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March 31st, 2013, 01:54 PM #1
Semi-Pro Markets? What Do We Think?
So, semi-pro (or not-at-all-pro) markets. What do we think of them?
A friend of mine just got a story accepted at a semi-pro magazine, and her story is... not great. I mean, it's okay. But it's nothing special. My first thought was, well gees, if you can get that published there, I can definitely get my dozen-or-so backburnered stories published in similar markets.
But I'm not sure if I want to. First of all, I'm not sure if I want the world at large to read these stories. They're not my best work - I'm not sure a pro market would ever take them. Is it worth airing them just to make a quick and easy $50? Would I even ever admit to a pro magazine or publisher that I was published in one of these markets? It feels a bit like the equivalent of putting "was published in my high school news paper" on a resume.
But maybe I'm being too harsh. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about the issue. What about you guys? Would you publish something you knew wasn't your best work in a semi-pro magazine just to make a quick buck? Do these markets have a better reputation than I'm giving them credit for? Pros, cons?
March 31st, 2013, 02:01 PM #2
I would say that if you like the 'zine, send it in. If you don't - don't. I'd also be very wary of assuming you know what's acceptable and what isn't. You may not rate your friend's story, but at least one editor thinks it's publishable.
I'd also suggest you have a go at making a 'quick buck' with places offering $50 a story, and report back to us on how easy it is
March 31st, 2013, 02:13 PM #3
Fair enough, zachariah! I definitely would submit to a zine I enjoyed regardless of market status if I knew them and enjoyed them, but I suppose I'm thinking of ones I don't, and probably won't, read. I'd start firing off stories "to see if I could", but all my best work is already out submitted to pro markets. Once they trickle down the long ladder, I'm not sure if I should keep working my way down, or stop and admit the story just isn't any good. At least one observer (Douglas Smith - http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/03...t-7-in-series/) feels there's no point to publishing a piece that isn't up to snuff. Ultimately I'm aiming for the top - so I'm happy to just admit something isn't working, and get back to work on a new story or the next draft. What is the role in that process of the semi-pro market?
March 31st, 2013, 05:38 PM #4
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
Different writers have different needs.
For some semi-pro publication can be encouraging and a chance to get their work before readers.
For others (like me) I'd rather not see my stuff in what I consider second-best publications.
March 31st, 2013, 06:46 PM #5
My initial thought is, "Why not?" Of course, I haven't really looked into the idea. This is just my immediate reaction.
If it's a story that you are going to tinker with and make better, then I would hold on to it, but if you feel like you've tapped the potential for a particular piece, then send it in. Worst case, it gets rejected. But I can't really see a downside to having stuff published even in a little magazine. It shows anyone looking that you have what it takes to finish a story. That can make larger publishers (or agents) more willing to take you seriously.
Just like working at McDonald's isn't going to be anyone's career goal, it does tell prospective employers that you can hold down a job.
March 31st, 2013, 07:32 PM #6
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
- Northern California
- Blog Entries
Each writer's path to publication is different.
It seems that some choose to aim for the top, while others prefer to work their way up from the bottom.
Based on my limited experience, it is nice to get accepted, even if it is to a non-paying market (that's all I got, so far). It is incredibly encouraging to someone like me that someone else thinks my stuff is good enough to put into their small spotlight.
But it is true that the standards are lower, and you will be published alongside similar, amateur material. It is up to you, as a writer, to decide if you want your stuff out there, flaws and all, or not, while you improve your craft and aim for the next rung on the ladder.
I'm still in the metaphorical sewers, crawling my way up to the street. Can't wait to see the light of day. Believe me, getting my stuff into a semi-pro zine would be like getting to the false summit before the peak. Close! Soooo close!
Please pass on my congratulations to your friend. It is no easy feat to get paid any amount for your work.
Last edited by tmso; March 31st, 2013 at 07:34 PM.
March 31st, 2013, 09:37 PM #7
I don't care if the market in Semi pro or Token payment or Pro as long as I like the product they are putting out. I started shopping around a story last month and I spent a lot of time reading samples from different markets. Most were competent, but their were a few that were sup bar for sure.
One of the things that I found most disheartening was the readership numbers for some of the smaller markets. These were markets that I found mentioned a few times on different writing forums as favourable places to submit, but based on some web stats I stumbled on, it looked like you might only have 5 to 10 people ever read your story.
I emailed a couple markets I was interested in to ask about their readership numbers but no one responded. I hope they didn't consider it a rude question.
March 31st, 2013, 11:33 PM #8
I'm one of the 'aim for the top' types, most definitely. So far I've had several rejections, some more encouraging than others, but every submission so far (save a couple for anthologies with highly recommended staff) has been to a pro market. I figure if they don't like a story, just keep writing them, improving on them, until they do. I certainly don't mean to disrespect semi-pro markets, but as mentioned, every writer has their own path. I prefer markets that count for SFWA.
April 1st, 2013, 01:02 PM #9
- Join Date
- Mar 2010
- Landskrona, Sweden
Iīm really undecided when it comes to this. Looking at my local markets (Sweden), the semi-pro are incredibly small looking at readership (less than 500 readers per magazine) so thereīs really no money in it - and, to be frank, no real quality control either. Some are incredibly good (such as Karin Tidbeck, frequently published both semi and pro) and some are so bad I spontaneously just think I donīt want to be associated with it. But then, over here itīs almost the only way to go pro. Most publishers wonīt accept your submission unless you are previously published - or, of course, if you happen to be a celebrity. That way, Iīm all for the semi-pros.
