Ask Daphne! About E-Publishing Advances

November 23rd, 2010 • Kate

Christian_Louboutin_Light_Yellow_Kid_Suede_Short_BootsShort boots for a question about a short story today, from AR:

I recently submitted a short story to an e-publishing company for an anthology. I kind of know the person who runs it, but not well enough to know if I’m being taken for a ride here. They are offering a $50-$100 advance for one short story. Is that legitimate? It sounds like a very small amount of money, but since it’s for a short story that will only be published by a new-ish publisher for eReaders, maybe it’s reasonable?

Well, readers, when I don’t know the answer to something, I turn to the internet, just like you. SWFA rules for membership require a qualifying sale to a list of publishers and magazines, OR if the publisher is not on their approved sale, payment for publication at a rate of at least 5 cents a word, AND a print run or circulation of at least 1000 copies or downloads.

I don’t know how long your short story is, but for SWFA to consider it a valid sale, it would have to be between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

Now, you may not be concerned about applying to SWFA (your piece may be romance, or literary fiction, or something else altogether), but I think their rule of thumb is a good one. You don’t want to sell yourself short, even for a friend. Especially for a friend. You also need to be aware of what rights you’re selling — ideally one time use in that anthology only, not to preclude your placing the story elsewhere.

Those of my readers who do freelance writing may have another perspective — or a better answer! — and I welcome their comments!

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About E-Publishing Advances”

  1. Michelle Says:

    An advance? Does that mean you will receive royalties?

  2. Adam Heine Says:

    In my experience, it's rare that an anthology will pay professional rates (i.e. $0.05+/word). There are lots (and lots and lots) of magazines, e-zines, and anthologies that pay less than professional rates. It doesn't mean they aren't legit, it just means they are a lower pay scale (and therefore a lower amount of prestige for your work).

    So I'd say it's up to you how much your story is worth. You're not being taken for a ride (unless they're telling you that's what professional authors get paid), but you are potentially settling. There's nothing wrong with that (selling to the places that give professional rates is HARD — I know), but it's something to be aware of.

  3. Adam Heine Says:

    Oh yeah, Michelle brings up a good point too. Normally short stories are paid for once, no royalties, but sometimes anthologies are different. The whole "professional rates" thing might not apply.

    Best idea: do some research on what other major anthologies pay, either in flat fees or royalties.

  4. BJ Muntain Says:

    The truth is, there aren't that many pro-paying markets – that is, those who pay 5 cents per word or more. $50-$100 for a short story is a legit amount. Not the best you can do, of course, but it's better than a lot of legitimate short-story markets pay.

    Now, of course, this is an advance, which means there is some hope (though small) that there may be more money in the future.

    When it comes to 'qualifying' for SFWA – or some other organizations – you have to be pretty much a pro already. That's why they have those standards. A lot of SFWA members had to make some sales to lower-paying publications when they first started out.

    Am I saying 'take anything you can'? No. I also believe that going for pro rates is a good strategy. However, that doesn't make this market any less legitimate. For an anthology published by a small press, it's about normal. Better than some – some anthologies think you should be happy with just royalties, or copies of the publication.

  5. Kater Says:

    Depending on the length, $50-100 for a short story can be a reasonable amount. It's on the low side, but it depends on how long the short story is. If it's 1000 words, that's pro payment. If it's 5000 words, it's not quite semi-pro.

    If it were my story, I'd ask myself three questions:

    1. How long is it?

    2. Have I already got rejections from my first-choice markets?

    3. Is this anthology likely to get reviewed or read by critics?

    Short fiction doesn't pay anything like novels, so for me, #3 can tip it, even if the money is pitiful. Eg. I would gladly sell a story to Small Beer Press' "Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet" even though they admit they pay very little.

    Of course, I've sold stories to magazines and later regretted it because the pay was too low. What's too low for that story is up to you. If you imagine a respected colleague asking you "how much did they pay you for your story?" and you imagine yourself ashamed to tell them, don't sell.

  6. DeAnna Says:

    Look over the contract!

    I'm no pro at contracts, but small publishers, e-publishers, and new publishers seem to be three risk factors for a weird contract, friend or no friend.

    Make sure you get rights to the story back at some point (reversion – don't sell the story, sell limited rights, so you can sell it again), make sure there's a way for you to find out what your royalties are, make sure they say exactly when you're getting paid, and make sure it's in the contract what's going to happen if you have problems with them (dispute resolution/arbitration).

    Kate can probably talk more about what to look for in an anthology contract, though.

    I pretty much agree with everyone else's points on the money – SFWA qualification isn't everything. LCRW is awesome. Semi-pro rates are nothing to sneer at while you're learning your craft.

    Something to keep in mind: sometimes it's better to sell to a magazine first, then resell to an anthology. The mag takes first rights, the anthology takes non-exclusive reprint rights.

    Sometimes. Check 🙂