Every time something like the brouhaha over the pay rate at Black Matrix Publishing rears its ugly mug, I'm reminded of the power of the InterwebTM. (for a nice POV on said brouhaha, check out L.R. Bonehill's blog)
John Scalzi brought the fight to Black Matrix on his Whatever blog, claiming, in part, to be a watchdog for the little guy, pointing out publishers that are taking advantage of them...er, me. I've been paid less than Black Matrix's stated rate...hell, I've given my work away in the past. I don't have a name that's going to sell anything, so nobody's knocking down my door with 5 cents+ a word. (Scalzi writes about his own rates here) It just ain't going to happen. If I want to earn that kind of money, I'll have to fight for it.
Some claim you should only publish in pro mags, regardless of how long it takes you to get there. Some claim publishing in lesser arenas will smear your name and make it harder to go pro later. I call bullshit for a whole variety of reasons. 1. I would have quit writing before I'd "honed my skills" at all if that were the case (still desperately seeking that 1st pro sale), 2. the amount of space open to unknown writers is pretty damn small...last time I checked, there wasn't a shortage of folks vying for that space, 3. Being published in a pro venue isn't a simple matter of writing well enough--no, it involves having your work in the right place at the right time and a whole pile of external factors (like editorial preferences, etc.). If it were as easy as writing pro-level material, everyone who writes long enough and works hard enough would go "pro".
Sorry, I'm not buying that argument.
In steps the power of the InterwebTM. David Daley of Five Chapters has a nice interview here. Listen to it. If you don't want to, let me summarize: the internet has made "everything" free. Remember all that blather about cost-benefits analysis last week? It goes for readers, too. Read something of slightly less quality for free online? Sure. Sales have dropped for all printed (dead tree) fiction and nonfiction. Newspapers are dying. Sales are drying up for classic magazine venues for genre fiction. Bestselling authors working awfully damn hard to keep their heads above water. I salute all of them for making it work as long as they have.
One comment on Black Matrix's blog (singed simply "Pittsburgh journalist") carried the angst all professional writers must feel at this point in history:
"Well, as a professional writer who struggles every month to pay the bills, I frankly resent the fact that you are forcing down the price for the rest of us."
Sorry Pittsburgh, it's not Black Matrix that's driving down the price...it's free that's doing it. It's the market. Yeah, some fiction markets make it online and pay decent rates. How Strange Horizons does it, and has done it for so long, amazes me. Awesome, really. But by and large, the money isn't there...not enough to feed the hordes of people, like me, who want to tell stories more than cash checks.
Call me all the nasty names you want. Insult my writing. Throw stones. I have nothing to hide, and I won't comment anonymously on your site 'cause you know, the InterwebTM has freed my speech a little, too.
Let me "out" with a little snippet from Maya Angelou:
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."