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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:36 pm 
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So I have received an email from "Aquifer, The Florida Review’s online literary magazine" offering me, ahem, a great opportunity, namely publishing something for them.

For money? For free? No, with me paying them a small fee for that privilege.

Here's the thing, names redacted, provided because I have spoken to other IFComp authors who have received the exact same email.

Quote:
Good afternoon Victor,

I hope you’re having a great week.

I’m XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and I work with Aquifer, The Florida Review’s online literary magazine. I’ve been researching writers and digital media artists throughout the U.S. I found your interactive story online and I think you would be a great fit to submit your work to our online magazine. This would be a great opportunity for it to get exposure on an international platform so it'd be amazing if you could check it out and get the word out to your students and anyone interested.

The Florida Review, edited by ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ, publishes exciting new work from around the world from writers both emerging and well-known. Aquifer features new literary works on a weekly basis, as well as author interviews, book reviews, visual arts, and digital stories (both interactive and non-interactive).

One digital story each year will receive the Aquifer Annual Digital Story Award with a prize of $50.

In existence for more than 40 years, The Florida Review publishes literary lights such as Sandra Castillo, Billy Collins, Stephen Graham Jones, Michael Martone, Anne Panning, William Stafford, and David Foster Wallace. We help build the careers of young writers such as Jacob Arment, whose essay “Two Shallow Graves” is included in The Best American Essays 2017. The Florida Review has been listed in Writer's Digest's “Fiction Fifty,” and creative pieces first printed in our magazine have also been reprinted and awarded “special mention” in The Pushcart Prizes: Best of the Small Presses and several other Best American collections.

Now, Aquifer: The Florida Review Online is emerging as an innovative space for interdisciplinary publication.

To submit a digital story for consideration, please visit: https://floridareview.submittable.com/submit.

The submissions are reviewed by Dr. YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY, our digital story curator, and a team of Digital Media students from the University of Central Florida.

For more information, you can visit https://floridareview.cah.ucf.edu/ or contact Dr. YYYYYYYYYYYYY at YYYYYYYYYYY@somemail.com.

Looking forward to hearing back from you,

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


It all sounds sort of nice until you go to their website and discover that yeah, they charge you for submitting things.

Scam?

Well-intentioned initiative that nevertheless perpetuates the nefarious practice of not paying writers?

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1958: Dancing with Fear (IFComp 2017)
Onna Kabuki (IntroComp 2017)
Ariadne in Aeaea (IFComp 2016)
Pilgrimage (IFComp 2015)

Portfolio and contact: http://www.victorojuel.com
Twitter: @victorojuel


Last edited by Victor Ojuel on Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:52 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:42 pm 
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For the record, I did ask for more information:

Quote:
Dear XXXXXXXXX and YYYYYYYYYYY,

thank you for your kind email.

From what I have just seen in your website, it does sound quite intriguing. Can you give me a general idea of how it works, in terms of submission procedure (I seem to understand there is some sort of fee involved?), selection criteria and publication?

Also, I have perused the website a bit and haven't seen any examples of anything similar to what I have written so far, namely interactive fiction or parser-based text adventures. I don't know whether I'm looking under the wrong header perhaps, but all I have found is that "digital stories" are defined as "3-5 minute videos", which is... well, not interactive fiction. In my case, we would talking about an story made with Inform 7, which produces a .gblorb output file that needs to be opened with an interpreter such as Glulxe, and played by the reader via typed commands.

So I wonder if we have the same kind of thing in mind when we talk about "digital stories"?

Thank you,


I was still unsure of what kind of thing was going on there, and my impression was, frankly, that they had no clue what they were asking for, and were just looking to expand their material/readership at best (fishing for unwitting paying authors at worst).

Then I got a reply from Dr. YYYYYYYYYY themselves:

Quote:
Dear Victor,

Thanks so much for your reply. I realize from your message that the guidelines for the digital story submissions need to be revised, as we were only looking for digital stories in the sense of digital videos that told personal narratives through voiceover, video, etc. last semester. At this point, we would be able to publish interactive narratives that publish to the Web, such as those written using Inklewriter, Twine, etc. Re-publishing is possible with permission of the original publisher (if applicable). I'm working on updating the submission guidelines now in case others have the same question. Selection criteria are actually in development this semester with my graduate students, as it will be a project in one of my classes in collaboration with The Florida Review editorial team. I would welcome any advice or insight you have into this process as an artist working in this area.

