Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh, The Woes Of Authorhood

A few times a week I set aside time to check my email and search out markets for my work. I trawl the internet and the monthly Writers' Centre newsletters hoping to find the elusive beast. It has these features:

-it publishes exciting or/and well crafted fiction and/or poetry
-it has an email address for submissions!
-it does not require any sort of fee.

Of course, there is a King Beast. He is extremely rare and facing extinction. Authors hear rumors of the beast at launches or from a drunk who boasts of his catch. You'll recognize the King by the distinctions that set him apart from his contemporaries:

-it pays money and/or contributer copies
-it has a national or international distribution
-it throws great launches.

Extended metaphors aside, the reality of placing creative work is daunting. You want it to be read and presented in a respectful way. You don't want to kill trees and fill landfills with ink cartridges to print off your work to send off. Sure publishers, this means you'll get more work to sort through because it makes submission more accessible. Perhaps you can hire an undergraduate intern. Maybe throw a saltine his or her way as they wade through the unsolicited inbox.

Don't get me started on contests! I haven't entered any writing contest (aka lottery) for several reasons. First, the submission fee. Australia isn't as bad as Canada. I've seen $25-$30 submission fees with a first prize of $100. Ridiculous. Secondly, the judges. Some contests state upfront who is judging, and pay a local author to adjudicate. But others? Well! Lastly, writing is a profession. Some 'contests' are nice to have on a resume and are genuine platforms for writers (most of these do not require a fee). But others are fundraising tools. It's degrading. What other professions have contests? Imagine an annual builders' contest (picture Jenga on a large scale). The only professions outside the Arts that I can think of that have contests are cat breeders and hairdressers.

And publications with reading fees really get my goat. I realize funding is thin. But imagine working days, maybe even months, at your job only to be told you have to pay the boss.