Brand new pro-paying SF market
May 30, 2010

While browsing the ‘What’s New’ section of Duotrope this morning i noticed a brand new pro-rate paying SF market called Daily Science Fiction. Cool, i thought, another pro market is most excellent.

They pay 8c a word for fiction between 100 and 10,000 words. Awesome. These stories will be available free to the public. Awesome. They also plan to publish new fiction 5 days of every week. Again, awesome…

Then i thought about it. And the more i thought about it the more i wondered whether the two editors had thought their idea through thoroughly. The idea itself is admirable: bring the SF-loving portion of the public a daily (during the week) dose of speculative fiction. And they do state that they’re looking for flash fiction primarily. Even so, at 8c a word, over 260 days of the year, at–let’s say–an average of 1,000 words per story, they’ll be spending close to $21,000 on fiction, and i feel that’s a conservative\minimum estimate. Their yearly budget for artwork is much more feasible: $900-1,200 (each piece of artwork bought will get center stage for approx. one month).

Will the money for the fiction be coming from advertising, fundraising drives, personal funds of the editors? I see no advertisements on the site, and seeing as the format will be electronic, the daily advertising space will be limited. Fundraising drives work for places like Strange Horizons, but they’ve proven themselves to be very good for a long period of time (and they also diversify their material with articles, poetry and columns). I hope the author payments aren’t being budgeted from the personal monies of the DSF editors, because that’s a very good way for them to become disillusioned and poor(er?) very fast.

The money outgoing is one issue. The other is quality. Will they find 260 stories per year that are worth paying 8c a word for? Or will they end up being forced to print average to mediocre fiction to fill their quota? Looking at the other daily markets dotted around the interwebs (and there’s not many, and they usually publish all genres and pay token rates, if at all), i worry that it’s likely to be the latter.

Their is one other teensy issue that is also related to quality: saturation mixed with apathy.

I love short fiction. Love it to pieces. A good short story is, in my mind, incomparable to any other form of storytelling. But, even so, unless Daily Science Fiction is publishing firecracker stories (metaphorically, not literally) at least every other day, then they run the risk of overfilling their short story sink, which in turn will lead to readers shrugging and moving back to the markets they know deliver what they want.

This all sounds like a real downer, doesn’t it? But i don’t want it to be that way. I want this new pro-paying market to succeed. The website is professional, one of the editors has been through Clarion, and it’s always great to see a new pro-paying SF market that is aware of and willing to use technology that isn’t archaic.

(side note: props to Asimov’s for moving to an electronic submission system. The very thought fills my heart with joy.)

But i worry. I don’t want this to be a flash-bang here-for-a-year-then-gone venture. I want to look back in ten years and say ‘i remember when this zine started off and it hasn’t looked back.’

Immediately i think of another new-ish market: Brain Harvest. They specialize in stories of no more than 750 words and publish a new story every 2 weeks. They also run a critiquing service on the side. But recently they lowered their pay-rates from 5c a word ($975 a year maximum) to 3c a word. Why? Here’s what they had to say on the matter: Our gravest apologies for having to lower our pay rates, but as we rely on the generosity of our readers and our own pocketbooks to run this crazy show, pro-rates are no longer feasible at this time.

I know ‘daily’ has a certain ring to it but, Jonathan Laden and Michele Barasso, the dear editors of DSF, please give serious thought to kicking off with a weekly schedule (even bi-weekly, though i still think that’s pushing it) rather than jumping straight into a daily output. At 8c a word you’ll get good writers submitting good stories and won’t be forced to print the average stories you’ll also get, and that works out to win-win for everybody.

No matter what you do, i still hope you have success and that’ll i’ll be reading your zine for years to come.