Best,


I think it's the fact that they are working with *students* on this that really put me off, together with discussing this on Twitter - only to be unanimously told by every professional writer there that paying for submissions was a no-go.

This is my reply, and probably the last bit in this exchange:

Quote:

Hi YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY,

thank you for your kind reply. Let me therefore be frank with you.

As "an artist working in this area", although I normally refer to myself as a professional, I think it is very negative for the whole profession that you charge authors for publishing, a practice that is too close to vanity publishing for comfort. I am ready to assume your intentions are good and you do not actually mean to exploit the authors who, under your scheme, would be providing you with free content for your website *and* paying for that privilege.

Since you asked for my insights, as a professional working in this area, my insight would be that making a living as a professional writer is already hard enough without outlets like yours perpetuating the practice of not paying writers, which is sadly commonplace nowadays but not excusable under the pretext of "providing an opportunity to be published", since you are basically charging authors for the service of hosting a story in your website, the costs of which are basically negligible. As such, your good intentions notwithstanding, you are basically charging struggling authors for a service that is pretty much free almost anywhere else in the Internet. Again, as a professional working in this area, it is my respectful opinion that, while your operation might be appealing for an amateur/vanity scene, it actually does a disservice to the professional writing community and unwittingly helps to perpetuate business practices that are, in the long run, harmful to the wider collective of professional storytellers, digital and otherwise.

Please consider for a second, if you are still reading and can take some constructive criticism, what the long-term implications of this will be for your students. Do you want them to live in a world where they will be never paid for their art? Do please give it some thought. To reiterate, I do not doubt your intentions are good, but spare a few minutes, if you please, to consider whether you are not in fact doing a disservice to your students, in their future life as professional storytellers.

Those are my insights, as an artist, if you would call me that, or simply as someone who writes for a living, which I hope give you some pause to reflect about the impact your business model has on the wider scene.

Thank you and have a lovely evening,

-Victor

_________________
Writer + Narrative designer
1958: Dancing with Fear (IFComp 2017)
Onna Kabuki (IntroComp 2017)
Ariadne in Aeaea (IFComp 2016)
Pilgrimage (IFComp 2015)

Portfolio and contact: http://www.victorojuel.com
Twitter: @victorojuel


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 12:56 pm 
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So, idk. To be honest I found it pretty galling, and the fact that I don't think it's even a scam gets me even more. I have the impression somebody really thinks they are giving authors A GREAT OPPORTUNITY!!!!!!!!!1 and harming everyone in the process. Which to me it makes the whole thing way sadder than if I knew it was just an outright petty money making scheme.

Thoughts, ideas?

_________________
Writer + Narrative designer
1958: Dancing with Fear (IFComp 2017)
Onna Kabuki (IntroComp 2017)
Ariadne in Aeaea (IFComp 2016)
Pilgrimage (IFComp 2015)

Portfolio and contact: http://www.victorojuel.com
Twitter: @victorojuel


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:09 pm 
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People post "opportunities" like this every day in the playwrights' group on FB that I'm part of. The really depressing thing is the number of artists that think it's ok.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 7:43 pm 
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Thanks for following up on this, Victor, and for posting your exchange with these folks.

I received this notice as well. I thought, "These folks couldn't have really taken a close look at my 'interactive story' or my work if they think the kinds of things I write online are a 'great fit' for their magazine." I had a nice chuckle at the thought of sending them one of my mathematical research papers.

I've seen this kind of thing in academia, too. You get a few pieces out there, and then you start receiving unsolicited notices from journals you've never heard of saying that your work would be a good fit for them. As far as I can tell, most of them are legitimate, but they're really just interested in trying to raise their own profile. Nothing wrong with that, but sending them my stuff generally won't do me any good career-wise. Sadly, some of them do ask for a submission fee.