But thatīs also part of why Iīm mostly writing in English, and hanging out here, because my goal is to quit my day job and write full time. And in the US/UK markets, all the way from semi to pro, the competition is so fierce that I really need to be as good as I can be before I get published. Iīm still a long way from that point, I need to learn and I need to write. And around here, I get constant feedback, motivation and, well, things to write as well.
So I am mostly with zach on this one: if you like the 'zine, send it in. Be happy if someone pays you.
At the same time, I draw parallells to the music industry (in which Iīm more heavily involved) where itīs easier to get out there and produce music as an indie (or semi-pro) while the difference between semi and pro is so much bigger. Just ten years ago, you wouldnīt really reach an audience unless you had some quality music and a good enough production but today, you just record something onto your computer, run it through iZotope mastering and boom, youīre on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora etc.
Same thing with zines. Anyone can publish an e-zine, call for submissions and get it out to an audience. I have some horrid examples from the last couple of months where the call for submissions were so riddled with spellning- and grammatical errors, you winced just looking at them. These wouldīve had a very limited audience some five, ten years ago but with the help of the new, fast social medias, they can reach thousands of people without actually doing much work. Itīs a double-edged sword...
April 1st, 2013, 01:58 PM #10
Someone suggested to me that if I'm feeling cagey about not-quite-up-to-snuff markets, I could submit under a pen name. An interesting idea!
April 1st, 2013, 04:02 PM #11
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- In the Shire
- Blog Entries
You need to re-think the attitude to so called semi-pro magazines. Interzone is classed as a semi-pro magazine, yet it has won both a Hugo award and BSF award. People like Ian M Banks ans Stephen Baxter are published in it.
It is not so much is it a semi pro, but what is its reputation and who is published in it.
At one time Clarksworld paid just a token amount and top writers fought to get accepted.
April 1st, 2013, 04:15 PM #12
I agree, Holbrook - I'd file that under "if you know and like the venue..." To clarify my original post, my concern isn't the pay scale, it's the reputation and quality of the magazine or anthology. There are a lot of places that pay, but I'm not that excited about the quality of the work - except in so far as sometimes you have that story that everyone else has rejected, ykwim? I didn't mean to sound like a complete snot. Although... possibly unavoidable sometimes.
April 1st, 2013, 06:03 PM #13
The semi-pro label is largely a misnomer. All the semi-pro magazines are professional magazines that offer a fee, small though it may be. They may not all be run brilliantly or have large readerships, but on the high end, such as Interzone, they have financial backers and all the rest. Semi-pro is a term that came out of the old magazine business and specifically in regards to award nomination categories in SFFH and things like member publication qualifications for writers groups such as SFWA. A magazine is a professional magazine if it either pays larger sums to contributors or can provide at least a quarter of the income its owner or editor makes in a year. And there's a lot of grey area there. The distinction, largely pay connected, used to be more important because a lot of writers made at least part of a living from short story publications. But the payments from magazines did not significantly increase over the decades because magazines are expensive, the wholesale market for them died off, the e-zines tend to rely on advertising and have limited funding, and therefore the pro/semi-pro divisions are way less important than circulation numbers at this point.
The pro magazines definitely have reps, not always ideal ones. The semi-pro magazines have reps too, but they vary widely. There is a difference between the magazine and its rep and the issue of your story. A magazine with a good rep may publish stories you don't think are very good but which they think are good and which they think fit the needs of the magazine. A magazine that is largely unknown may publish stories that you think are very good. If a magazine publishes stories that you don't think are good and also publishes your story, it basically doesn't matter because the other stories are irrelevant to how your story will be judged.
So the issue is not the quality of the magazine's offerings, but what you are trying to do in your career by submitting short fiction. Obviously you are not trying to make a living with it. If you want to get short fiction publications in order to get more short fiction publications and build a record of them, then semi-pros that pay little will still be considered credits that may make you slightly more of interest by semi-pros and pros, depending on what stories you are offering them. It's decent practice, it starts to get your name circulated in the SFFH field, so if that's a general goal, then letting stories trickle down the submission ladder to maybe find a place with lower rung semi-pros is not a bad strategy. Always be selling used to be the mantra of the writers back in the day and it still has some value. If your goal is to put out a limited amount of short fiction and you want to get maximum views for it, then you should only be submitting to pros and semi-pros with circulation numbers at a certain level. Those magazines attract top name writers (whose stories you may or may not think are good,) and thus maximum eyeballs. There's no point in submitting to semi-pros with lower audiences because it will not help you in your goal. If your goal is to get noticed by book editors, they don't troll the magazines as much as they used to. Even if you get in a pro magazine, they may not see it. However, the magazine editors do talk about promising new contributors at conventions and such, there are award nomination possibilities, etc., so they may catch your name that way. So again, if you don't really want to build a catalog and name through short fiction, then logically you'll hit the largest semi-pros and pro magazines and just concentrate on them.
Small semi-pros can become bigger semi-pros or go out of business. Large semi-pros and pros can also go out of business. So publication time -- how long you have to wait till your story appears in the magazine -- is also an issue. Some semi-pros are quarterly or every two months. If you sell to a quarterly magazine and it goes out of business before your pub date, that's not necessarily doing you much good. You can't always know how much inventory a magazine will have and how long you will therefore have to wait, but you can make some guesses from the publication schedule of the magazine. Smaller semi-pros may not have as many stories in inventory as larger ones and so you might need to wait less for publication. E-zines can publish more stories at a time -- some of the time. So that's another issue.
April 3rd, 2013, 09:49 PM #14