The latest issue of Writing Magazine carries a piece by the brilliant Patsy Collins (who runs the Womagwriter blog) concerning changes at Spirit & Destiny magazine. This magazine is now taking all rights in material, including fiction.
As a result, some of the writers Patsy quoted in her piece have said that they will no longer write for them. (Note, some last minute editing as the publication went to press means the sentence about those writers not writing for Spirit & Destiny could be interpreted as them no longer writing for Take a Break’s Fiction Feast too … and that is not the case. See this blog post for more details.) But they have taken a business decision not to supply that publisher with their services in the future (a stance with which I agree).
The reason I wanted to mention it on this blog is because this has a business implication. Yet another publication is taking all rights, which for fiction writers in particular is immensely frustrating and financially crippling. There comes a point when if you’re not prepared to supply the goods and services on those terms then you need to ask yourself a pretty big question: do you have a writing business? If not, does that mean giving up?
For some people it will mean giving up, which is immensely sad, especially as there are some fantastically skilled writers out there who will no longer be read by readers of those particular publications.
But as with any business, survival means adapting, and for some people that’s easier than it is for others. Writing short stories was a useful income stream to me. It wasn’t my most important income source, but in some months it was a significant proportion of my income. For me, the short story market was in decline as soon as I failed to get on the Take a Break Fiction Feast writers list. And when Woman’s Weekly changed their contracts to claiming all rights, well, that was it for me. The market had dwindled enough to make it financially unviable. It was not worth investing my time in this particular writing market.
I am fortunate. There are many non-fiction markets I write for, which means I’m still writing. And my love of fiction has not gone away. Instead of writing short stories I’m now investing my time in novels. That was one of the reasons why I accepted a short-term, part-time employment contract. Working a couple of days a week in an employed capacity has brought in the finances to enable me to develop my novel-writing skills, while also giving me enough time to continue producing my non-fiction commitments too.
My writing business is adapting. One particular market is no longer of interest to me (in a business capacity), so I’m developing another. Who knows whether it will pay off. That’s why business is risky.
Ten years ago, self-publishing was in its relative infancy. It’s now matured into a respectable industry, giving anyone the opportunity to enter it. And those who work hard at marketing their work are seeing the financial benefits. Who’s to say that something similar may not happen with magazines? Companies like Readly are giving readers access to a whole world of digital magazines. Literally. What if they were to open themselves up to a band of writers producing their own fiction magazine? (I’m not saying they will, or even that they have any such plans to do so … but they already have the distributing infrastructure in place. It is not beyond the realms of possibility.) So, who knows what new markets for fiction writers may exist next month, next year, or in the next five years?
When you feel the world is against you, or the lack of markets is against you, it’s understandable to consider giving up. But, rather than give up completely, consider a pause instead. Take a year out. Do something completely different. Paint. Do yoga. Walk the Great Wall of China. Live life. Write that screenplay you’ve always dreamt of doing. Explore new areas of writing.
I don’t blame writers considering giving up a particular market. But don’t make a rash decision to give up the writing. Giving up suggests never returning to it. I’m not sure I could ever give up writing completely. I’ll still end up filling lots of notebooks with my work.
For some people, giving up completely will be the right step. And good luck to them. That’s a fantastically brave decision to make.
For others, giving up could mean not pursuing a particular market, for a particular period of time.
At the end of the day, it’s your writing business, so it’s your choice what you decide to do.