to make money, but they're unwilling to share that money with the content providers (without whom they'd have no product), steer well away from them.
  14. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    Is it really all that different from working an unpaid internship for a for-profit corporation? Granted, in a year or two my state may make it illegal for for-profits to not pay their interns, but in the meantime, taking the internship and having something to put on your resume is way better than not having anything at all. The experience factor matters less in writing, but if a magazine is successfully making a profit without paying its contributors anything, it's probably got a lot of readers you can try to market to.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Yeah, I wouldn't do that either :)
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver


    I'm not saying that I'm vehemently opposed to your concept here, but, I guess for me, I don't really care all that much whether the publication is making money off me.

    Let's take two scenarios where a guy puts together an anthology.:

    Scenario 1: He offers editing of the story, $20, and a share of 1/3 of profits.

    Scenario 2: He offers editing.

    Both being equal, I'd choose scenario 1. Truthfully, though, $20 doesn't do much for me, and I have little confidence that I'll ever see terribly much in the way of profits. I figure that the anthology will have to sell a decent amount to cover the price of the cover and the editor. After that, I'm only seeing a tiny amount of each copy sold. Maybe I'm pessimistic on this, but I just don't see me making enough money off the deal to make it worth my while.

    Assuming that there is any reason that I might like the Scenario 2 anthology better (theme, I know the guy putting it together better, I already have a story idea, etc.), I'd probably end up choosing the non-paying one.
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Assuming the non-paying market is respectable enough, what ever that means, getting your story published indicates that you can work with an editor reasonably enough. It makes you a little bit more of a known quantity. Though obviously not perfect, it points to the author not being some unreasonable nut job.
  18. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    I think there is value in some nonpaying publications. Most publications of a certain quality pay, but I also evaluate prestige and size of readership. If my name is listed in the table of contents alongside authors like Neil Gaiman or Ursula K. Le Guin...well, that's more desirable to me than a few bucks. There are few markets I'd put in this category.

    Nonpaying markets with the following get removed from my list of places to submit to:
    • reading fees. SERIOUSLY? How can they justify this?
    • brand new and thus has no way for me to judge content and aesthetic. That just means I wait and see what they come up with and if they last beyond issue #1.
    • charges too much for a subscription. If they charge $45 for an issue, I don't see why I'd subscribe or why potential readers would.
    • iffy-looking wesbite (sparse details, no contact information, generally weird or lazy vibe)
    • awkward business setup like expecting to pay authors royalties when it's a fledgling anthology run by editors who've never done an anthology.
    • bad contract.
    • the aesthetic is so far from my own I wouldn't be happy seeing my work there.
    Which isn't to say I don't judge paying markets this way. It's just that I'm more lenient because money. :happy:

    I'd say, don't publish in nonpaying markets for exposure unless you know they get thousands of readers for each issue (or book, in the case of anthologies). Otherwise, submit to a nonpaying market because you admire the work they do and would be proud to see your work in their issue. If you respect the publication, you won't regret sending work to them. If you dislike what they do, they'll be easy to regret later. When you're not getting exposure and you don't like them and they're not paying you, I don't see why it'd be worth submitting to them.

    I don't think a credit like that would do much good...at least, not with an editor. They're familiar with who publishes what. As credits, unknown magazines/anthologies might hurt more than help. I could see a credit like that earning a closer read from slush readers who aren't as familiar with the market. Who knows.

    I agree with this completely.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  19. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Another aspect to consider, whether it's a paying market or not, is the contract.

    I've seen some contracts with anthologies and online ezines that offer 'exposure' or a copy or two of the print edition, that ask for exclusive rights, and lock up rights to the short story for years, or forever. Sometimes I am not sure that the publisher of the ezine or anthology even knows the difference between exclusive and nonexclusive rights. They just copied a contract they came across from somewhere else and 'find/replaced' information, like the name of the anthology and publisher.

    It's important that a writer obtains a contract, which spells out what rights are granted or used by the publication in question, and the timeframe. There is nothing wrong with being asked for a previously unpublished piece, and exclusivity for the market for a couple months--or even a year if they pay well (in my opinion). But an author would want the rights to revert to them within a specific timeframe. Also, the rights should revert within a specific time frame from acceptance of the piece. If, for example, the contract is vague on that aspect, and refers to 'upon publication'--but say that the author signs the contract, and the publication gets delayed--for a year or more, or goes on 'hiatus' but doesn't release the rights to those works accepted, it can leave the writer in limbo with that particular story.

    Although I've signed probably two dozen or so contracts, both for original pieces and reprints (which is why an author would want the rights to revert), I am no expert--not even close. That said, there is no reason that an author shouldn't attempt to negotiate aspects of the contract that are not satisfactory, and if the contract remains unsatisfactory, don't sign. Be willing to walk away. A good place to start and see what's proper for an author is the SFWA's Model Contracts.

    But, back on to the main thrust of the thread. There may be legitimate reasons for going with a non-paying venue. For example, it may be a niche type of story, with few options available. Still, I'd say when looking for a home (magazine, ezine, anthology), target those markets with the highest exposure/rate of pay (usually those two go hand in hand) and work your way down...from Pro-rate, to semi-pro rate, to moderate, to token payment, to non-payment. And consider that if the story can't find a market, except for a small one that doesn't pay and won't get many readers, maybe it's really not as solid of a story that you believe it to be. There may be a reason it didn't find a home with a paying market, and maybe you don't really want it 'out there' representing your storytelling ability.

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