F*ck You, Pay Me: Why Publishers Need to Pay Their Writers

“We can’t afford to pay, but it’ll be great exposure!”

This statement, from so many publishing outlets that aren’t offering payment in exchange for writing (but who want good writing anyway), is so cliché it’s become a joke among writers. Yet it’s not funny. Paying outlets for writers shouldn’t be rare or magical; they should be the norm. Here’s why.

  1. Writing is work.

Every writer, whether published or not, knows that writing takes effort. Writing is a skill that can be learned and taught, but like any skill, it takes practice and patience to master. The act of writing is mentally and often physically laborious. Add research, interviews, or reviewing materials for context? That’s more work.

Fiction and poetry are fun to read, but that doesn’t make them not hard work to write. Regardless of the genre, labor goes into its creation—and that labor deserves compensation.

  1. Publishers get value from publishing written work.

Why would publishers ask for written work to publish if that work was worthless?

Trick question—they wouldn’t. Whether the goal is to gain ad revenue through online page clicks or to release an on-paper literary anthology, publishers seek writers and their work because they want to make money. Writing has value, and publication outlets know it. Failing to share that value with the writer—say, by being a paying outlet for writers—isn’t just selfish, it’s disingenuous.

  1. “Exposure” is (a bit of) a sham.

“We can’t afford to pay.”

“We offer great exposure.”

Do these two statements seem to contradict one another? That’s because they do.

A website, journal, or press that truly cannot afford to pay its writers (or to offer a fair royalty agreement to them) might be a startup. It might be run on a shoestring. It might be an editor’s hobby or labor of love. All of those are noble, but none of them are likely to be big enough to offer the exposure your hard work deserves.

Is the outlet big enough to offer substantial exposure? Look up its financials in your favorite search engine. Chances are good it’s got the cash to be able to pay its writers—and that its profit margins are as large as they are because it’s making that money off its unpaid contributors’ backs.

Publishers’ goals and focuses are as vast and divergent as publishing houses themselves. That’s a good thing—it means there’s a place for every writer. When deciding where to publish, don’t sell yourself short: the best outlet for your work is (like AutPress) a paying outlet for writers.

5 Books to Read If You’re Already Writing a Novel

Type “books to read if you want to write a novel” into any search engine, and you’ll get thousands of recommendations for first time writers. But what should you read if you’re already working on your first novel?

Here are five of our favorites:

  1. Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Poet Natalie Goldberg’s first book on writing was published in 1986, and like good Scotch, it’s improved with time. Goldberg’s method of combining Zen reflection with practical writing advice can help you get “unstuck” at exactly the right moment by seeing writing as a process and a joy—not a slog.

  1. Michael S. Monje Jr., The US Book

You already know what writing every day does for you, even as a first time writer. But what do you want those words to do for your reader? The US Book is a profound object lesson in words as music, as architecture, and as tools that change the world.

  1. Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

Don’t intend to write for the screen? Blake Snyder has your back anyway. His 15-count “beat” structure, outlined in Save the Cat!, forms the backbone of any strong feature-length plot—like, say, that of a novel. If you know where you’re going but you’re not sure how to get there, this book can help you locate the signposts.

  1. Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

If you want something to read that won’t mess up your flow or bleed over into your plot (probably), Pirsig’s classic meditation on the meaning and purpose of Quality can help you appreciate the process of writing—and your product—in an entirely new way.

  1. The Spoon Knife Anthology Series

Released yearly, the Spoon Knife Anthology series features some of the best writing from established and first time writers in the science fiction, spec fic, and weird fiction fields. Choose the Spoon Knife whose theme is closest to your own work, or browse them all to find inspiration and see the craft in action.

 

And Flash Gordon Was There… Putting the “Flash” In Sci-Fi Flash Fiction

Do you love science fiction? Do you love writing and/or reading weird things? Does your attention move at warp speed?

If you answered, “yes, yes, and yes!”, flash fiction might be the niche for you.

A typical flash fiction story clocks in around 1000 words (for comparison, this post is about 400 words). With such a short space to work, plot becomes compressed and detail becomes more focused. Reading and writing flash fiction is a great way to learn how to pack more impact into writing, producing more vivid results.

Here’s what to keep in mind when exploring sci-fi flash fiction:

Keep It Focused

Traditional science fiction relies heavily on worldbuilding. The chance to explore invented worlds is one of the primary reasons fans of the genre love reading it and its authors love writing it.

A thousand words or fewer, however, doesn’t give you much time to produce the kind of texture and detail of epic worldbuilding. Instead, you’ll need to focus on a few key details, and allow readers to fill in the rest with their imaginations.

