by D.G. McLean (from The Market List #7)
Some writers, especially newer writers, give up on any story that doesn't sell to a Pro market. After it's made the rounds and generated nothing better than -- Sorry, not for us. Send us your next. -- they file it away with their other trunk stories in the hope that one day it'll be in a contract completing anthology. They would sooner abandon their creation than sell it to a Semi-Pro magazine.
And they claim to have good reasons....
"Semi-Pro magazines are just poorly copied fanzines that only pay in copies."
Semi-Pro markets cover a wide range of quality and formats. Technically, any magazine that doesn't meet all the SFWA requirements is a Semi-Pro.
1)At least three issues per year.
2)At least 2,000 copies/ issue with both national newsstand & subscription sales.
3)In English and published in North America. 4) Pay at least 3 cents per word.
By this definition Century, Crank! and Interzone are Semi-Pro, despite publishing excellent work by well-known authors at rates above 3 cents per word. Some Semi-Pros do pay as little as $25 per story, but with the advent of desktop layout and publishing tools the ability to deliver a polished product is within reach for most markets. Most pay 1 cents-2 cents per word.
"If I sell to a Semi-Pro market, I'll be marked as a wannabe. No one will take my work seriously afterwards."
Most writers break in through the Semi-Pro ranks. And don't think that Pro editors aren't aware of good material appearing in the Semi-Pro markets. In his annual summation of the year, Gardner Dozois always seems to know exactly where the better stories appeared in the Semi-Pros. The operative word for any market is quality. Having a track record may get you more consideration, but in the end your story has to be good enough for an editor to buy it, regardless of the market.
"I've sold stories for Pro rates before. Why should I sell for anything less?"
Mike Resnick, a man who has sold more stories than many people have read, has a very blunt statement about work that doesn't sell to Pro markets. It doesn't sell because it isn't better than the competition or isn't appropriate for a particular market's target audience. If that happens, he grits his teeth and sells it wherever he can because a writer's job is to sell stories. Stories should be read by more than you, your family and overworked editors. Unfair as it may seem, writing a Pro-level story is no guarantee it will sell to a Pro market.
"Semi-Pros are just a place where people go when their stories aren't any good."
The Semi-Pro market is more than a place to go when the Pro markets say no thanks. Some Semi-Pros target niche markets the Pros have missed or abandoned. Keen Science Fiction publishes modern but traditional SF and "Twilight Zoneish" tales -- story forms that don't mesh well with the taste of Pro markets in the 1990s.
"If I sell to Semi-Pros, my writing won't get any better."
Join a writers workshop, take some courses or go to Clarion. Skill only improves with feedback and editors rarely have time to explain why they didn't buy your story.
"Publishing in a Semi-Pro doesn't help me get noticed or into Pro magazines. Not enough people read them. Their circulation is too small."
The life of a Semi-Pro magazine is often nasty, brutish and short. If they fold it's usually because of the funding/circulation problem. It takes money to increase circulation but it takes increased circulation to make money. Fortunately, some Semi-Pros survive and a precious few even make the step up to Pro.
Writing is a contact sport. A Semi-Pro sale provides you with more industry and editorial exposure than you will get by leaving your story in a box. Will Semi-Pro sales increase your Pro sales? If an editor has noticed and liked your work, it can help, but only if your current work is good enough. That's the story they're buying.
So send that manuscript out, one market at a time, Pro or Semi Pro, until it sells and follow what Tim Powers calls, "The Food Chain of Writing".
1) Make your work the best it can be
2) Sell for the biggest reward you can
3) Get the most exposure you can
And never forget -- The Only Bad Sale Is The One You Didn't Make.
D.G. McLean lives and writes in New England.
Copyright © 1996 by D.G. McLean. All Rights Reserved.