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pay vs. no pay

April 6, 2016

i’ve rambled at length about why i’ve stopped submitting to contests, and this is in that vein.

for a very long while, my #1 rule was that i had to get paid for my work. if you look back through my cv, the majority of my stuff published has earned me money. doesn’t matter if it was a token payment up to $1 a word – the point is, i got paid for my work. which is what should happen. it’s pretty unreal to think that i can spend hours – dozens of hours, days – on one poem, and get paid $5 for it. or even $20, which is a decent price for a poem in the canadian literary market, but is still not even coming close to covering the cost of the time i put into it. but that’s poetry for you.

and that was when i was writing about trees and shit, which canada loves. now, i’m pushing boundaries and writing about stuff that canada decidedly does not love. really, really hates. i keep track of my submissions on duotrope, which is a tool that keeps track of my submissions and compiles statistics about my pieces, my wait times, my acceptance ratio, etc. it’s pretty rad, actually. it’s $50 a year, but i love that it makes me organized. i don’t have the time to figure out the dang stats myself. it’s like literature fantasy baseball. it also tells you if your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets. and for many years, my poetry acceptance ratio was higher than average (keep in mind, we’re talking about a 3% acceptance ratio rate here – this is not huge). but as of late, now that i am experimenting with writing about the idea of consent, the spectrum of emotional violence (consensual and non-consensual) and the physicality that that encompasses, guess what? ratio dropped. by half. canada doesn’t want to pay for that, most certainly not in the wake of jian.




the thing is, this isn’t going to get easier. literature is changing, publishing is changing, mags that i never thought would fold are folding, and that’s that. and i want to support my country’s literary scene, but they don’t want to support me. and there are more lit mags in the states, but i’ve tapped most of the paying ones.

it’s time to go non-paying, i think. globally. and i’m so split on this. but the thing is, i hate seeing my cv go untouched for a year. i don’t want to let my publications list founder and get cobwebbed because i’m too – what? snooty? to accept a market that doesn’t pay. don’t get me wrong – this is grating on me like you wouldn’t believe. writers should get paid. if you start a literary magazine, you should be paying your writers. it’s unacceptable not to, especially if you are online and don’t have printing costs. (but… maybe it’s good just to have as many mags as we can? as much space for creativity as we can? maybe the most open minds can’t get funding to pay for their writers??)

but at the same time, i’ve been asked recently to give my writing – for free – to some friends’ respective creative projects. and i had to sit down and REALLY think about it. it went against my mission statement (get paid, betch). but they wanted my new writing. and this was a way to get it out into the world. so i said yes.




so maybe i sold out. or maybe it’s the opposite of selling out. either way, it doesn’t feel great – i feel like i’m breaking my one rule, and i’m so mulish it doesn’t sit well with me. but at the same time, i don’t want to be hobbled by the prudishness of other people, and the more i can force my writing out into the world, the better. the lit scene will eventually catch up to me; i just have to muscle through for now.



(edited to add: this is only for poetry. i’m sure as shit not going to NOT get paid for my non-fiction. 2000 words does not a freebie make.)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2016 12:55 pm

    I agree, keep your CV active

  2. April 6, 2016 4:31 pm

    Love this. But also wanted you to know I quoted from your CanLit column in a post I did today . . .

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