Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writers = $: Using fees to cash in on dreams

Let's have a discussion about reading and entry fees. Most recently I've come across this little deal from New Rivers Press where, for only a mere $20, they will consider your hard work for publication. Does that sound like a deal to you? Then, switch to this little competition on Short Story where you're charged a fee to enter.

So now I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with these people?

I can understand a large circulation mag (for example, Writer's Digest) charging fees for entry to their competitions and can understand (maybe) non-profit and/or education based literary publications asking for fees.

But I think it is tacky and pretentious (not to mention has the potential to be highly abused) for a small, unknown periodical or publisher to try to make money by using fees, regardless whether the fees are going to the judges or prize money or whatever. It is also unethical to charge reading fees in the eyes of many professional organizations, like the AAR for instance. Granted, the AAR is for agents of authors but the same principle applies.

From Section 8 of the AAR Canon of Ethics:     

  • The AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, members may not charge clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works and may not benefit, directly or indirectly, from the charging for such services by any other person or entity. 

Obviously, though, it is a practice that is thriving, despite the information age.

Having been a slush reader for a literary mag and now owning my own publishing venture, there is something that these publishers don't tell you. It doesn't make you more likely to be considered for publication when you pay fees than it does when you submit to publications that don't charge fees. What they are doing is cashing in on writers who don't really know better; writers who haven't been in the game very long, writers who haven't yet come to the realization that if they are serious about their craft, they will go broke if they opt to pay all these unwarranted fees. And most writers who submit to ANY publication, including those fee-charging ones, will be rejected. So cha-ching! You've just given away your money.

You see, that's how the market operates. Pay $40 for this bottle of pills that will make you skinny! Pay only $75 to see how YOU can make big bucks at home. Pay $10 plus shipping to discover how you can quit smoking by using only the power of your mind. These types of ventures won't work for most people. You know that. I know that. But yet, people still get taken by them. To me, this is no different. Fee charging publishers are cashing in on desires and dreams knowing that most people won't get accepted in the first place.

"But I'm not scamming anyone! I just have bills to pay and costs to cover!"

You may not be intentionally scamming anyone but, in my opinion, the practice is still deplorable. You should've thought about bills you would incur before you took over the responsibility of having a publishing venture. You should've had the money backed-up as necessary to cover operating costs before you resorted to charging fees.

In case anyone missed it: I despise fees.

Granted, it is your money and you can do what you want with it, but isn't submitting for free better? There are plenty of places that want to consider your story, including mine. And you don't have to shell out moolah to submit it, either.

If you're anything like me (which I suspect most of you are), you're not made of money and every penny counts.

Peace, love, and say no to fees,


Thursday, July 19, 2012


It fell from the sky
From a place I called mine
A sudden realization I saw
To hit from one and all

Out of one life came another
From before a flame was smothered
Into a clarity of unreal
And into another heart I steel

A tailored plan one does not have
When one holds such a small hand
Everything settles there
Even if it’s too much to bear

And now I have this need
To focus on how to breathe
Without it comes death
And never ending unrest

To break free is the goal
No one will have this hellish hold
Just work a little while longer
Before it leaves me uncovered

Monday, July 16, 2012

Learn how to write by reading raw material

Stephen King’s most quoted writing advice has to be the one where he tells us that to become better writers, we have to read. And read. Then read some more.

It’s not far from the mark. For me, reading gives me the gumption to go write something of my own. Words by other authors spark something inside of me that makes me want to create characters and plot narrative.

I can also expand on that logic. If you want to be a better writer, be a beta reader for another author. When I was a slush reader, I recognized some undesirable patterns in rejected work that I might not have understood otherwise. I began to realize that I did a lot of the same things those beginning authors had done. I understood then why my editor put me in the position he did. I don’t feel like I could’ve learned the same lessons from his notes. The experience was eye opening and I feel that my writing has benefited because of it.

When you have chosen a book that has gone through a ring of editors already, you miss that raw slate of an early work. Those early drafts can reveal a plethora of mishaps that you might be able to identify in your own work later.

How can I be a beta reader?

Simple. Just ask another author if they need one. Any author worth their weight will search out people to be a test reader for them because they know how hard it is to keep an active test reader. Any writer worth their weight will value honest feedback, no matter how harsh. Granted, they may want to be familiar with you first, so I wouldn’t suggest doing a random Twitter search of just anyone with the #writing hashtag. Instead, join some online writing communities. Facebook has plenty and then some. The Absolute Write forum has a section for such things. Once you’ve identified someone that could use a beta reader, someone who writes in a genre you’re interested in reading, then ask.

Writing is not about seeing who is better than you or about getting your ego bruised if someone tells you you’re doing something wrong. It’s about clear and simple passion. The desire to write has to be so strong that no matter the obstacle, you have to write anyway. And that desire should always be coupled with a yearning to learn more and hone your craft further, no matter your experience level. It’s snobbish and pretentious to think you have it all right and you know all there is to know; that your story is the end-all, be-all of the literary world and anyone who doesn’t recognize your genius is an idiot. Keep dreaming, Squidward.

It’s always important to learn and read. The two should never expire. They should be a staple of your writing life always. If you can manage to beta/test read for another author, you might be able to learn and read at the same time. Killing two birds and all that.

Peace, love, and one stone,

Monday, July 2, 2012

What happened to The DeKalb County Examiner?

If you've made it here by following links from, then you're probably wondering why I haven't posted to my column in awhile.

The main reason is that Examiner changed their pay rate and it is no longer worth my time and effort to continue to provide content for them on the pay they offer. So I'm no longer on the lookout for local stories. I sometimes do write commentary on local issues so if you're interested, you can subscribe to this blog (look in the sidebar to the right to enter your email address) or you can subscribe or like me on Facebook.

I have several fiction and non-fiction books and ebooks coming up so that will keep me plenty busy.  In the meantime, I'm sorry to disappoint you but hope that I've provided a suitable substitute for my lack of Examiner updates.

Peace, love, and thank you!