So after three weeks of ranting about compensation for writers, I’m at a point where I feel it’s clearly time for some new directions.
A few weeks ago I resigned from my position as Book Review Editor at The Los Angeles Review. I am currently training my replacement. I did this because I have worked for them for four years, and the job is time consuming, and it’s time I focused more intently on my writing. But part of the reason I am leaving is because the journal does not pay writers, or its editors. I can’t support that model any longer.
I’m working with some writers to plan something more lucrative, but I can’t spill the beans just yet.
Here are some things I will do and some things I understand. Call them a manifesto if you wish.
- I will only submit to journals that pay a pro or semipro rate. I may never make a dime from my writing, and never be published again, but I will not give it away. This may fall under the category of cutting off one’s nose to spite his face. Some people will say that being published in non-paying journals could lead to pieces in paying venues, and certainly a collection of stories from non-paying places might make a book that earns money. But my research shows that a vast majority of literary authors with book deals have paying journal credentials. So I will focus my efforts there. Time to sink or swim.
- I will continue to push for writers to be paid when published, and if I ever become famous that opinion may matter. Even if it doesn’t, I will feel good about criticizing an industry whose values have become corrupt.
- Back when I had just completed my MFA, my thesis novel was accepted by a brand new agent (who was older than me, though). He loved the book for four months, but then showed it to some other “readers” who convinced him it needed a complete rewrite. From the agency I was forwarded to a book doctor, who was glad to take me on—for $6,500 (still, of course, with no guarantee of publication). That was when I began to pull back the curtain obscuring the writing industry.
- Had this happened in some non-writing capacity, I would have been justified in crying “scam.” This is merely the tip of the iceberg in an industry that has the gall to portray itself as open and accommodating to all who wish to write, but more and more is becoming the domain of the affluent, those who can afford to write and not be paid.
- But I will continue to write, and some of my writing will be directed towards the genre spectrum, where there is a better chance of remuneration. I was heading in that direction anyway.
- I will read more, and because I’ll no longer be the BR editor, I will read things that I actually find interesting. If I don’t find it interesting, I will stop reading.
- At our last writers’ meeting, a friend described France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication, an official branch of government that administers, among other things, books and literary journals. A society that believes in art and artists—what a concept. It’s not uncommon in other countries.
- I will investigate additional options.
- I may also occasionally expand the scope of this blog to more than just the writing life. As you might imagine, I have interests in other areas too.
By the way, thanks for reading, especially those of you who participate with comments. It’s nice to know there are a few people with similar viewpoints, or who at least are willing to discuss.