Tuesday, January 12

People Get Arrested for Exposure (A look at "For The Luv" Anthologies)

By James R. Tuck, @JamesTuckwriter

Part of the How They Do It Series
(Monthly contributor)

There's this thing you have going right now. It's called a career. Maybe yours is just at the beginning stages. You are my target audience. I want to tell you some truth before you get too deep into this game.

If you've been around the block a time or two, feel free to sit down and listen too, you might need a reminder.

Before I start * Disclaimer * : This is 100% my opinion. It is an informed opinion but your mileage may vary.

Today I speak to you about anthologies.

Firstly, I love anthologies. I truly do. As a reader.

When I buy a new anthology I get to enjoy new authors at a reasonable price. I get to read them doing short fiction, which is my favorite when done well. Finally, because 90% of the anthologies out there are themed, I know I will be into the subject of most of the stories inside.

However, as an author, I frequently hate anthologies.

Specifically, I hate anthologies that do not pay me.

To clear the field, I do not think you should ever submit a story you took your time and energy and life writing to a “For The Luv” anthology. FTL anthologies are collections, usually put out by micro publishers, but sometimes by larger presses, where no contributor gets paid. You are doing it “for the luv” of writing and the joy of seeing your story in print. Some of these “publishers” don't even send you an ebook copy for your own even though that literally costs them nothing.

I hear you: 'but James, if no one is getting paid then what is the harm?' .

Oh, these anthologies are not given away. They are sold by these publishers. They are making money off your hard work. My stance is if someone is making ONE dollar off my writing I want my percentage of that buck.

TUCK'S RULE OF WRITING #197: You do not get to profit off my creativity without compensation.

Here comes the next protestation: 'but my work will be seen and it could bring readers to me that will buy my (insert here whatever future project you choose)'.

The problem is this, dear friend of mine, these FTL anthologies do not have a marketing budget. They are not advertising the anthology beyond a few Facebook posts or tweets and they are not promoting YOU or YOUR STORY at all. Because they aren't paying writers they are not drawing any big names with big readerships to the anthology who actually might convert over to you as a fan.

You are literally handing your work over to someone for nothing.

One of my friends claims he received editorial help from the FTL anthologies he submitted to and that it made him a better writer. I am very glad for him. He is incredibly lucky in this regard. I do not think his experience is in anyway typical. A publisher that doesn't pay the writer is not paying the editor and thus the chances are you will not get a professional's help on your story.

The third objection coming from you: 'James, I'm just starting out. I need the publishing credit'.

Okay, this one is slightly valid. There is a part of having a career as a writer that includes credits in your bio. If you want to be a guest at a convention or another writer public appearance then these credits do actually give you an air of legitimacy that will usually sway them to accept you. I've seen it happen.

Here's the thing though, the reason that ploy works is that convention directors and event planners generally do not have the time to be up-to-date on which publishers are legitimate. They don't check to see if that anthology you put on your application sold more than six copies. They see a list of titles and publishers and they assume you are a professional.

Please note, I am not calling into question YOUR professionalism with this point, but rather the professionalism of the anthology makers.

So, what should you do from here?

Keep writing, keep submitting, and expand your targets. There are a lot of places out there that will pay you for your writing. You simply have to offer them a product they can sell. You can do this.

Now, sometimes you write a story and you KNOW it's good. You've submitted it over and over and over again and you just cannot find a home for it but you know that a FTL anthology you saw earlier would take it. You're tempted, sorely tempted, to submit it because it deserves to be out there in the world.

Stop for a second and consider indie publishing that story. There are hundreds of articles and how-to's on putting your work into the marketplace in a professional manner. You could entertain this as a way to put the story out and actually have a chance to make a few dollars off it. Indie publishing is absolutely viable for authors, even one starting out.

