As promised, here's an interview with Rosemary Kind from Alfie Dog Publishing (the best short story download site) on the subject of publication without pay.
[Patsy]Rosemary, I understand you're starting a campaign to ensure writers get paid for their work. Can you tell me more about that?
[Rosemary Kind] All too often writers are asked to give their work for free in the hope that it will raise their profile. Can you imagine ringing the plumber and saying 'I need to you to put in a new shower. I won't pay you but your work will get seen by anyone who uses my bathroom. It will be good for your reputation.'? The chances are the plumber wouldn't visit. It's all very well arguing that the arts are different, but as with all professions a writer has to earn a living and giving their work away for free is not going to put food on the table. It isn't just the sites which ask for submissions for publication without payment, there are also the competitions which charge you an entry fee but for which the prize is publication in an over-priced anthology, which the writer then has to pay for, because they want to see their work in print. It's hard for writers. Of course we want to see our work published, but some of these competitions are an outright rip-off for the writer.
[Patsy]Most competitions, free to enter of with a fee, are legit but there are a few dodgy ones. Do carefully read the t&cs before taking part.
So you pay your writers?
[Rosemary Kind] Yes, we share the royalties half and half between the author and Alfie Dog Fiction. One of the main reasons we set up in the first place was because we were concerned that the number of paid outlets for writers was declining and in particular that once a story had been used in one place it rarely had another chance to earn money for the writer.
[Patsy] It sounds like a good idea to me, but as a writer I'm biased. You're a publisher - wouldn't it be better for you if you got work for free?
[Rosemary Kind] I might be a publisher, but I'm also a writer. My priority has been to develop a platform that is fair to the writer and which gives excellent value to the reader. If our writers can't find success then neither will we it is in our mutual interest to achieve success.
[Patsy]I've allowed my work to be used for free on occasions - was I wrong to do that?
[Rosemary Kind] No, as long as you are in control of what you are doing and understand what you are trying to achieve by doing that, but there is a time and a place. It is one thing using a free piece of work as a promotion, but it is quite another to find increasing pressure to give away work. What alarms me most is that many sites not only state that they make no payment but ask for original unpublished submissions. It's scandalous. If a site is not going to pay they should at least have the decency to allow you to have obtained payment elsewhere first. The other problem is that the more the public perceives writing as something which is available for free, the less they feel inclined to pay for it.
[Patsy] I reckon it's worth trying the paid options first but considering unpaid 'markets' if we're new to writing and eager for our first publications, for hard to place pieces and for previously published work which deserves another outing. So, if what, if anything, can we do to ensure we get fairly paid?
[Rosemary Kind] We need to be discerning about where we submit work to. We also need to question some of the small print, for both publication and competition submissions. If your work is good enough then your first publication rights have a value. If the piece of work is not good enough then it isn't going to build you a following, so giving it away for free is not going to be of great benefit. It's better to hone your craft, learn from your mistakes and then publish work that is good enough to earn you a return for your labour. If you can't find a suitable outlet then writers can always go down the Amazon or Smashwords routes of publication, if you do then you need to make sure your work is thoroughly edited and properly formatted for publication.
[Patsy]You publish on the internet. Some people seem to think everything on the internet should be free and/or that it's fine to use anything they find on the internet without permission. How do you feel about that?
[Rosemary Kind] Copyright is very important. A writer's work should be protected and not reproduced without their permission for any purpose. Many people have been swept up by the notion promulgated by companies such as Google, that all information should be available to everyone for free. The Google Books Project is one of the most alarming projects I have ever come across. Not only are they intent on making all books available regardless of copyright, but the books are then displayed with ads alongside, which has been proved in studies to diminish the reading experience. The more pressure there is on artists to give their work away for free the lower the quality of the art will become. No one will be able to afford to study and learn their craft and work on it as a profession. All the arts, not just writing will be limited to hobbies or the pursuit of the wealthy. Those who think writing should be available for free would most likely be amongst the first to complain if their employers were to say they were expected to work for free. Why should writers be treated less well than any other occupation? If we want a future for the arts we have to recognise that the arts is of value to any civilised people.
[Patsy] Over to you. Would you allow your work to be published somewhere that doesn't pay? Do you think it's wrong to do so?