Inspired By Dodgy Publishers: Or… How To Not Charge A Writer For Writing

Wow, it’s dusty in here.

A quick summary of my time spent away; I’ve written a couple more books towards the Wanderer of Worlds fantasy series. And using my imprint 1231 Publishing, I’ve actually published other writers in my first multiple-author anthology release, last year.

It was way cool! I got such a buzz from the end result.

It’s a quick story, about how and why I got started on doing this.

There is a group local to me who publishes anthologies and charges writers to appear in it. They use a process of submission, and if you’re good enough to get in, you win the rewarding experience of having to pay for a copy of the book your work appears in, when they launch it. It’s a compulsory purchase at full retail price, and–get this–they call it a ‘complimentary copy’. When they sell the books, the writers don’t see royalties.

That is so, freaking, wrong. The worst of it is the arrogance that the person organising this mind-fuckery actually believes they are helping writers! WTF? How demented is your world perspective that charging a writer for publishing their work is helping them? Don’t even get me started on the exposure BS.

When I challenged them out on it, I was told that they were covering “editing costs”. I asked who their editor was and what they specialised in. I was told that the organiser and his ‘committee’ of cronies (those who ‘judge’ the stories) were the editors. They work on the stories you see, and should be paid for their time.


So I decided that I would make my own damn anthology. I was limited by a tiny budget so I simply figured out a way where I could break even and set it up so that the writer could actually earn money for their story.

I set the theme (twisty turny stories), sent out word that I was doing this. My idea was:

Open submissions. No charges for submitting. Because, you know, I’m not an asshole.

Accepted stories would be published and the author would receive a complimentary copy of the book as their payment. An ACTUAL complimentary copy, not that weird one that requires a fee.

If they were interested in buying more copies of the book for sale, they would get a massive discount so they earned WAY more than I did for every book they sold. All I did was recuperate printing costs and earn about a dollar per copy for my time and organisation.

Those who didn’t want to sell the book didn’t have to – and for their effort, they received a free book with their story in it.

My requirement was that if they DID buy books for resale, they had to buy a minimum of ten copies. That made my printing requirements achievable and afforded me some breathing room for a launch.

I didn’t get many submissions for the first anthology. I had to hound my writer friends to submit. I took submissions WAY after the deadline just because I didn’t want 5 stories in the book. I worked hard to make sure it didn’t fail.

And I did it, I succeeded. I managed to get enough stories to fill 150 pages without stupid tricks like large font sizes and extra wide margins. 150 pages was my printing requirement to make the book thick enough to have adequate perceived value. I also broke even because the extra dollars I made on the copies I sold all went towards the launch catering (I use the term loosely, I bought stuff at Costco and set it all up myself). Everyone enjoyed themselves and I have the photos to prove it.

It was such a buzz, publishing other people and helping them not only to feel good, but to actually earn something (even if at the very least it would only be a little something) for their writing. I happen to know a few of them have gone on to sell copies, because a $10 book is a good price for market stalls and author events. I also know of writers who earned their money by selling to family and friends. So yeah, they earned a payment for themselves, and I gave them the opportunity to do so. Feeling chuffed about it.

That was Obliquity.

This year I’m doing Futurevision. This time I had more submissions and have ended up with more stories. The word is getting out. I’ve proven myself.

Next year I’ll theme it something else – something a bit darker, I think.

So yeah – if I hadn’t been appalled at the BS from this other mob and thought ‘there has to be something better out there’, then I likely would not have ensured that something better WAS out there.

And for me, it’s win/win… because I’m in the business of helping indie authors build their books for sale, designing covers, formatting e-books, beta-reading… these are things I do charge for… but I won’t charge a writer for writing.


2 thoughts on “Inspired By Dodgy Publishers: Or… How To Not Charge A Writer For Writing

  1. I’m the youngest of the cronies on the committee you refer to. The model of asking for entrance fees to have stories in anthologies seems to be standard, it’s not just this local group that does that, but the way you have presented it absolutely makes it sound wrong. Why have I not seen that before? We love your work, Dee and really appreciate what you do for us aspiring writers. Hope to sell my last copies of ‘Obliquity’ at the retreat this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Raelene – because we know each other and I recognise your solid ethics (and the fact you see a positive side to most things), I understand why you accepted this as the norm and thought nothing more about it. Accepting something as the norm doesn’t make it a good or acceptable business practice. For some reason writers accept a lot of things that every other industry does not. (Actually, many artists and musicians deal with this as well – let’s call it the ‘creative industry’). I hope now that you’re part of the committee, you can forge some positive influences and viewpoints. I believe in you!

      I am totally supportive of competitions with cash prizes asking for entry fees. It makes sense to me because the fee goes towards covering the cash prize and also weeds out those who aren’t committed to their work. It’s a viable model that your committee should take a closer look at (publishing the winner and honorable mentions, for instance). Anthologies who could potentially profit from writers and offer no reward beyond publication, should not solicit such a fee.


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