Over the past 10 months since our Lucent Dreaming website opened for submissions we’ve been asked several times, both graciously and ungraciously, why we don’t pay our contributors.
It isn’t a tough question to answer: we currently can’t afford it.
When my friends and I started Lucent Dreaming with no money except the savings I had from university–which you can imagine wasn’t very much–I could just about afford a WordPress subscription and domain. Even though we wanted to pay our contributors, we just knew it wouldn’t be feasible right now.
You might be thinking what about all those magazines and t-shirts and notebooks we sell, but don’t judge a creative writing magazine by its social media reach. Our print runs are small (100 copies for issue 1, 72 copies for issue 2) and we haven’t sold all the copies of our magazine nor all our merch! We’ve still about £300 to make back to cover our initial costs. Any revenue we’ve made so far goes back into our next print run. (Notice I don’t say profit because we haven’t reached our breakeven point.)
And you might be thinking we have a donate page and so receive donations. But the donations we receive go to reserving and sending out contributor copies to our amazing contributors.
Did you know it can cost up to £5 to send out an issue of Lucent Dreaming if a contributor lives internationally? If we had 10 international contributors in an issue that would require us to put aside £12 per contributor (£7 for the magazine, £5 for postage and packaging). £120 in total. We accept donations in £3 increments through our website and now have a Patreon page. But we would need to receive about 40 donations per issue for distributing the magazine to our contributors. It goes without saying, except I must say it to ensure you’ve got all the facts, that £120 would definitely not cover the costs of our actual print run which is hundreds more. Alas, we have not received 40 donations. And, if we wanted to pay our contributors at the rate we wished to pay them, about 5p per word at least, and we had about 22,000 words of content per magazine, that would cost us £1,100. So, together that would mean about £1,220. And that is forgetting the rate of pay for poems and artwork, as well as time spent by our editors, and the actual print run! We are a quarterly magazine so that would mean finding a minimum of £4,880 per year. The costs add up fast.
“We see value differently.”
So, we decided we couldn’t afford to pay. Instead the proceeds we receive go to our print run and to sending out copies to our contributors. And, as we aren’t making any sort of profit, we are clear about the fact we can’t pay. You’ll find on our fiction, poetry, artwork and non-fiction guidelines a bold, large size sentence that states, ‘We are currently unable to offer payment.’
You might be wondering why we would set up a magazine at all. Aren’t we devaluing the arts? Aren’t we exploiting writers? What are we trying to achieve?
We see value differently. We aren’t a vanity press. We’re a service, a springboard for new writers. If you’ve ever been through our submission process before you’ll know we offer feedback on every qualifying submission we receive. (Qualifying means it follows our submission guidelines.) We offer feedback for free because we target and publish new and emerging authors worldwide. And unlike places that exploit authors, certain self-publishing companies that place no bar or standard for publication, we push for quality writing. We want authors to leave our inbox with something valuable in their pocket: the understanding that their writing is worthy of consideration, to help them understand their strengths as well as how they might wish to develop their craft in the future.
We edit and polish the stories and poems we accept in collaboration with the author. And then we place the story/poem/artwork in a beautiful, professional format. Those of you who have been printed brochures, books, etc. before might be wondering how the cost of our magazine is so high, and it’s because we publish to the highest quality we can afford. We choose to publish on 120gsm paper, a perfect bound, full colour, illustrated magazine, something that contributors and readers alike will keep for life.
This blog post is a candid reminder, I hope, that there is an untold story behind every creative writing magazine. For those of you who don’t like that we don’t pay, let me tell you this very important truth: we aren’t the only market out there. If you want to submit somewhere that pays, please do. We only wish we could afford to pay our contributors too. But while we are unable to do so, we hope to continue to produce a beautiful, professional magazine, edited and printed to the highest quality. We have all our contributors logged so that one day, perhaps in the near future, if we find the rights sponsors, advertisers and donors, we will be able to pay them after all. Until then, we continue putting all our creative energy and time into making our Lucent Dream stay true.
Lucent Dreaming is an independent creative writing magazine publishing beautiful, strange and surreal short stories, poetry and artwork from emerging authors and artists worldwide. We’re currently open for short story and poetry submissions for our third print issue. Preorder issue 2 of Lucent Dreaming now or subscribe.