Keep It Close to the Flash Point

All good stories start close enough to the crisis point to allow the reader (or viewer) to understand very quickly what’s at stake and how the crisis point resulted from those stakes. In flash fiction, however, the distance between the start and the crisis, or “flash point,” is even shorter.

The best ultra-short science fiction stories tend to be subtle. Epic space battles are impossible to do in a thousand words—but a child’s singed boot lying in a middle of a corridor is an entire story in itself.

Keep It Real

Starting a piece of flash fiction with a self-imposed word limit is often a recipe for failure. Instead, simply write. You can trim later, and if the story ends up being longer than you anticipated, it might make an excellent piece of longer fiction—or even a novella.

As in any genre, reading flash fiction can help you learn to write it—or simply give you the chance to explore weird new worlds in a short time frame. Anthologies featuring traditional short fiction, flash fiction, and poetry on your chosen themes can help you see the craft of “out there” writing in action.

Getting Started on Goodreads: Indulging Your Love of Books (and Making Your Writer Friends Happy)

If you’re a book lover who hasn’t fired up a Goodreads account yet, you’re missing out. Half social media, half catalogue, Goodreads lets you wander the stacks of a nearly endless library or bookstore—where the staff recommend new reads based on your personal preferences, steering you toward great literature from both traditional and independent publishers instead of simply plugging whatever’s new, bland, or overstocked.

Sound like a dream come true? Here’s how to start living the dream:

Sign Up

Goodreads asks for a name, email, and password when you sign up. If you like your social media accounts linked together, you can use a Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon account to sign in as well.

Add Some Books

Under the “Home” or “My Books” tab, you can search for books you have read, are currently reading, or want to read, and add them to your personal Goodreads bookshelves. Goodreads’s library contains millions of titles—from the “Big Six” to small independent publishers—and you can also add titles if the search function doesn’t find what you’re looking for.

Rate and Review Your Books

When you add books to your “read” list, don’t forget to give them a rating from one to five stars. Ratings help Goodreads recommend books you’re likely to enjoy. Writing a review also helps the books you enjoyed most float to the top of other readers’ recommendations and build your network on Goodreads. Reviews are a great way to help writers you know get paid.

Get Social (If the Mood Strikes)

Like any public library, Goodreads can be as personal or social as you make it. If you want to stick to browsing book options and building your own shelves, you can—or you can join discussion groups, start a book club, and share your shelves and reviews so that you can talk about books with other avid readers. It’s up to you!

Brick-and-mortar publishing is anything but a meritocracy. It’s easy to find books from the biggest publishers, and tough to find books from smaller independent publishers, even when some of the best literature you’ll ever read comes from a small press. Goodreads helps level the playing field for your favorite writers, and it helps you ensure you’re finding the books you love—not just the books with the biggest marketing budget.

Add These AutPress Science Fiction Titles to Your Fall Reading

Take one look at the folks running Autonomous Press and you’ll understand why we’re passionate about science fiction. On any given day when we’re not discussing press operations, we’re chatting about our exploits playing Fallout or Mass Effect, talking about the characters and episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or Doctor Who, or critiquing books like Ender’s Game from a social justice standpoint. Naturally, our love of sci-fi extends to the AutPress catalog and we’ve already got some great suggestions to add to your bookshelf or e-reader this fall.

Get Hooked on Mirror Project

 Whereas authors like Philip K. Dick presented questions about the personhood and rights of artificial intelligence and androids, Mirror Project speeds far past these basic premises in science fiction in its riveting story of an AI fighting against abuse and incarceration. Created by a combination of human memories, brain scans, and an artificial reality simulator, Lynn Vargas contends with repeated attempts to violate her bodily autonomy and sexual overtures from her creator. As she fights back, she not only faces questions of who she can trust but also what makes a life worth living.

Coming Fall 2017: Nantais

Imagine: you’re the first officer of a starship that’s stranded thanks to a rogue computer virus. Meanwhile, your captain’s son is missing, and one of your only leads to solving these mysteries is an alien whose species may be facing extinction. What would you do? Nantais, a science fiction novel by Verity Reynolds, explores this question in the form of spectacularly weird fiction that easily immerses the reader while breaking away from literary conventions in the genre. We’re very excited about this upcoming new book release, so watch for its appearance in the AutPress store this fall.

Stayed Tuned for More Releases

In addition to Mirror Project and Nantais, we’ve got a lot more speculative literature in store! Keep your eye out for future releases by Nick Walker and Andrew Reichart in their Insurgent Otherworld series. Also, stay tuned for Hoshi and the Red City Circuit, a science fiction novel by Dora Raymaker, and Time Travel in a Closet, a book of time-traveling poetry by N.I. Nicholson.

