Still with me? Presses aren’t paying because they may not have a best-seller and because they have a huge pool of players who don’t require an advance. The surge of horror writers (horror is my example, but this may apply to all genres) is like a tidal wave. Being a great writer may be unimportant as we face those writers with a giant social media, commercial works, and just plain luck. Being great is obsolete.
There is a huge debate over pay vs. FTL (For The Love) anthologies. In theory, the anthology is probably not going to make any press rich. Used properly, an anthology is a PR tool to introduce new authors, get them a fat resume (for acceptance to paying markets), establish names (brands), and (gasp!) to entertain readers and cause the readers to want more from said authors. Some writers refuse to submit to any place but a paying market.
An established writer can do well with waiting for the paying markets. New writers? Not so much. To refuse a possible print is in essence, refusing to publish without the big advance; they’d rather wait for the pay. “But, catt, shouldn’t writers get paid?” Why yes, they should, but my Darlings, this is a sign of the times, a cause/effect, and a game changer. Things have changed. It was fine long ago to get paid and have a single story released each year because if you were one of only 25 well known horror writers, you could demand a lot. It was glorious!
Today, each anthology you miss is one less chance to be seen in a wave of thousands of writers who are all swimming frantically upstream. The writing game is a crap shoot at best if you wait to get what you’re worth, but guess what? There are at least a dozen others who write as well as you do and want your spot. The competition is brutal now.
I feel that FTL anthologies build my resume and brand me. They get my name seen, and maybe a few readers will go buy my novel. Short stories are my PR and nothing more. I know this and am working within new parameters. Those who write only shorts will suffer more keenly, and I understand that. But the irritating phrase, “it is what it is” fits here. This is simply the way things are now. Times changed. You hate it? Want to rage? Go ahead, but spit in one hand and wish in the other, right?
Gone is the time when YOU were special and iconic (and were paid). There is a large pool of writers who can take your place. Want to blame someone? Blame the new writers or Amazon or the evolution of publishing. It changes nothing. Being rude and nasty to the writers who are taking advantage of shorts as PR gets other writers nothing but a few less sales for a bad attitude.
Instead of bashing FTL writers and then throwing them away, work on yourself, and then you won’t have to denigrate others. Write better pieces, submit more often, be gracious, and be kind so that readers want to be your fans. Leave the FTL writers alone because they are NOT turnip-truck riding people who “give away their work”. They are savvy planners who are using every single chance they get to be in print as a marketing strategy, and they have long term goals. Stop assuming they (I, we) are fools for not wanting to be paid the .01 a word because selling one story and being seen once a year in print can’t compete with the writer who is showing off in twelve anthologies a year! Whose name do you think readers will notice or even remember? Readers don’t know (or care that) your story was worth a whopping $25 as opposed to being “worth nothing”. Don’t assume you are any better because you cashed that little check; some writers are far better than you’ll ever be. That’s just how it is. Harsh words, huh? I am saying what many are thinking and are afraid to state.
Times have changed. Hate the self-publishers, the small presses, the vanity presses, the medium presses, or the retired/disabled/second-job/mom/young/old/female/new writers that are fighting for your spot. Competition sucks, huh? Get used to it because it’s here to stay. Maybe you are in the wrong game, after all.
Fight the new system, evolve, or give up. I don’t care. I’m just the messenger.