Think it over and if you are still determined to wait until you are “published by a publisher” then consider giving your story away but do it in a manner that will benefit you more than being shoved in the middle of a pack of other authors in an anthology no one will read. Put your story on your website or blog for free. Contact a genre blog or a book blog with good numbers and offer your story to them for free. They could publish it as a guest blog and bring new eyes to your work. Control your own work. Put it where it can actually benefit you.

You can craft your career as a writer. I believe in you, I truly do.

James was born and raised in Georgia and grew up drawing and reading a steady helping of Robert E. Howard stories, Golden Age comics, and books he was far too young to be reading. Combined with a very Southern involvement in church and watching horror movies, this became the bedrock of his creativity. He became a tattoo artist, and now writes dark fantasy. He's the author of the Deacon Chalk: Occult Bounty Hunter series, a variety of short stories and novellas set in the same world (and some outside of it), and the editor of the Thunder on the Battlefield anthologies. His newest series (co-written with Debbie Viguie), is Robin Hood: Demon's Bane.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

About Robin Hood: Demon's Bane

Sherwood Forest is a place of magic, and Prince John and his allies are demons bent upon ruling Britain. The solstice draws close, and Prince John and the Sheriff hold Maid Marian, whose blood sacrifice will lock the prince’s hold on the kingdom and the crown. Unless Marian can reach Robin with a magic artifact coveted by the enemy and entrusted to her by the Cardinal, the ritual will occur. 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. I agree. And I don't. There are two sides to every question, and in the main 'doing it for the love' is a bad career move. But, if you're really just starting out, and the topic of the anthology is interesting, and you can write a story quickly (or have one to hand that's been rejected elsewhere but you still believe in) and you've seen other anthologies from the publisher which look good enough that you'd be happy to put 'contributor to anthologies from XXX' front and centre on your writing CV, then that might just be enough reason to make an exception. It was for me, when I was starting. And I don't regret it.

    1. And I don't want you to regret it. I truly don't.
      And I covered the publishing credits in the post. Your experience seems to fit right in to what I said :)

  2. To date, I've subbed and been accepted to three anthos, all early in my career. Even though all contracts called for a 65/35 split and paid royalties, I have yet to see a dime, thanks to a clause specifying that royalties had to hit a certain number before they'd be distributed via Paypal. High number of authors involved + low sales = no one hit the the threshold. I had to grit my teeth and wait out the the time till I could request my rights be reverted. That was done and would you believe it? Not a dime was ever distributed.

    Any writer is better off putting out their work as a free read than risking having a tight, well-written story come after seven others that are not so well-written. If there's any publicity value in anthos, that will kill it for you.

    1. I have been right there with you on this. In fact, I expect this will be the subject of next months blog by me. But you are 100% right.

  3. Writing for the sake of exposure is a BIG peeve of mine this industry loves to continue to cultivate. You're already writing for free in crafting the piece and floating it around to find a home. Yes, one writer might not be tried, but that's what blogging is for. In a recent article from actor Wil Wheaton penning his thoughts on this, creatives -- writers, musicians, artists, etc. -- can't make rent and bills on "exposure" (and a big endorsement in not giving up your day job(s), if applicable.).

    Excellent post. Trouble is, although more of us can/should stand up to this serious breech, the industry finds more eager, gullible writers willing to do what I and a few others won't.

    1. And that's why we keep trying to help our fellow writers :)

  4. One other exception may be an "industry" related anthology. I've contributed to three of them in my design industry, with full knowledge there would be no payment. However, it is a great marketing tool. I am able to say in my bio that, in addition to writing three of my own design related books, I have contributed to several others in my industry. It looks great on my media page and adds much credibility.

    1. True. That's the publishing credits part of my post. Totally valid. Just don't do too much of it before you expect to be paid for your expertise!

  5. There are also the fundraiser anthologies, where authors contribute to raise money for a cause. I know that's now what you're talking about here, but I thought I would mention them.

    1. And I have myself given a story to a charity anthology. Totally legit for that. We should give to our fellow man, it's good for the soul.
      I just don't want to give my charity to someone who is using it for business instead of need.
      Your point rocks!