Queer Your Fall Reading List With AutPress Books

As the leaves outside change color and the temperatures begin to dip, these chillier autumn days demand some quality time indoors with a hot drink and some great books. While you’re stocking up on your top choices, be sure to queer your fall reading with LGBT literature from Autonomous Press. Our “Weird Books for Weird People” includes titles recognized by the Lambda Literary Awards along with innovative collections of poetry, short fiction and memoir from queer and neurodivergent writers.

Defiant: A Complex, Engaging Read

As part of the Shaping Clay series, Defiant is a book that turns typical narratives about autism on their heads. Many of these, penned by authors who are not autistic, barely scratch the surface when it comes autistic people, sexual orientation, and gender. True to its title, Defiant challenges this status quo with a protagonist, Clay Dillion, who transforms in so many ways throughout its story arc. Nominated for a 2016 Lambda Literary Award in the Transgender Fiction category, it’s LGBT literature documenting a transgender autistic experience. As Clay moves through a world that is messy, chaotic, horrifically dark, and morbid, watching him begin to embody the qualities in the book’s title makes for an intrinsically gratifying read.

Queer Narratives in Barking Sycamores

Barking Sycamores is a journal entirely edited by transgender people of color, publishing work by neurodivergent creatives. The journal joined the AutPress family in March 2016 with the release of its Barking Sycamores: Year One print and digital anthology. Year One, and the soon-to-be-released Barking Sycamores: Year Two anthology, both include LGBT poetry and short fiction. They’re both collections where neurodiversity and LBGT literature meet, featuring stunning work by several dozen authors from all over the world.

Neurodivergent LGBT Lit in Multiple Genres

We’ve spotlighted just a few queer lit books here, but don’t forget to check out our other titles from LGBT writers and contributors! That includes both the first Spoon Knife Anthology and Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, as well as The US Book. All of these and more are available directly from the AutPress store. So…what are you waiting for?

Real, Authentic Autistic Representation in Fiction

Autism has been a hot topic for at least two decades, but mainstream media and literature is replete with material written about autistic people rather than by autistic people. At Autonomous Press, we’re one of the independent publishers set on radically change that. That’s why AutPress’ catalog heavily features fiction with autistic characters created by autistic writers. If you’re looking for new books to keep you company this fall, you’ll want to add “Shaping Clay: The Elemental Trilogy” to your list.

Autistic Storytelling From the Inside Out

Autistic readers may feel an eerie sense of recognition when they immerse themselves in the saga of Clay Dillion. Currently at three books and counting, “Shaping Clay: The Elemental Trilogy” includes:

  • Nothing Is Right
  • Defiant
  • Imaginary Friends

Nothing Is Right introduces us to Clay Dillon, a young autistic child starting first grade. As you read, you peer over his shoulder while he experiences frustration, sensory overload, self-injury and the sheer panic of suddenly being unable to speak. The author’s storytelling method focuses on autistic characters’ experiences and in this case, depicts Clay’s struggle between desiring to be known for who he truly is and retreating from the pain that comes from how others treat him.

Clay’s story arc continues in both Defiant and Imaginary Friends. Defiant shows us Clay at age 30, finally discovering that he is, indeed, autistic. With this new knowledge comes more challenges as he questions what his desires are, and even who he is, while his world shifts around him.  Published in 2016, Imaginary Friends takes a journey to earlier in Clay’s timeline, showing readers the hellish world around him that the adults in his life construct.

Engaging Books That Keep You Reading

This is not literature that gazes at autistic characters from the outside. Author and AutPress partner Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon opens a portal to give readers a view from the inside. Going beyond the issue of autistic representation, the works in “Shaping Clay: The Elemental Trilogy” are intensely gripping with a ferocity that both affects deeply and rewards you for journeying through the hells Clay Dillon encounters. As one reviewer put it, “I started reading Imaginary Friends in the evening, big mistake. Dawn was just breaking when I finally finished, tears in my eyes, wanting more.”

AutPress: Stepping Up the Representation Game

Representation of marginalized groups in media and literature is critical. The Oscar-winning film Moonlight and the innovative television series Sense8 both speak to the importance of seeing oneself in film, television, literature, and other modes of artistic expression. Now more than ever, neurodivergent people seek to find representations of themselves, their voices, and their experiences in literary form. Mainstream publishers have mostly ignored this community, or have relied on neurotypical authors producing hackneyed, inaccurate portrayals rooted in the same repeated stereotypes. You’ve seen them before: the Sheldon Coopers, the Christian Wolffs, the Simon Lynches. At Autonomous Press, we’re an independent publisher of diverse books aiming to change this trend.

