Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why For-The-Luv Publishing Needs to Stop

It happens about once every six months in the horror world. It probably happens once a week across the board. Somebody decides to start a small publishing company. Let’s call this somebody Nimrod. Nimrod, like so many people before him, has come up with a game plan that seems to have zero risk.

The plan is simple. The plan is this:

The new company, let’s call it ShitCo Publishing, comes up with new anthology idea. The anthology idea might be pretty good, or pretty terrible. Doesn’t matter. Let’s say the idea for this book is mashing together Easter, Zombies, and the Old West. The anthology shall be called Zombie Bunnies in Tombstone.

The first thing Nimrod, the publisher, needs to do is get the word out:

Hey everybody! I’ve started a brand new publishing company! It’s called ShitCo! I’m looking for submissions for a book called Zombie Bunnies in Tombstone! Be a part of the first book; send in your stories today!

More often than not people will be directed to a crappy website, a near-empty blog, or - worse still - a newly created Facebook page - where people will be shown the submission guidelines. At least 50% of the time the guidelines will be very specific when it comes to the publisher’s wants (make sure your story is written in whatever font, with whatever font size, and a spacing of X amount, put the title of the story in the header, include a 500 word bio, with a full list of credits, and bla, bla, bla...) but the guidelines will not mention the author’s compensation.

If you are an author and you see this... RUN. Run far, and run fast. 

Nimrod, the publisher, is only concerned with Nimrod, the publisher.

Unsurprisingly, someone will ask, “How much are you paying?”

And this is when Nimrod says, “This is a For-The-Luv anthology. It’s for the authors that love writing, not the authors that only care about money.”

Do you see how clever this is?

Nimrod doesn’t have the time, the energy, or the skill to write the book, so he wants you to do it. The cover artist will also be submitting work for the same reason: For-The-Luv. Because having your artwork on the cover a book, that’s cool! If the stories are lucky enough to receive an edit, they will be edited poorly. The book will be slammed together within a day or two and out the door it will go.

Total money for the authors: ZERO
Total money for the artist: ZERO
Total money for editing: ZERO
Total money for putting the ebook on Amazon: ZERO
Total money for putting the ebook on Smashwords: ZERO
Total money for publishing the paperback through CreateSpace: ZERO


But the best part of the plan is: Nimrod will turn you - the author - into the bad guy for wanting to get paid for your work. Because YOU, the author, is greedy, while Nimrod, the publisher, is only being driven by love.

Isn’t that great? LOVE is the reason he can’t figure out a way to pay you for your work.

LOVE is the reason he can’t give you $10.00, or $20.00, or cut you a percentage of sales.

Remember - a contributor copy is NOT payment; getting PAID a copy of the book is like PAYING the bus driver a free ride on the bus. And words like "free publicity" and "exposure" are a shark's way of saying "exploited" and "subjugated".        

Think about this for a second. If you put ten stories together inside an anthology, and you paid the authors a token amount of $10.00 each, then offered the artist $50.00, aside from the graphic design - which you’ll likely do yourself - your total cost will be $150.00.


Are you kidding me?

I don’t want to get mad here, but I’m feeling mad here. These For-The-Luv markets are nothing but BULLSHIT.

Let’s say that - for some reason - it’s okay to start a publishing company when you can’t risk $150.00. By the way - it is NOT okay to start a publishing company if you can’t risk $150.00. But let’s ignore this.

How’s this for a plan:

Tell the authors that you plan on selling the ebooks at $2.99, and for every ebook that gets sold you will give them 10¢. When Amazon give you 70% of the $2.99 (minus a little bit of nickel and dime shit) you will be left with $2.00. The authors can have a dollar, and the publisher can have a dollar.

Sound fair?

Of course NOT - because it’s a For-The-Luv book, which means that the authors should get ZERO and the publisher should get EVERYTHING.

The worst part: if an author complains, or points out the truth of the situation, Nimrod, the publisher, will say something like, “Why are you being so negative? I'm going to lose money with my first few books, but I'm not worried about that because I love of the creative process. I love authors and I want to help authors get noticed. You don't care about art, you only care about money. I plan on turning my non-paying press into a paying press later, but I have to start small. Once I sell a few books I’ll start paying everyone, you’ll see!”


If Nimrod cared about the authors he would find a way to PAY THE AUTHORS, even if it were just a token amount, even if it meant that he had to reach into his pocket, even if he had to make a trip to the bank and take out a loan.


And they shouldn’t be called For-The-Luv. They should be called:


Don’t let a Nimrod take advantage of you.


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  1. Don't know that I would have used exactly the same language, but otherwise I could not agree more. I've always felt this way, and cannot understand how publishers/editors get away with this and why in the world writers do this and think they've accomplished something.

    John Peters

  2. I feel the same, yet with more swearing.

    No idea who these writers are that have the time and energy to even submit to places like this. It is one thing for an established author to donate a story to a particular antho or for charity - this FTL stuff boggles the mind.

  3. I completely agree. As a professional writer I won't even look at a FTL antho. Now, I have given stories to friends of mine to use in their anthos without pay to help them out but that's MY choice, not being suckered by someone who is trying to get over.

    I'm editing a sword and sorcery anthology for a reputable small press this winter that is a royalty split amongst authors. THAT I can get down with as long as it's an established publisher with a good history of paying.

