Pay to Play?

Pay to Play?

Got a heads up on a new online workshop for genre writers run by F&SF. It’s got a limited membership right now to work out the kinks, but should be open to everyone soon. According to Gordon van Gelder, Gardner Dozois is going to be “running the show”, which I assume means he’s going to provide professional crits of some or all stories. Additionally, Gardner will choose 3 stories every year to be pubbed in F&SF. So if you’re dying to be in the pages of that magazine and also dying to get your story critted by the likes of Dozois, then the F&SF workshop may be for you.

However, it’s not free.

Nor would I expect it to be. However, some have raised the question of whether this is pay to play. You give the workshop money and then Gardner gets you into F&SF. Well, three of you a year.

Mind, the workshop guarantees nothing. Also, you’re free to submit stories from the workshop in the regular way. So I wouldn’t say that pay to play directly applies. But I can understand why people would find the concept a mite shady.


5 thoughts on “Pay to Play?

  1. This really isn’t an unusual scenario except that it’s made explicit. Every writer who goes to a workshop with an editor knows that the editors sometimes buy stories from the workshop group. That’s one of the reasons you go. Heck. I took a workshop last summer from Sheila Williams hoping it would help me break in and lo! She bought one of my workshop stories for Asimov’s. By that light, I paid to have the story published.

    The only thing that’s really different here is that GVG has said that he’s definitely taking stories and he’s said how many.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking about that in terms of workshops like Clarion and such. But to me, going to a workshop with the agenda of getting an editor of looking at your work with hopes of publication feels a bit icky. It’s totally great if they do, but I don’t feel I should have that in the forefront of my mind.

      Also, with other, general workshops there is a chance that maybe the editor will want to buy a story of yours because they’ve seen and critiqued your work, but it’s not explicit and for a reason: the workshop doesn’t exist to funnel stories to that editor, it exists to help writers improve their craft.

      But a workshop of this nature is not necessarily a bad thing. More workshops are always good. It’s just the non-free aspect that keeps pinging me. Then again, if the workshop was not at all affiliated with F&SF and it was just Gardner will crit your stories and there’s an overall fee, that wouldn’t have struck me as odd at all.

  2. Nick will no doubt beat me up for this, but I am tired, in general, of the Worship At The Feet Of The Editor style of workshop. AsyouknowBob, one of the problems with SF as a whole is that it is becoming more and more inbred and self-limiting; going to a workshop led by Gardner Dozois is going to teach you how to meet the standards of Asimov’s from 1984 to 2004. We have enough science fiction stories that adhere to that model. (Which may indeed be the only publishable model, alas.)

    “This basically creates a two-tier pay system for F&SF as three stories will have been purchased at the rate of Per Word Payment – Workshop Fee.” As usual, Nick hits the matter squack on the nose with a brick. Applicants are paying not only for the workshop, but for the undivided attention of Gardner Dozois, both editorial and professional.

    On the other other hand, Nick is right that variants on this sort of thing are common; RWA has workshops with published writers all the time (with no publication guarantee), and the first prize in many, many contests is that an agent or editor will read your manuscript.

  3. Such workshops, and even related conferences and contests, aren’t at all unusual in the world of literary fiction.

    However, literary journals tend to be non-profits with an explicitly educational mission. Further they generally don’t have many readers who aren’t would-be submitters anyway.

    This basically creates a two-tier pay system for F&SF as three stories will have been purchased at the rate of Per Word Payment – Workshop Fee.

    Every so often a suitably desperate writer comes up with a great idea: low-balling. If Editor X won’t buy any of his or her stories, the author suggests simply lowering the price, a la day-old bread. Of course editors say no as they are not the final customer, the reader is and it is not like the price of the magazine will be lowered. And yet, I cannot help but think of lowballing here.

    (Finally, some people may enjoy F&SF because it was running different sorts of stories than Asimov’s was under Dozois’ masthead. Well perhaps if these stories are labeled D-Picks then those readers could skip them. And there are only three a year.)

    As an online workshop though, the one good thing is that it would things easier for non-North American writers.

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