I was casting around for an idea for my monthly contribution to Author Expressions when I thought I’d settled on something timely—the topic of whether or not writers should give away their work. An article in the New York Times by Tim Kreider on just this issue had sparked a lot of debate on various lists. The topic appealed to me because when a friend, Ann Perrott, and I founded The Larcom Review I insisted that we pay every contributor, even if it was only a nominal amount.
Those who write well enough to be published deserve to be treated as professionals; they should be paid. Ann agreed, and we paid every contributor (writer, poet, interviewer, reviewer, photographer, artist) a modest $25 plus one contributor’s complimentary copy. The amount is pathetic but it’s better than nothing.
Today thousands of writers blog for free (like me, right here), put their novels and short stories on line for free (I haven’t done that), and contribute stories and articles to anthologies for no money at all (I haven’t done that either) and no free copy. It is so much the norm now that fewer and fewer people are arguing that writers should never write for free. It is argued that this is unrealistic—there are simply too many writers willing to fill the screens with their ideas and beautifully wrought sentences, hoping someone will offer them a paying gig.
This isn’t just a problem for midlist writers like me and most other mystery writers. It’s common knowledge that the writers who made Huffington Post worth purchasing were paid nothing for their contributions. They got nothing from the sale of the online newspaper. That doesn’t make anyone feel any better, but it does remind us just how widespread this problem is—writers should write for free and be glad of the opportunity to have their work disseminated. The marketplace for writing is out of whack.
So, how out of whack is the marketplace today?
While I was searching for a book by Mavis Gallant I decided to take a vanity detour and check out my own list, to see if the new covers were now on the Amazon site. They were. I scrolled down to admire them, and noticed that various issues of The Larcom Review were mixed in with the book titles. And then I took a better look.
I’m used to seeing paperbacks at $0.01, with the total cost being the shipping plus a few pennies. But I was not ready for the price I saw on one issue of The Larcom Review. The spring/summer 2001 issue was priced at $2,350.70. (Seventy cents?) The cover price is $10.
I remember that issue. In fact, I had just given a copy of it to a friend as a hostess gift when she invited me to dinner. The issue contains 61 works in prose or poetry and 15 artworks, including photographs, line drawings, and prints. The issue includes an interview with Andre Dubus III by Rae Francoeur, a poem by Erika Funkhauser, one by Rhina P. Espaillat, two prints by John Martin, and a cover photo by Robin Paris, among other items. Is all this worth $2,350.70?
I’ve emailed the bookseller to find out what is so special about this issue that he’s charging over $2,000. After all, I still have several copies in storage I’d be glad to sell. I have't heard anything from him yet, but I'll let you know if I do.
And now you can see how out of whack the publishing business is right now. I’ve forgotten my topic and where I was going with it. The ludicrous amount of money being offered for one issue of The Larcom Review has completely thrown my brain off kilter. What more do you need to know?
To purchase copies of The Larcom Review at a normal price, email me. To read Tim Kreider’s article, click on the link below.
Susan Oleksiw is the author of the Mellingham/Joe Silva series and the Anita Ray series. Her books can be found on Amazon, Nook Press, and Smashwords. For more information, go to www.susanoleksiw.com