    The problem I have run into is a market listing website that will only list the anthology I'm editing as FTL since it has no up front payment. Oh, well. LOL.

    But man, the more I come to your blog, the more I like what you have to say.

  4. Thank you for the kind words, guys. Every time I post something that has some teeth to it I prepare for the massive backlash. It's nice to see some like-minded people in this industry.

  5. I didn't even know that these were out there, so thanks for eye opener.

  6. What I hate most about many of the FTL efforts is the sanctimonious tone of the people putting them together. You know what I's that "Well, if you're really a writer who's in this for the writing, you'll submit and not expect money." I call bullshit on this, and have for a while. Don't put me down because I want money for my work. What kind of way is that to ask for submissions? The only people it works on are those writers just starting out who don't have enough credits or confidence to know better.

    I won't submit to these places. I mean, come on, if you can't put even a penny a word down onto the table for writers and artists, you might as well hang up your jock and call it a day. And while I love writing...I live for writing...I couldn't live without writing...I will NOT give it away. Giving it away undermines whatever worth I've put on it. If it's worth being out there in the marketplace of ideas, it's worth something.

    Just my two sense, but I agree with Roy. These publishers muddy the water for everyone.

  7. Poppy Brite said it better than I could: "If a magazine's publishers cannot afford to pay its writers even a token fee, then they cannot afford to have a magazine. Even a penny a word acknowledges that this is work, that a service has been rendered, that something of value has changed hands."

    Personally, I feel the writers who end up subbing to FTL markets are, for the most part, the newbs who don't know better (and probably never will) and the people that want to rack up a quantity of credits, rather than quality, and end up with a list of magazines they've been published in that no one's ever heard of.

    Not subbing to FTL markets is one of those blatantly obvious pieces of advice that's almost a catch 22: if you need someone to tell you it's a dumb move, then it's probably already too late for you. But it's still good advice, regardless.

  8. FTLs are, as everyone has mentioned above, a losing situation for writers yet so many fall victim to this scheme. Worse yet, many have clauses surrendering your right to ever publish in another anthology or in any other format. It's theft, basically. Taking advantage of the new and uninformed which is sad. It's not for the love of the story that's for sure.

  9. James, I love what you are saying here! And this is coming from someone who has published a lot of work in copies-only magazines. I think this Nimrod syndrome applies mainly to genre publications. My observation is this: among the MFA community (or creative writing folks who teach and need publication credits) submitting to prestigious literary journals that offer copies only, sometimes a subscription, in exchange for publication is the norm. All the rigors of pro publishing and topnotch writing quality but no money. You can get published side by side with someone who has won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, etc., but you don't get paid--many of them pay via free subscription. I know, because I've had work accepted to those magazines. So, my take is that there is a disparity as to how different writing communities look at pro rates.

  10. Kristine,
    From talking with author and publisher friends the MFA folks are doing the exact same thing to new writers. They don't pay them or they give them a contributors copy/subscription in lieu of payment.

    They do however pay pro rates to the Pulitzer winners and the authors they deem as draws for the readers, they just invite those folks in.

  11. That's interesting, Kristine. As we both know, there's a big difference between a company that has been around for years and has a huge fan base and one that hasn't sold a single copy. Personally, I don't love the idea of putting some authors in a 'work for money' category and other in a 'work for free' category, but I will - and have - paid my bigger names more money.

  12. @James R. Tuck: Wow, that's sly. Thank you for sharing.

    @James Roy Daley: True, I agree with you completely here. Thank you, James!

  13. Man...I got tricked into FTL presses when I was in college. Thinking that "exposure" would get me somewhere. It didn't. NEVER AGAIN! Thank you for posting this.

  14. I will admit that when I started out, I didn't care if it was FTL or not. After a few years in the game and plenty of stories with paying markets, if I'm not getting some cash it's a no-go. Very good article that should be required reading to anybody who is attempting to sub stories out.

  15. I actually think FTL markets can be fine for hobby writers and hobby publishers. Where the process gets murky is when the publishers and the writers are taking themselves seriously. In no way is this a career-maker for anyone. It also breeds a lot of douche-baggery as some writers and publishers load up on FTL credits to power their bullshit catapults (Facebook in particular can be a war zone, lol).

    "You don't care about art, you only care about money." I don't believe there is a single fiction writer in the world who this is true for, not when you can have a well-paying writing CAREER doing just about anything that isn't fiction.

    Great post, Roy!


  16. I think it's interesting that you have an author up there who is willing to sub for free because it's HIS choice. But I guess the general group of writers doesn't have that choice. I guess we have to all be paid writers, or our work is shit. Nice way to look at it.
    I have yet to find a small press publisher that absolutely demands you submit to them without pay. It's pretty much writer's choice whether or not to submit. It seems silly to me that all this blather is going around in the first place. If you want to be paid for your work, then submit to places that pay. If you don't mind submitting for no pay, then submit to places that don't. But deciding for everyone else what is right for them is just arrogance.

  17. Finally. It's so nice to see so many writers admitting the truth. We write to get paid. Sure, in the beginning when rejections are a way of life, we have to love what we're doing in order to keep writing. But in the long run, I and everyone else who writes, dreams of the day we can support ourselves with the written word. But ultimately it is the writer's choice as to where they choose to submit. If a writer is content with being published at FTL markets, isn't that their choice?