Dueling Columns: Online or Print Pubs?

This is the second installment of Dueling Columns between myself and Richard Thomas.  Over at “What Does Not Kill You,” Richard talks about the virtues of publishing in online venues.  As the editor of an online journal, I appreciate him eagerly defending the practice of publishing online.  As a writer, though, I very rarely submit to online venues.  Where my career is concerned, I have reservations about online publishing for a few reasons.

First and foremost is a question of legitimacy.  True, some online presses are legitimate, edited markets with editors who are familiar with at least the basics of literature, but literally anyone can purchase a web domain, a hosting service, a cheap (or free) software package, and call themselves a press.  These “presses” may last a month or a year or ten years (Stirring, for example, has a long history of publishing).  The trouble is telling which is a good one and is a blog that only publishes their best friends or is edited by a fourteen year old with Dreamweaver who happens to be working on their freshman project.

Second is a question of perceived legitimacy.  Even after researching a potential online market, going through the submission and editing process, and getting published, those that determine the future of literary careers (MFA admission committees, art fellowship and grant committees, residencies, etc, etc) often don’t view work published online as “published” at all.

Finally, there’s the question of payment.  When published in traditional literary journals, writers usually get at least a contributor’s copy.  Payment of any kind is a rarity in the world of online publishing (for reason #1). Exposure is important, but writers have to eat.  And it’s hard enough to make it as a professional writer without voluntarily risking a paycheck.

This latter is the reason we try so hard to offer maximum exposure for our contributors at The Externalist, but even then, I sometimes wonder if a love of publishing great writing is enough.

4 thoughts on “Dueling Columns: Online or Print Pubs?

  1. Pingback: Dueling Columns 2 – Print vs. Online « - What Does Not Kill Me -

  2. I hear what you are saying. I address several of these points in my column, but I did want to speak directly to one thing – payment.

    I’ve seen a lot of people say that we shouldn’t be “giving away” our writing for free. And I disagree. Exposure and recognition, building a fan base, those are considerations. I belong to the Horror Writers Association, and you have to have professional sales in order to join. It’s HARD to get paid. Whether you are writing horror or literary, science fiction or romance, noir or steampunk there just aren’t that many paying print publications. Online, I don’t know of any, but I’m sure there must be. The places that REALLY pay, like Esquire, Playboy, and others are invite only, usually to agented writers. The successful getting more successful, the rich getting richer. And those that do pay, usually have an acceptance rate of about 1%. Even at .05 a word (professional rates) if you turn in a 4000 word story, you’re only getting $200.

    You got me thinking Larina, so I went to my BFF Duotrope.com and did a search for professional paying markets in both print and online. I was pleasantly surprised. For online it turned up 20 listings. I may have to hit them up. For print there were 68. And that doesn’t include the semi-pro to pro range. But still, that isn’t THAT many listings. And I probably won’t be submitting to New Moon Girls or Boy’s Life (YA) or Scarlet (Adult). Well, maybe the last one. Of this list I’ve sent work to about 15 of them.

    There is more to writing than getting paid. Even when it comes to novels. I have a friend in the advertising world, he publishes a book about every year. He makes his $20,000 and is happy. Now, I’d be thrilled to get a check for $20k, it’s a nice little BONUS, but you certainly couldn’t live off of it. You couldn’t survive on $20k a year.

    But these are topics for another day. I just wanted to address that one point Larina. Thanks for the debate and the perspective.


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