Payment from Magazines
The world of the literary magazine is fraught with economic difficulty and agonising limitations and compromises for editors and publishers (who, in the case of the smaller magazines, are very often one and the same).
The larger magazines in the UK, and those majors in Wales, New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales and Planet always pay contributors and also provide a contributor’s copy. Average payment throughout the UK tends to be in the region of £25-£50 per poem, around £50-80 per short story and around £40 - £60 per review. Feature writing focusing on any of the key disciplines in creative writing or academic articles will generally garner much more – in the region of £100-200.
Smaller magazines are almost entirely dependent on income from subscriptions. These are, inevitably, far from being the large sums one would hope would to expect from potential contributors. The most many a smaller magazine is able to offer by way of payment is a complimentary contributor’s copy. Some do, however, receive limited funding, so are able to pay token sums of £5.
How tolerant a writer is of non-payment or very low payment is a matter for them. New writers should, to a large degree, remember the benefits of being published by a smaller but reputable literary magazine. What is not acceptable, and should never be considered reasonable by a writer no matter how new and inexperienced they may be, is to actually have to pay for a copy of the contributor’s copy. Say no. You should never, under any circumstances have to pay to see your work in print. There is only one exception to this and that is self-publishing.
Payment from publishers
Whether you go with an independent or with a major commercial publisher, unless you are one of the gilded few, you are likely to receive a very modest advance.
For fiction or creative non-fiction writers, a two-book deal will generally not exceed four figures. Many independent publishers can only afford to pay a few hundred pounds. In addition to your advance, you will receive royalties on sales. Royalties can vary, but tend to hover around 10%. Royalties are set against advances. If you have an agent, then the agent will take a cut of your royalties, on average around 12.5%. For poets, a first collection is likely to net you no more than £400 and as little as £100. Royalty rates for poets can between 4% and 7%.
Some publishing houses can pay very little – such is the market. And an initiative such as the Macmillan New Writing imprint offers no advance to its authors but promotes publication of new, exciting authors and offers them generous and flexible royalty arrangements. But beware of any publishing house that asks for money to publish your work or those that offer editorial input – at a price. Never hand over money. A reputable publisher will never ask you to contribute to or pay for publication costs. If they do, they’re a vanity press. And if you’re seeking editorial advice on your work then your first port of call should be the Academi Critical Service. Read more about scams and cons here.