Endless Payrate Debate

Wow–it’s amazing how these blogosphere debates in the SF/F writing community go viral like Sauron’s army sweeping over Middle Earth. Here’s what I think about this endless “payrate debate,” in case anyone out there in radio-land is listening (I DJed enough 2AM college radio shows to know that it’s often dead air out there :) ).

I think the fact that short fiction pay rates are not a “living wage” is irrelevant. Short fiction is a dying industry with a tiny consumer base; it can’t pay a living wage anymore. Genre novel publishing pay for mid-list writers is getting smaller every year; even with “high” advances like $50,000, novels can’t pay a living wage either. Connie Willis, at a workshop I attended, said that the era when the majority of writers could make a living at it is gone. I agree.

The only point I see in the wage debate is that if this magazine Black Matrix is spending lots of money to produce a slick glossy magazine but only paying 1/5 cent per word for fiction, their budgeting priorities are way wrong. The biggest expense for my magazine by far is paying the authors, and that’s how it should be. Isn’t the fiction the priority?

It also saddens me to see these same-old endlessly circuitous debates between pro writers and aspiring ones, like similar arguments over self-publishing. The gifted pro writers who’ve never struggled through hundreds of rejections don’t understand what it’s like to be struggling like that, and the aspiring writers don’t understand that publishing is not an elitist system that’s stacked against them. Neither truly understands the other’s point, so they argue endlessly.

The saddest thing to me is all the time they both sink into it–time that would be better spent writing! :)

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