If you’re a creative writer, the Internet Age has been a mixed blessing. The opportunities to get your work in front of an audience have proliferated. You don’t need to win anyone’s approval to have a public forum; just start a blog and publish yourself. It’s great–unless you want to get paid for what you write. The opportunities to make money with creative writing have shrunk just as quickly as the outlets for it have grown. It’s the law of supply and demand, I suppose: so many words on the Internet mean not many of them are worth very much.
Not that fiction or poetry has ever paid well for most of its practitioners. For every Tom Clancy or J.K. Rowling, there are thousands of talented writers who can’t make a living with their writing–and many thousands more who will never earn a penny. Top literary magazines have forever paid in contributors’ copies (which, unlike cash, cannot be traded for groceries). Top Internet magazines don’t have anything tangible to offer writers; they pay in “exposure to our many thousands of readers.” But these days, exposure isn’t worth much, either. Not for writers, anyway. Arianna Huffington made millions when she sold The Huffington Post to AOL. But all those writers who post there still didn’t make a dime.
Even worse: we saw an online literary magazine the other day that was charging writers to submit stories and poems. This seems the height of absurdity. Are we writers really so hard up that we’ll consider paying someone to publish our work on the Internet? You get the feeling the literary world hasn’t so much been turned on its head as dropped on it.
It’s been troubling us for a while, this business of not paying writers for their work. Writing well is damned difficult. You can struggle for weeks–months, years, even–over a short story or a poem. When the world tells you your work is worthless, it’s hard not to feel resentful.
So we’ve decided to do something about it.
In a few weeks, we’re going to launch Punchnel’s: a webzine with fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, documentary, videos, reviews of film, music, television, and books, and more. Our gimmick: we’re paying contributors.
We’re not paying much. We can’t afford to do that.
But we believe that paying something is better than paying nothing. We’re tired of seeing some of the best writers we’ve ever read be taken advantage of by Internet publishers who are earning money from advertising and not sharing any of it with their contributors. We think that’s wrong.
So we’re taking a bold step. We’re going to pay contributors a stipend, right from the start. We hope our contributors will support us and help us grow our readership. We hope this helps us attract advertisers, which, eventually, will allow us to pay contributors even more.
Because we see that there’s value in curating excellent content and editing a great magazine. But we also believe there’s value in the work that gets people to come to your magazine and keeps them coming back: excellent writing and filmmaking and photography. That’s our promise to contributors: we will never do to you what Arianna Huffington did to all her bloggers. If we make money, you will make money. (In fact, you will make money long before we make money.)
So here’s the pitch: if you want to submit fiction or poetry or nonfiction or video, or you want to write reviews, check out our guidelines and send us your stuff. We’re accepting submissions right now–and, frankly, the only thing that’s keeping us from publishing is that we have to acquire more excellent material. If you think your work is excellent, we want to see it now.
And if you don’t want to contribute, we hope you’ll be a reader–and that you’ll tell your friends. That is, if you like what we’re doing. Because that’s the other reality of the Internet Age: we all have more choices. We want to be a source of content you enjoy–to actually make it easier for you to find work you like. We trust, either with your continued interest or your lack thereof, you’ll tell us whether we’ve succeeded.