Weird Books for Weird People

Founded in 2015, AutPress focuses solidly on bringing transformative works to print and digital formats. Its catalog consists of both single-author books and multi-contributor anthologies featuring voices that are usually marginalized in mainstream publishing: queer, transgender, neurodivergent, mad, disabled, racialized, presently or formerly homeless, and incarcerated. That translates to our single-author titles such as The US Book, a mic-dropping work that brings together science fiction, hip-hop, art history, music history and other influences to craft its own spectacular, full-color multiverse between the pages.

Among our yearly anthologies, you’ll find the Spoon Knife series, which already has two volumes under its belt with the release of Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber this past spring. Debuting in 2016 with the first Spoon Knife Anthology, the annual collections bring together work that pushes boundaries and centers on themes salient to neurodivergent, queer, and mad people. The series continues in 2018 with the release of Spoon Knife 3: Incursions, which will include works of one reality or theme breaking through into another.

New NeuroQueer Books for Fall

We’ve given you a couple of suggestions for fall reading picks, but you’ll want to stay tuned for our next set of releases. Read the story of exolinguist Richard Hayek’s quest to solve the mystery of a rogue computer virus, a missing child and a major threat capable of wiping out an entire alien species in Nantais, a new sci-fi novel by Verity Reynolds. Coming this autumn, we also have Barking Sycamores: Year Two. It’s the second installment in the annual anthologies from one of the only literary journals explicitly publishing literature and art by neurodivergent contributors. Between groundbreaking books like The US Book and Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber and upcoming titles like Nantais and Barking Sycamores: Year Two, you’ll have plenty of books to stock up on for your fall reading.

We Are Back on Kindle! (And More International Distribution is coming!)

Hi there AutPress fans! Athena Lynn here, and I want to let you know that all of our titles are once again avaialble on Kindle. We had a couple weeks of service outage there because we were changing distributors as part of our larger plan to connect our authors to larger audiences, and there were just a couple of hiccups while we made the change. There are a few new things you might notice now that we are with our new distributor:

  • None of our ebooks are over $10 anymore. That’s because our new distributor helps us make more money at the lower price point, and we want to make sure our books are as economically accessible as possible. You can find those new prices at our store if you want .epub books, or you can get them at Amazon for your Kindle.
  • Our Amazon distribution has increased to offer more ebooks on more Amazon sites internationally, making it possible for people in countries where we previously had no coverage to access our books. This includes Japan, Brazil, and many countries in Africa.
  • Our new marketing partners are helping us to find readers in communities that are dedicated to spreading the word about books, including communities that encourage their readers to review books, like Goodreads.

Changes Coming Soon

On top of our new Kindle distribution, we are picking up a second print distributor to help us make our books available in more places. As that happens, we will be able to offer international shipping to more countries. We’re still in the process of setting that up, but once we do we will be able to get paperbacks out through Amazon in all territories, even places where we have not been carried yet or where our distribution was disrupted, like Australia.

As we make those changes, expect to see international options showing up in our store, too. I can’t promise we will be available in every country, but we are looking at solutions for the UK, Canada, and Australia to start. After that, we’ll see where we can go. Some of it depends on you, our readers, because some of it requires an extra push for demand for our books before it will be profitable to provide them in that market or that format.

One big example of this is audiobooks, which are both expensive to produce and time consuming. While the whole partnership realizes that they are an accessibility issue, if the press is simply not capable of funding them, then going bankrupt to provide accessibility is not going to work. That’s why we put our books out through Bookshare, and we let them work on ways to make them accessible to those who need non-print editions.

We would like to change that, and we realize that being in commercial audiobook markets aids with accessibility because not everyone has Bookshare. We still need to get to a place where that project is feasible, and the more our distribution improves, the easier that is.

How You Can Help

There are a few ways that you can help us out as we prepare to release a book each and every month from now until we run out of manuscripts–and currently, that looks like next year. Whether you have a lot of extra cash or not, there’s something on this list that every fan can do:

