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Should I Submit to Non-Paying Markets?

This is a dilemma many writers have. Should you only submit to places that pay, or do you widen your search to everywhere no matter if they pay or not?

My stance for the past few years has been to submit only to places that pay. My initial publications were at places that didn’t offer payment, but now that I have a few publication credits, I’ve only been focused on paying markets. Problem is, I think I may be missing out. Am I limiting myself by only going for markets that pay? Or is it a disservice to myself and my work by going for markets no matter if they pay or not?

I see the refrain of many successful writers. Never work for free. Money should flow toward the writer.

But a lot of writers feel that when you first start out, and you don’t have any credits, you should submit anywhere. You don’t have the luxury of being picky. You submit everywhere that is appropriate for your work whether they pay or not. Once you have a few pieces out, build a following, and get some experience, then you can start submitting to the big leagues.

Then, I’ve read some writers that say start at the top paying markets and then work your way down. Swing for the fences first and when those markets are exhausted, you move down the list.

And then there are writers who say the only places you should be submitting are ones that pay. Anything else is a waste of time. I don’t necessarily agree with this notion. There are a few places I really like and would love to be published in print (like Conjunctions). Also I think that if you are getting something you believe is beneficial to your career from the publication(maybe lots of eyes on the piece, or listed on Amazon with other writers, or for charity), then it may be worth it to submit.

For now, I’m in the second camp. I submit my stories to the best places first. Once they get rejected, I move on to the second rung journals, and so forth. This way, if a story gets published I don’t have the regret of saying, “Maybe I should’ve submitted to ______ first.” There is a lot more competition for the higher paid places, but moving away from those, I’ve noticed there are more places that I thought that pay semi-pro rates (.03-.05 cents/word) or token payments. Nobody is getting rich, but still feels good to get fifty bucks or so for a story.

I guess there is no one way to get it right. Maybe some of the amazing, non-paying markets offer great opportunities that I am missing. However, I can’t get over the fact that I want to be paid. I don’t work at my day job for free, so why would I be okay with my writing career? And other writers may disagree and build an amazing career build on lot of non-paying credits. Each writer has to make the best decision for themselves.

I may revisit my feelings about this in a few years to see if my strategy worked or not. I’m sticking to my plan and working hard to make all my stories successful.

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