Friday, June 7, 2013

What Do You Look For in a Non-Paying Market?

Yesterday I posted that The Hard-Boiled Dimension had closed up shop.  The editor, Dusty Wallace, stopped by and explained why.  He had received only one submission in the month the site had been up.  Which made me wonder why no one else submitted, so I thought I'd start a discussion about what writers look for in a market, especially when that market is non-paying.

Here are some of the things I look for in a non-paying online market.

1.  Does the site look good.  This isn't just about the graphics, it's about the editor's skill.  Are the guidelines clear.  By that I mean does he explain what he wants clearly ( I've seen sites where the editor just says send your shit.  And then there's the one that nit-picks every detail.).  Does he spell check and use correct grammar.  Because the bottom line is if he doesn't care about his words, he's not going to care about yours.  Most important does he have a clear vision of what he wants the zine to be or is he just posting whatever comes through the submission door.

2.  Who else is published there?  If I'm familiar with the published writers and admire their work, I'm in.  Writers like to be in good company.  In the first issue of Pulp Modern the editor managed to snag a reprint from Lawrence Block and there I was on the same TOC.  I didn't get paid, but I had bragging rights to being published in the same magazine as Mr. Block.

3.  Even non-paying markets need a good editor.  I want someone who looks at my story, offers suggestions if needed, and puts in those pesky commas I tend to miss or catches a missing or extra word that I didn't see after the 100th read through.

Those are just a few of the things I look for.  What about you?  What do you look for when submitting to a market?

Back in 2011 I posted a list of things people who are starting zines should consider before opening up for business.  These still  hold today and they're things I look for before submitting.


Al Tucher said...

That's a good list, Sandra.

As to HBD, I somehow missed your announcement, and I never saw a word about it until you said it was closing. How well was it publicized?

sandra seamans said...

I found the market on Duotrope's Twitter feed and this past week it showed up on

That's another problem for new publications - getting the word out. I think that's why a few posted stories or a first issue should be an essential ingredient because it helps spread the word.

I remember one editor, either David Cranmer or Steve Weedle, who said they posted the announcement that they were open for subs and then waited...and waited...and waited. It's very hard to get started. Of course, both of these editors started with invited first issues and they finally took off when it was seen that they published quality fiction.

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Hey Sandra,

I missed the announcement as well.

Another thing I look for (since it's all anyone sees years down the line in a bibliography) is the name of the publication. (I do like HBD).

A month doesn't seem like long enough to wait, between getting the word out and people having the chance to write original material.


sandra seamans said...

You're right, Stephen, a month isn't very long. If I remember correctly it took Thuglit almost a year before it took off. It takes time to build up a zine and get writers and readers to notice.

Yep, the name is what attracted me to HBD and one of the reasons I posted about it.

Peter DiChellis said...

Thanks for this post and the 2011 posts too. A great collection of helpful insights.

As a (very) new writer I don't know the markets well yet. So unless I know it's a top market, I always check the Duotrope response numbers. Has the market responded to submissions recently (accept, reject, whatever), or is the Pending Response pile big and ancient?

Related to this, when did the market last publish vs. their schedule? If they've missed some dates, does their site say why, or at least show some proof of life with an editor's blog posts?

Not foolproof signs (I've been fooled more than once), but I think they've helped me sharpen my market list.

sandra seamans said...

The markets have a way of fooling even the pros, Peter. Paying markets can be just as unresponsive as the paying ones and it's even worse when they don't bother to pay you.

Thomas Pluck said...

A non-paying market has a lot of competition. Especially in the crime genre. There are plenty of non=paying markets with established readerships, guaranteeing exposure. It would behoove a new venue to approach writers they like on the QT so they can publish a few good stories at launch that will give readers a reason to visit, and writers a reason to submit.

I will admit that I rarely submit to non paying markets at this time. I am concentrating on novels and the short story ideas I am developing are geared toward paying markets where I will reach a wider readership, and also get paid.

For writers who are prolific story writers, free venues are great. I wrote 42 stories in 2011 and most of them went to non-paying venues. If I did it again, I would try to find out how many readers they had. I prefer sites with open comments, so you can see if you'll get reader feedback. You can also check how many likes they have on FB, Twitter, followers, etc. Sometimes you can count shares on the page. Duotrope is quite helpful, as mentioned.

If the editor accepts your story without a single change, be honest with yourself. None of us are perfect. They just aren't editing what they publish, and that does the readers and newer writers a disservice.

Having edited a pair of anthologies, I will be the first to say that it is hard work. If you want to edit a zine, you have to put in the work, same as we writers have to work hard to improve. I think many venues fail because like any other venture, the people behind it lack the perseverance to continue after the initial joy of starting something new.

So I'm not shedding any tears if they quit because they didn't get any submissions in a month. So you get the word out, you work harder, and say your first issue will launch when you get enough quality stories. Like writing, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Anyway, end of rant.

sandra seamans said...

All great points, Thomas! Not all ezines are created equal, an editor/publisher has to really work to let folks know they exist and are worth writing for and reading.