I was recently in a discussion with a colleague about where to submit my short stories. I’ve had a few sales but am still very much the “shiny new writer.” Her suggestion was to publish wherever, get my name out there, and my work seen. Then I become more of a known quantity and at least for some collections and editors, have a greater chance for that  “extra second” in the reviewing process or potentially, an invitation to submit somewhere.

Less than a week later, I ended up in a similar discussion with a colleague from my writing group. Her response was – Absolutely not! Send your work to paying markets.  It doesn’t matter if your story is a perfect fit for this anthology’s theme or what they’re looking for; you should be looking for paying markets only.  If one doesn’t take it, keep sending it out.  Better to take time and receive rejections until it finally sells rather than “throw it away” on a non-paying market.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of this argument.  Some of you may have read my post about using a Submission Matrix to determine where I send my writing to (although that mechanism doesn’t work particularly well with the rising number of anthologies – paid, unpaid, and “prestige” currently out there).  It’s a combination of looking at pay scales and publication reputation (based on awards such as Hugo or Nebula winners) to prioritize where I submit to.  Although I will say I am occassionally tempted by some themed anthologies, even if they are no-pay because the subject or issue interests me.  That’s where it becomes difficult for me to determine whether or not to follow through on submitting to that market.

So, when it doubt, I sought the advice of the internet and Harlan Ellison answered my question.  Albeit rather vehemently.  🙂  He says, writers should be paid and agreeing to work for nothing is amateurish and destructive for writers as a whole.  It isn’t just about money, but about respect for the work, and recognition that writing IS work.  I have to admit, I found his argument relatively persuasive.

What do you think?  Will you send you blood, sweat, and written work to non-paying markets?  Why?  Does this really benefit the “new” writer?  I’m curious to hear from other people.

About the author

DayAlMohamed Day Al-Mohamed is author of the Young Adult novel, “Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.” She is also co-editor for the anthology, “Trust & Treachery” from Dark Quest Books. In addition to speculative fiction, she also writes comics and film scripts. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, of Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.