Where to sell your poems and stories for money.

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Some people take up the gentle hobby of writing because they feel it will pass the time and prove diverting.  Others may enter the field of anopisthographical combat for the challenge of the adrenalin fuelled gladiatorial contest against the very vocabulary that they are seeking to conquer and ultimately murder.  One recent survey proved conclusively that over 75% of us have started writing because we’re rubbish at everything else and a failure in life generally and this is our one final chance to be good at something before we curl up and die. 

So, why did you begin writing?  If you’re one of those rare breed of people who started writing because you wanted to become rich and famous and celebrated for your insight and unusual style then by this time you have probably realised that that is never going to happen.  However, with the right approach, you can make a little bit of money through writing.  The first thing to remember is that there is a lot of competition out there and it’s all a bit of a game, so up yours.  And here’s how...

Magazine and book publishers range from the humble hobbyist chapbook producers, who produce a quarterly pamphlet of photocopied submissions, stapled together and sold at writing events, to the glossy magazines and paperbacks that you used to find on display in bookshops before bookshops all closed down in response to competition from other media.  Usually (but not always), the first rule is that the glossier the publication, the higher the rates they will pay you for your piece.  Antagonistic to this first rule, the second rule states that the glossier the publication, the smaller your chances of acceptance for publication become and the lower the probability that they will pay you for your piece.  To state the obvious: you have to be realistic about the piece you have written when choosing where to send it.

There are many inspirational stories out there about unknown writers sending their first novel to publisher after publisher before finally getting a deal and the novel then becoming a bestseller, but there aren’t enough inspirational stories about that and if I were you, I wouldn’t bother.  Most of our greatest and highest paid writers (such as Katie Price and Wayne Rooney) have succeeded by first getting their name known and only then have they approached publishing houses with their first books.  The lengths that those two went to get their publishing deals are frightening.  An obvious route to this sort of success is by the accumulation of many successful previous paid publications of your shorter works.  These may be either poems, short stories or non-fiction articles or a vast cannon of all three.  Alternatively, you might like to play football with large fake breasts.

So, how does one accumulate a vast cannon of successful previous paid publications of one’s shorter works?  Here’s how:

1.       Search the internet for a website that allows you to search for markets for your work.  This author recommends Duotropes Digest, wherein you can search by genre, rates of pay, submission type (email or by post), ratio of acceptances to rejections, word count  etc.

2.       Find the magazines or publishing houses that fit your search criteria.

3.       Go to their website and read the submissions guidelines very carefully.

4.       Lay your story out exactly as instructed in the guidelines.

5.       Check whether multiple submissions (more than one piece submitted to the same publication) or simultaneous submissions (simultaneously submitting the same piece to two different magazines) are allowed.

6.       Use a submissions tracker (such as the one on Duotropes Digest) to keep tabs on all of the pieces you have submitted, and remember to take them off the market once they have been accepted somewhere,  and inform any other magazines to whom you have submitted the same piece.

7.       Once a magazine has bought the rights to a story or poem, you are usually required to ensure that the same piece is not publically available anywhere else (such as the web).

8.       When the period of the rights ends, depending on which rights you have sold, you can sometimes sell the same piece elsewhere.

9.       Be prepared (and happy) to receive at least six rejections of each story, article or poem that you submit until a magazine finally accepts it.

10.   Create a large stock of pieces for submission and, as soon as a piece is rejected, send them back out there to a different magazine.

11.   The largest paying market is sci-fi short stories and you are most likely to get paid for these.  Horror and Erotica are also very good payers.  The non-paying poetry market is enormous, but you have almost no chance of being paid for poetry unless you self publish.

12.   If you are unable to come up with ideas that fit a genre that is likely to reward you with money, you can always reset your exact same story in a world full of peculiar beings and weird machines and call it sci-fi*.

13.   No matter how brilliantly you have written your story, if you have written it in the first or third person then no publication will accept it.  Seriously, a clockwork orange would not be published if it was written today. 

The final point in the above list may seem alarming, but it really should be noted that you are not writing for someone else’s reading pleasure.  No, once you enter the realm of the paid writer, you are writing for the acceptance of the slush readers and editors.  Slush readers and editors are bombarded with more submissions than they can process.  They generally adopt a simple algorithm: is the submission in the correct format?; is it written in the third person?, and does it have the correct ratio of show to tell?  You will notice that did I enjoy reading the piece? doesn’t feature in that list, and for any editors who care about show:tell ratios, enjoy doesn’t even feature in their vocabulary. 

Hopefully, the above has not only shown you the game plan for how to make a little bit of money from your writing.  It is all about adopting a business-like approach and a strong work ethic and playing the game.  Hopefully, you will also pause and reflect as to whether making money is really what you want after reading the above.  That is not to say don’t do it, but please be aware that it might eat your soul.


* most nerds will read any old hackneyed bollocks if you stick a set of deeley boppers on its head and make it say ‘Take me to your leader’.

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