As I wind down the last issue of Hardluck Stories, the question of whether web-zines or a good or bad thing thing for writers is something that I'm still struggling with. On the positive side, having a story published on a zine will give the writer exposure, maybe help in some way in landing an agent or a book deal, or in providing advertising for their books. I know that some industry people--critics, agents, editors, do look at Hardluck. So all that can be good for a writer. But the sad fact is the stories tend to only get 500-1000 hits when they're first published, and maybe another few hundred over their lifetime, so they're not getting the 1000s of readers I would've hoped. Although I did publish one story that receives 1000s of hits--Graham Powell's "Cutting Diamonds". Graham bought advertising on a web-page recommendation site, and another site picked up the link, and the number of hits were amazing.

And now for the thing that has me really struggling over this--Hardluck is a none paying web-zine, but even with the low paying ones--are web-zines doing a crime fiction writer community a disservice by devaluing short fiction? If you're setting the price to $0 or even $25 for a story, that has to be a bad thing for the community, right? At some point that has to bring down the price for stories in print. I know there's a history for literary magazines to pay with contributor copies, but that's hasn't been the history for crime fiction. Anyway, this has been something I've struggling over before deciding to shut Hardluck down (although I have other reasons for doing that) and I'd like to know what other people think.

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Yeah, I see your point, and in the end it really is up to you. Up to each writer to decide for themselves.

There's another thread going right now talking about the extremely poor odds of turning writing into a career. I think that's been true forever. Most writers (the great majority) have always had another source of income (or a spouse with an income, or family money). It's always been the rare exception of writers who supported families solely with their writing. Or, if they did, it was usually after establishing themselves in another career like academia or advertising (I was just reading about Newton Thornburg) or by selling the movie rights.

There's been a lot of pressure during my lifetime to turn every relationship and transaction into commerce and I think that's too bad. I don't like the idea of limiting artistic output in any way or diminishing the culture - which, yes, I'll admit, is what I think happens if commerce wins the art/commerce struggle too easily.

In the case of webzines it would be entirely different if they were profit making ventures and still weren't paying the contributors. But they're not.
I don't think any but the most naive view e-zine publication as the capstone of their careers. No question, e-zines are springboard to greater things. My own view is I write a lot. Some pieces go to e-zines and some go to higher-profile markets. I'd rather have constant feedback and keep working than simply wait on a slower-responding market that may neither publish my work or give feedback. Success to me is working at my writing. Getting it to the level I get paid well for it would be a bonus.

The passion side of writing that Patti mentioned can't be discounted or the writing falls flat and by extension is less likely to sell.
We may have to accept that for some of us, it's a passion and not a profession and be glad we have an outlet for it.
I am glad the webzines exist. What I'm not sure is if they've been good for me or bad, which was Dave's original question.

Stephen
I understand what you're saying Stephen, that was the original question by Dave, are they good or bad. I think like most things in life, for some they're good, for other's, I wouldn't say "bad" but maybe not as beneficial as hoped. Initially I commented that I had heard repeatedly that agents in NY didn't really come near published e-book, e-zine authors. I haven't got a clue if that's true or not. Just what I've heard not only here in the states, but also abroad. I can understand though writer's who really want to publish something using this field and if they feel it helped, well, then I'm sure it did.:) I've never done it before...I am considering entering a 20 page submission that is the front portion of a novel I'm working on, to an e-book comp. One thing that did make me consider it its t agent is well known...so you never know:)...and as all have said, everything you get on your bio is just one thing more on the list:)...
According to Miss Snark, whether ebooks count as publishing credits depends on how the e-house acquires them. If your book went through a selection and then editing process before it was published, the way you would expect from a print house, it counts, at least in her eyes. There are still agents who turn their noses up at e-pubbed authors, but not all do.
My question isn't so much whether they're bad for an individual writer, because I know there can be benefits for a writer, as has been talked about earlier. What I've been struggling with, and what my question really is, is whether web-zines are bad for the overall community of writers. Would all writers be better off, with print magazines and anthologies paying more for short fiction if web-zines didn't exists? Are web-zines causing a mindset in readers that they shouldn't have to pay for short fiction, and in fact devaluing short fiction, or could they be creating more of a demand? I'm beginning to think the latter might be possible when I see all the recent harder boiled, more noirish anthologies on the market.
I think, (and again, just my opinion here:) that the noirish trend is just that...a trend. Everything's going retro. We're flipping back in almost everything...You see the old sci-fi movies being redone, the horror movies being redone....or sequels done. So it stands to reason the film noir would be re-visited. With people who are ageing, they're looking back, and the boomer's account for a lot. Even though some of us were very young when we observed these styles, it's still there...and we like re-visiting.
As far as web-zines, as I mentioned,the topic comes up in writer's groups. A lot of comment has been made about people giving their work away...again, I understand the personal reasons for it...but for the community...I don't know that it's good. Because people do anticipate something for nothing if they can have it. Plus, other than the "personal" benefits, maybe think of it this way...do you see any artist outside of writing just giving their talent away on a regular basis? Artists expect something, even if it's minimal for a piece of work...even high school plays charge to get in...music is the same also....(I know there are some situations that don't follow this to the T, there always are)...overall people in the arts do want/need some form of compensation...
TONS of artists work for no pay/low pay. Ask any musician, visual artist, dancer, or performance artist, and they'll tell you that yes, lots of 'em have worked for free, donated their services or products, etc. Why? Because they love what they do, want exposure for a wider audience...pretty much the usual suspects.

I do think that raising the profile of the genre (or sub-genre) by making low-cost/no-cost venues available is a good thing for the community. And yes, there are a fair number of antho's that have come out (not just with noir/hard-boiled, though that's my personal preference) as a direct result of e-zines. Let's face it. In the U.S. in particular, we've developed a 'free sample' culture. People like to try stuff out before paying for it. From a strictly marketing point of view (I'm talking about as a whole, not on an individual writer/artist level), it's a good thing.

So, y'know. Do it or don't. It's up to the individual to decide what's cool with him/her and act accordingly.
As a recovering professional musician, I can vouch for Angie's comment. Sometimes we'd put a gig together just to play what we wanted to play for a change.

Also, high school plays charge admissions because they have expenses for sets, costumes, choreographers, etc. The performers don't get paid.
While I can't compare hits to anthology sales, I would suspect that more people pay and read for the anthologies than read online mags for free. That's a guess, based largely on the assumption that the anthos have to be generating enough income for the publishers to continue printing them.

As to the value of a story, I'm not sure pay is the issue. A story that would be snapped up by Hardluck would never see the light of day at Woman's World, and vice versa. Hardluck would pay $0 for the story it snapped up, and Woman's World would pay $500 for the story it snapped up. Value, in the end, is judged by the reader that comes upon the story in whatever venue it appears.

If we're focusing on the reader's perspective, and whether readers accustomed to free online will stop paying for author-paying print, maybe. We've certainly seen newspapers hit hard. But except for flash fiction, people aren't looking for short story soundbites.
The newspaper situation is a bit different. Their biggest problems are *drumroll* television and the internet. Print publications cannot keep up with the immediacy of the internet and 'breaking news' on television. So...their readership goes down and the advertisers flee to other venues. What suffers is fact checking and in-depth reporting. But, truthfully, I think the decline of the newspaper industry has less to do with the pay issue than with shifts in how people get their info.

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