  1. Review any Autonomous Press books you have. Go to Amazon.com, search for a title like Spoon Knife 2 that you have read, and write just a 3 or 4 sentence summary of your thoughts. Give us a rating 1-5 stars to go with it, and post. We’re not even asking for a review at a particular level, just an honest assessment from as many people as possible. It helps even more if you bought the book on Amazon, but that’s not entirely necessary.
  2. Go to Goodreads and do the same thing. Also, while you’re there, search for all of our books and add them to your to-read list. It doesn’t cost you anything and it helps more people see our titles.
  3. If you’re a blog person or you work for a place that takes book reviews, consider doing a longer review that you can put out there where it will be seen by people googling our titles.
  4. Sign up for the Autonomous Press mailing list and get coupons every month when we send our newsletter with more announcements and book teasers.
  5. Buy copies of our books so you can review them later.
  6. Post about us on social media. Put us on Amazon.com lists of things you like. Do the same thing at Goodreads.
  7. Check out our anthologies, too, because we have only put out about 10 books so far, but we have published over 100 authors because of our aggressive anthology development process.
  8. If you are in our anthologies, promote them on your own platforms. That’s the only way that future books will be there as income opportunities for you.
  9. Ask your friends to review our books after you recommend them.
  10. Contact bookstores and libraries in your local area and ask them to carry our books. We are available in the Ingram catalog, or you can refer them straight to us.

If you can help us spread the word over the next six months, then we will be able to grow enough to offer true worldwide distribution, audiobooks, and a bunch of other cool stuff like book tours. It takes a fandom to build a publisher, though, so if you have been enjoying our books, please think about what you can do to help spread the word. – Athena

We Have a Bunch of the Autistic People You Should Know

NOS Magazine, the go-to magazine for neurodiversity culture and news, has released its annual list of the 50+ autistic people you should know, and we are happy to see that most of Autonomous Press’s partnership has made the list, including:

  • Dani Alexis Ryskamp, our legal partner. They edited Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, which is now available in ebook and will shortly be available in paperback too. Dani also contributed to The Spoon Knife Anthology last year, and they run Autistic Academic on the new Neurodiversity Matters blog network. Dani also writes as Verity Reynolds, and will be releasing their first novel Nantais under that name in late spring or early summer.
  • Nick Walker, the coordinating editor for Autonomous Press and the blogger at Neurocosmopolitanism. Nick also co-writes the Weird Luck webcomic, and his work has been featured in both Spoon Knife volumes.
  • The Teselecta Multiverse, of which N.I. Nicholson, the coordinating editor of neuroqueer books, is a member. He edited The Spoon Knife Anthologyand the whole Multiverse blog at Neurodiversity Matters, where the literary journal Barking Sycamores has also found its home. N.I. Nicholson founded Barking Sycamores with his partner.
  • The Puzzlebox Collective, of which Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon is a member and spokesperson. Athena was AutPress’s production coordinator for almost two years before the board voted to make her Chief Operating Officer in February. Athena has published 5 books under the name Michael Scott Monje, Jr., including The US Book, which was co-written by the rest of the collective. She also wrote the Lambda Literary finalist Defiant.

AutPress Authors from Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber

On the NOS Magazine list, you will also find several AutPress authors, including Sparrow Rose Jones, the author of The ABCs of Autism Acceptance.  Sparrow also contributed to Spoon Knife 2, and so did the following members of the list:

  • The Teselecta Multiverse’s N.I. Nicholson
  • Every member of the Puzzlebox Collective: Athena Lynn writing as Michael Scott Monje Jr., Athena the Architect, Lynn Vargas, Monday Dillon, and Clay Dillon
  • Dani Alexis Ryskamp, writing as Dani and as Verity Reynolds
  • Amy Sequenzia, who also edited Typed Words Loud Voices
  • Nick Walker
  • Alyssa Hillary

Collectively, these writers are responsible for more than half the word count of the book, so if you discovered them through the article about autistics you should know, this book gives you a one-shot chance to get a taste for all their writing styles, and since many of them have also authored or edited full books on their own, this volume is a great introduction to a highly influential body of work by a cadre of autistic writers who have worked together for half a decade to develop the conversation around neurodiversity and representation in the media.

AutPress Authors Who Did Not Appear in Spoon Knife 2

Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu also made the list, and we would be remiss if we did not mention her good works in the activist community as well as her contribution to The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic ChildrenShe blogs at Who Needs “Normalcy” Anyway, and we hope to see more work from her at the press in the near future.

Congratulations to All Our Autonomous Press Authors

We want to give a warm and hearty congratulations to all of our Press authors, both those who made this list and those who did not, for helping to contribute to the development of our company. The partners and authors who did make this list might have been on it without these accomplishments and contributions, but there would most definitely have been fewer of them. We owe it to everyone who helped build this company that so many of our partners and writers made the list, and we also owe it to our readers to remind them that while we have strong autistic representation, we are not an all-autistic press. Spoon Knife 2 and its predecessor also feature a wide range of allistic neurodivergent voices, to help make sure the conversation is as inclusive as possible.