There comes a point when you have to see yourself as a real writer. Okay, I suppose “real” isn’t the right word, since any person committed to their craft is a “real” writer and I know that some will simply dismiss me as an elitist and thus not give me an ear. [They will be equally upset if I use the phrase “grown up writer”, but you know what I mean.] So, for the sake of convenience, I’ll say that there comes a point where you have to decide if you want to be a professional writer. There comes a point when you have to say to yourself “my work is worth more than ‘for the love’ markets.” It’s worth more than contributor copies and the promise (the lie) of exposure (unless by “exposure” you mean read by the other contributors and their friends and family).

You know what? Forget the tip-toeing around. You know who I’m talking about. If you have any doubts, if you find yourself suddenly defensive because you 1) publish your stories free online, 2) self-publish your work via vanity/subsidy houses (by whatever name they choose to call themselves), 3) toil in obscurity while calling it paying your dues while you get your name out there, then I’m talking about you. You can talk to me all you want about writing for the craft and for art’s sake, but if you were serious about that, you’d write your stories and put them in a drawer.

You submit to be read.

In our desire–sometimes blindingly overwhelming desire–to be read, we’ll submit and publish where ever we can. If only to “get our name out there.” It’s the writer’s hubris to believe that something they’ve written is worth being read by others. Believe me, I know. I just want to be real about it.

Can I talk to you for a minute? I mean, we’re family, right? Part of that sacred brotherhood known as writers? Here’s the thing: if a market is widely read, if it carries legitimate exposure, it can afford to pay you. (I’m talking genre markets here, not literary journals. Somehow literary journals have convinced us that the payment is the prestige in being published in them. We’ve bought that, so there’s no point discussing that.)

I’m fairly new to the writing industry, so I’ve tried to pay attention to people who have been in the game longer than I have. And, more importantly, learn from their mistakes. Let me tell you, talking to some of my friends about their ventures in self-publishing or laboring in “for the love” markets is like bringing up an actor’s porn past. If your goal is to be a professional writer, you should know better than this anyway. Submit to the top markets and work your way down. If your stories aren’t good enough to make it in paying markets, you probably don’t want them on your resume anyway. And that’s what your body of work is, your writing resume. I’ve experimented with royalty only anthologies, online publishers more for the experience than anything else. Literally. However, when I writer cover letters to prospective markets, agents, or editors, how many of them make my list of mentions? Zero.

So there it is. I’m done. It’s time to pursue things more seriously. I’m declaring myself free of submitting to for the love markets. That simple. I know that it’s scary for some of you because you’ve become convinced that that’s how you are supposed to come up. However, I’ve decided that my time and my talents are worth more than that. I have confidence in, or delusions about, my skill.
There may be the occasional exception, read: the rare favor for a friend, otherwise, I’ve set myself free. At some point you have to decide when you’re ready to set yourself free.

(Of course, it helps that my wife has declared that I can only go to as many conventions as my stories will pay for. And I’m not going to the next World Horror Convention on contributor copies or $10 per story. Let’s here it for practical spouses to help give us the occasional nudge.)

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