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How much recompense do short story pubs pay?

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Suave View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 2:37am

Just out of curiosity, what are the usual payouts from publications
that publish short stories? I have read of one writer getting $3.
That does not sound very profitable. Do most simply like getting
published, the pay is secondary? Or are there places that actually pay
for your work?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 7:59am
Depends. Professional rates are considered about 8 cents a word these days..Some literary magazines pay by the page or a flat rate (as much as $250 flat some places.) Semi-pro is usually by the word but in the 1-3 cents /word range. "Token" is often $10-50 or flat. And of course unpaid. Look out for ones that are only royalty-sharing. They mean well, but not many small press anthologies ever sell enough to meet the pay threshold.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 8:52am

Have to sell a hell of a lot of short stories to live off them.
I am beginning to thin my Mother was right, unless you 
have a second job, your going to starve as a writer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Alex Grey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 9:07am
Originally posted by Suave Suave wrote:


Have to sell a hell of a lot of short stories to live off them.


Sadly true, though at least it is possible to write a lot of short stories - it would be great to find a paying publisher that likes your work enough to buy everything you send them on a regular basis, then maybe a modest life might be possible. :-)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote jennifer.quail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 9:58am
Misty Lackey (who spends half her time on Quora shooting down naive writer questions) likes to remind people that novelists (not even short story writers) almost never have that as their day job. Like 95% are not going to make enough to live off. She's one of the few who does and she writes 6-8 hours a day and turns out 2 to 3 books a year. Short stories, especially these days, are not going to actually pay the bills. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote velocisarah Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 10:01am
Echoing others, there's pro-rate publications, semi-pro, token, and non-paying (and misc. types like royalty sharing). It's such a varied market and depending on the genre you're interested in writing in, the publishing landscape will be very different, and it's all quite competitive. For example, there's a lot more fantasy pro-markets than horror so that's going to affect what's available to you as a writer.

For example, while Uncanny Magazine (fantasy/speculative) pays I believe 8 cents per word, they've gotten over a 1,000 submissions over the past month for what I think are only a handful of spots. It's similar with other pro-paying markets. There was an anthology I submitted to in February that had over 500 submissions for 2 spots, and that's not at all outside the norm.

The general advice I see given to writers who want to get into the industry is to start with smaller presses/magazines that get fewer submissions and generally 1. give feedback because they have a bit more time (though more and more this is less the case) and 2. pay less. (Also submitting to markets with a specific theme, as those will get fewer submissions than more general genre-wide calls for submissions). There's still a lot of competition in those smaller markets though, so some writers consider non-paying markets, which can help you get your name out there - but there's a lot of discussion about whether or not those markets are worth your time I won't go into - some writers see it as worth it, others don't. 

I don't think it's possible to only live off of short story submissions right now if you're starting out with no publications already. If you're an established writer and magazines/presses ask for your work then maybe, but for someone starting out I see it as a way to get your voice into the industry and credits under your belt moreso than a viable income on its own. Especially since every submission is a gamble with low odds, it's just not really a system that you can reliably set out on making your full income. Stories can take months or even years to find the right place.

(This is all excluding self-publishing from the conversation. I know a few writers that have self-published short stories/collections/novellas and are making a name for themselves outside of the traditional publishing sphere. It's hard work and a lot more skillsets to manage, but there are other avenues one can explore!)

As one part of a larger writing career (which could include things like short stories, short story collections, novellas/novels, scriptwriting, workshop facilitating, speaking or signing tours, etc.) it's definitely one part of the whole. This isn't to say that short story publishing is "beginner" or "only what you do before you publish a book" as I've seen stated before, but it is what a lot of writers do before they get into longer form, which takes... longer lol and is a much greater commitment on the part of the publisher. Getting those shorter/lower paying credits can help bolster up your writing resume and show you're an investment others have made in the past.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Sep 2020 at 9:25pm
Originally posted by velocisarah velocisarah wrote:

Echoing others, there's pro-rate publications, semi-pro, token, and non-paying (and misc. types like royalty sharing).

Thanks for the detailed response. I guess it is a good thing I do this writing thing because I love it, haha.
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