Is Exposure Worth Giving Away Your Rights?

As a writer who wishes to one day make a living off his stories, I’ve made the conscious decision not to give away the rights on my work.  The rights to a story are what give them economic value—they’re worth something to me and others.

Yet many publications offer writers no monetary compensation for those rights, which once given can never be reclaimed (in case of first rights, which tend to be the most valuable).  Instead, for-the-love markets generally offer writers “exposure” as compensation.  On the surface, this might seem like a worthwhile thing.  The more readers who see my fiction means more potential readers looking for my stories in the future (and by extension, buying my work).  How can this be a bad thing?  That would depend on how many readers actually read the publication.  The question then is: “Do for-the-love markets actually offer much exposure?”  Or am I just giving away my hard work for nothing?

This is a difficult thing to assess.  Few markets publish their print run or page views, so how do I determine if the exposure promised by a for-the-love market equates to one reader (the editor), dozens of readers (the editor’s friends), or potentially thousands of readers?  One way to do this is to look at page views for electronic publications: the more page views, the more potential readers for a story.  While I’m not sure how to find out page views specifically, I can use the web analytics site Alexa to look at a relative global ranking, which takes into account page views.  I checked the rankings of numerous electronic pro-rate , semi-pro rate and token, and for-the-love markets and compiled the information below (I did not use any print only markets).  This is not meant to be extensive lists of markets, and I pulled many of the pro-rate and semi-pro and token rate markets from my experience submitting stories so I’ll admit its a somewhat biased selection.  I obtained the for-the-love markets by making a haphazard selection from a list of non-paying markets on The (Submission) Grinder.  Some markets didn’t have ranking because their visitation was so low, and so I assigned it the lowest ranking that appeared in my list in order to calculate an average for each category of publication.  I compiled all rankings on November 27th, 2013, so if you go and check them now, they’ve likely change a little.

Pro-rate Markets 25,475
Daily Science Fiction: 426,219
Clarkesworld: 543,286
Lightspeed: 543,826
Buzzy: 923,063
Apex: 1,355,594
Beneath Ceaseless Skies: 7,063,445

Average Rank: 1,722,847

Semi-pro and Token Markets
Everyday Fiction: 414,878
Kasma SF: 1,989,104
The Future Fire: 2,993,105
Abyss and Apex: 4,393,029
Plasma Frequency: 5,545,776
Stupefying Stories: 6,619,188
Ideomancer: 16,065,587
Giganotosaurus: 16,507,761
Silverthought: no rank
Perihelion: no rank

Average Rank: 9,754,404

For the Love Markets
Bewildering Stories: 1,144,087
Café Irreal: 1,379,463
Revolution SF: 1,436,537
Planetary Stories: 13,723,694
Hyperpulp: no rank
eSciFi: no rank
The Speculative Edge: no rank
Midnight Diner: no rank

Average Rank: 10,464,353

The first thing I see is that for-the-love markets have significantly lower average rank than pro-rate markets.  That’s not surprising.  Two things did surprise me, however:

(1) The variability in ranking for pro-rate markets was high, so while most markets ranked well (especially compared to non-pro rate markets) some of the markets, such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, had rankings lower than some semi-pro, token, and for-the-love markets.

(2) The average ranking for semi-pro and token markets wasn’t much lower than that of the for-the-love markets, and some of the non-pro markets had rankings that were competitive with, or in the case of Everyday Fiction better than, pro-rate markets.

So what’s it all mean?  In nearly all cases, more people read pro-rate publications (no surprise there), but some non-pro rate publications can get close to the same number of page views, and thus likely have similar readerships.  In terms of readership, non-pro rate markets are a mixed bag—some appear to have a respectable number of readers and others don’t.  So receiving exposure for the a story’s rights might be an okay trade-off, provided the story is given to the right market, and in terms of exposure, that right market might not be one that pays much.

About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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3 Responses to Is Exposure Worth Giving Away Your Rights?

  1. Thanks for sharing your research. I’m going to have to do some snooping of my own on Alexa…

  2. Pingback: Everyday Fiction Accepts “Wheat King” | D. Thomas Minton

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