The Strange Tale of the Rejected Acceptance

For those of you that have read my ramblings from the very start, you might find it strange to hear that this fledgling author, with only two acceptances to his name, has rejected an acceptance. I certainly find it strange. This is the brief version of how this strangeness came about.

The market in question has a very low acceptance rate (1.2% at last check) and up until my own name flashed up, I had never seen an acceptance on their Duotrope listing. I was obviously very flattered and excited when they sent me an email to tell me they had accepted my story. To boot, it was one of my favourite stories and the first idea I came up with that made me want to try writing.

So what was the issue?

I am a big fan and member of the W1S1 forums over at absolute write and the first thing my supportive writer friends asked was, "So what do they pay?" The reason for this is that on their website and on their Duotrope page, they say: "Pay ranges from Token payment (under 1 US cent per word) to Professional payment (5 or more US cents per word)" Most publications expand on this but this market does not. In fact, a few forum members sent inquisitive emails and received only vague replies about things being judged on a case by case basis.

I was offered a very low token amount. Nothing wrong with that in theory, even if I did submit because they had turned up on a Duotrope search for professional markets. However it turns out that after a bit of research (emails, forum posts), I couldn't find a person who had been offered anything other than the amount that I had been offered. My feelings, and the feelings of many on the forums, was that this market was using a promise of professional rates to attract submissions without ever paying anyone a professional rate. Or even a semi-professional rate. This was a token market pretending it was something else.

The issue here wasn't the money. There are many great token markets that I submit to that publish amazing stuff. But they advertise their rates honestly and I submit to them knowing exactly what I am in for.

Saying this, I still might have sold to them. Because at the end of the day they are a reasonably new publication that may just be experiencing teething trouble and be error prone through novice rather than malice. And ultimately my hunches were just hunches, no matter how informed. And most of all, I had submitted knowing that I could conceivably be offered a token rate and that I was free to consider that matter when the time came. But...

Initially they gave me five days to respond to the acceptance. I responded immediately with gratitude and a message stating I would be happy to accept but that I would like to see a sample contract first. I also asked a question about when their print edition came out and whether I could alter my biography. I heard nothing for five days. Concerned I had missed their deadline, I queried. They then sent me a message saying, "I'm glad to hear of your acceptance" with a real contract attached. Of course, I hadn't accepted. Also, they had completely ignored all my questions. So my hackles were up.

They told me I had another five days to sign the contract. But I noticed an error in the contract and a clause I wasn't overly happy with. So I asked for an updated, errorless contract and requested they remove the clause. The clause in question pertained to printed rights and the publication's limitless use of the story forevermore, rights I would perhaps consider selling for a professional payment but not for a token payment.

I waited five days. Nothing. I sent a query. Nothing. Then, over a week later, I received a response saying they were not happy removing the clause.

After some consideration, I politely asked to withdraw my story as I ultimately couldn't give them the rights they wanted for the amount they were offering. But it wasn't just for that reason. Had they perhaps responded to my queries promptly and actually read my emails and answered my questions, I might have been tempted to sell. But I never felt in safe hands. I may be wrong, but I had the feeling that this wasn't a market that was particularly serious about me, my story or themselves.

It has been a lesson. 

Jeff Buckley once said he didn't put lyrics in Grace because he wanted his audience to have to listen closely to work them out. For similar reasons, I won't name the publication in question here because I think every writer should look very closely at every publication before submitting to them, and think very carefully about submitting to the ones that aren't honest and open about exactly what they want and what they pay.

APPENDIX: I never heard back from the market after I declined. I don't know if this is standard, but I had at least hoped for an amicable parting as I was very polite.