Academics are in the same situation as artists, in some respects: We're judged professionally by our "publication list." Depending on where you are in your career, you might be desperate enough to have your work appear in print that you'd be willing to pay for it. Some people know this and will exploit it. My sense - at least in academia - is that it's usually not worth it. (There are some weird exceptions that may be specific to particular subjects. Several years ago I tried submitting a paper to a finance journal and discovered that it's common practice to charge submission fees for even the most highly respected finance journals. I had to pay $200 for the privilege of having my paper summarily rejected.)

Again, thanks for following up and posting your exchange with these folks, Victor.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:52 pm 
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This kind of sounds like back in high school when certain students "qualified" to have their name listed in the yearly "Who's Who in American High School" (or something like that, like a national yearbook). They would publish your name and a few stats and accomplishments by default.

It was supposedly a great honor, but they also charged you to include a picture and a personal bio. And you were, of course, encouraged to purchase copies at $30 for yourself and everyone in your family or distribute the order form to them so they could see a B/W version of your senior photo and read a column-inch of personal info.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:38 pm 
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To add to the chorus of writers you mentioned:

I'm a freelance writer, so I see garbage like this a lot. The first thing writers learn about the industry, from professors, colleagues, and mentors: never pay anyone to read your writing. Publishing should make you money.

Reading fees are either a scam, or a bad business practice. Publishers and agents need to read a lot of stuff, and that takes time and money. But they should be making enough money off of publishing good stuff to offset that cost, if they're reputable. So even if it's not an outright scam, if they're so shit at making money that they need to extort their own authors, then don't trust them with your work.

Attach value to your work; if you don't, who else will?


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:42 pm 
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I'm also an academic, specifically in creative writing. I think this is a case where the broader literary community doesn't understand how the IF community functions.

The Florida Review is a very competitive literary journal that accepts 1% or less of submissions. That is to say, were I to get a poem or short story accepted there, I would be quite pleased. The way creative writers work with lit mags is that they send off some poems or a story to a journal, wait a while, most likely get told "no, we won't publish this," and then try again.

I think the mores for IF are very different. There's no gatekeeper for publishing per se. If you want to publish a game, you can do it on your own website, host it on IFDB, etc. Many IF games are free to play and commercial ones are clearly labeled as such. Comps are one of the few places I can think of that really publish an anthology of games as an "edition." There are virtually no lit mags that do so.

With the exception of very few, lit mags don't make money. They simply don't. Very few people buy or read them. But they exist because there is a glut of people who write poems and stories and would like to get them published. So the supply of writing far outweighs the number of people who want to read it. Some have some form of external funding (often from a university) that allows them to continue in the face of economic impossibility. Other lit mags are published by people who simply love doing it and are willing to commit some of their own funds every year toward it--something like a hobby, though people would choose a different word because "hobby" doesn't sound serious enough.

The Florida Review, specifically, uses Submittable as its submission service. It's a nice system--many lit mags use it, and from a user's perspective, it keeps track of where your submissions are in the process. But the system costs lit mags money. (It's free for submitters.) The claim that I've seen from some lit mags is that the $2 fee (and more commonly, I've seen $3) covers this cost and is the same amount you would pay in the old days when you mailed out your work to a lit mag along with an SASE to get back a response. I'm not terribly sympathetic to that argument.

Most lit mags don't pay cash. They would like to, but they don't have the money. You either get your work on their website or, in the case of a physical publication, one or two copies of the journal in which your work appears.

All of that being said, I never pay to submit my work to a lit mag for reasons other people have given. I refuse to pay to (most likely) be rejected. In theory, selecting good work should sell more copies and therefore make the journal more money, but the reality is it doesn't. Charging potential contributors shifts the fundamental purpose of a lit mag, in my opinion, and while I understand the economics, it simply feels unethical.

So, ultimately, it's not a scam. But it is a part of the changing literary landscape. I'm not sure what percentage of journals charge reading fees--I'd estimate maybe 15%--but I can pretty much guarantee that number will only go up as time goes on. And I'll personally keep sending my work to places that don't charge.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:52 am 
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To add to what bjbest60 said, low pay and submission/reading fees are common with lit magazines. I'm not really down with either. Nick Mamatas gave a great breakdown of why submission fees are a no good very bad idea.


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