Submission Spotlight: Payday

On this installment of Submission Spotlight we’re going to talk about what happens after the blessed event of an acceptance and it’s time for you to get paid. Sounds simple, right? It usually is, but there are some things to be aware of before the money hits your bank account. As always, you should read all the guidelines before you submit a story, and how a market will pay you is part of those guidelines. (If you’re looking for a breakdown on the levels of payment–from token to pro–I cover that in another post.)

1) Have the right account. The method by which a market will pay you is, uh, pretty important, and you need to have the right type of account set up so the publisher can quickly and effortlessly transfer the money to you. That’ll usually look like this:

We pay a flat $50 USD rate for stories. We use PayPal to process all of our payments.

Whatever your feelings are about PayPal, if you want to get paid for your work, you’re gonna need an account. I’m not saying all publishers only pay through PayPal. Some will happily send you a check if you like, but a large majority either only pay or prefer to pay with PayPal. So, set up that account, friends.

2) Dollars: Not just for Americans! If you live in the United States, and you send out a lot of submissions, at some point you’re likely to send them to markets outside of your home country. I send a fair amount of subs to Canadian and Australian publishers, for example, and I’ll often see this in the submission guidelines:

Pay rates are as follows and in Canadian dollars:

Yep, Canadian dollars. But it might also be:

[Publisher] pays between A$20 and A$60 per 1000 words.

Right, that’s Australian dollars. You might also see these two currencies as CAD or AUD. Of course, if you submit to publishers in the UK, you might see GBP offered for payment. So what do all these currency differences mean to your submission? Not much, really, until it comes time to be paid. You need to understand that when a publisher says they’re going to pay you $200.00 CAD what shows up in your PayPal account is going to be $152.00 USD (based on current exchange rates). If you’re lucky enough to get paid in GBP, then you’d end up with $264.00 USD. PayPal will make the currency conversion for you (and charge you a small fee for the service), but just be aware of the those exchange rates so you’re not surprised on payday.

Yes, there are other countries that use dollars, and besides the two I listed above, you might see the New Zealand dollar (NZD), but it’s not nearly as common in my experience. But, hey, if you’ve been paid in Fijian or Hong Kong dollars for stories, let me know. 🙂

3) When do I get paid? Okay, so you’ve scored an acceptance, and you’re already doing the per-word multiplication, but when do you actually get the money? That can vary by publisher, and unlike many of the things I talk about in these articles, that information isn’t always in the submission guidelines. It’s often in the contract a publisher sends after an acceptance. That said, it is likely to be one of the following:

Payment is 8-12 cents per word on acceptance.

This sounds like you get an acceptance and you get paid, right? Not quite. In my experience, it means you get an acceptance, you get and sign the contract, and then you get paid (often immediately after the publisher receives the signed contract). I find about half the publishers I submit to do it this way. The others do something like this:

We pay 6 cents/word for original fiction up to 6,000 words on publication.

In this case, payment is made after the story is published. How long after the story is published depends on the publisher. Sometimes it’s right away, and sometimes publishers may include additional language such as “payment will be made within 90 days of publication.” Again, this information might not be in the guidelines but in the contract. It’s fairly common for a publisher to make payment this way, and it’s just something to be aware of, especially if you’re expecting a quick cash infusion to your PayPal account after an acceptance.


These are some of the issues you might run into with regards to payment in publisher guidelines. As with everything else, there shouldn’t be any surprised come payday because you read the guidelines carefully and completely, right? Of course, this one does come with the caveat that pertinent payment info isn’t always in the guidelines. So, if you’d like to be surprised when the contract states payment will be made within six months of publication, I’ll allow it. 🙂

Seen anything else of note in the guidelines when it comes to getting paid? Tell me about in the comments.

If you’d like to check out the other posts in the Submission Spotlight series, just click the links below.

Aeryn’s Archives: Vault of the Dragon Kings

This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll talk about the projects I’ve written and worked on over my professional career, from fiction to RPGs to tabletop war-gaming stuff. I’ll try to add insights into how the project came together and maybe an amusing anecdote or two. Anyway, with over 400 writing, editing, and development credits, we could be at this a while, but I’ll try to restrict my posts to the more interesting projects. 🙂

Let’s kick things off with my very first professional job in the tabletop gaming industry way back in 2005: Dungeon Crawl Classics #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings. 

For the uninitiated, what you have here is a module or adventure for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. This is not an adventure produced by the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons,  Wizards of the Coast, but a third party product created under license by Goodman Games. The lead writer on this one was Jason Little, and my role was as a stat editor and monster creator (I was credited under Stat Blocks & Creature Development and Additional Writing & Development). This essentially means I checked a lot of math and created some monsters for the adventure. That’s not the interesting part of this gig, though. How I got it is.

When Wizards of the Coast released the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons (often just called 3E) back in 2000, they created a version of the game that was more versatile than any before it. The rules let you build characters and monsters in a clearly defined way that allowed for endless customization. In addition, they opened up the game to third party publishers to produce material through something called the Open Gaming License (or OGL). I won’t go into the specifics because it’s mostly a bunch of math and legalese and stuff, but this new system sparked a creative fire in me. So I started making monsters, mostly by taking existing D&D critters and upgrading them with the new rules system. I also wrote little backstories for my creations and posted them on a popular Dungeons & Dragons message board. In some ways it was similar to fan fiction, though the OGL made it more commercially viable. (I also actually wrote fan fiction, but that’s a story for another day).

My creations earned me a small following from D&D players who frequented that message boards, and a few of those folks turned out to be publishers as well. One of them, Joseph Goodman of Goodman Games, liked what he saw and reached out to see if I’d be willing to work on a module in his very popular Dungeon Crawl Classics series. Needless to say I was thrilled for the opportunity, and thus began my career in tabletop gaming. Better yet, it also started a great professional relationship that’s lasted nearly fifteen years, and I still do the occasional job for Goodman Games to this day.

Oh, for you old school gamers, you might recognize the cover artist on this one. Yep, that’s a piece by the incomparable Erol Otus.

If you’d like to check out this module up close and personal, it’s still available through Goodman Games via the link below (or the giant cover illustration above):

DCC #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings

Submission Spotlight: The Do Not Send List

Today we’re exploring another potential submission guidelines surprise. This time it’s not about formatting or regional preferences, it’s types of stories publishers would rather not see at all. I call this the Do No Send List  As usual, you should read the guidelines completely and thoroughly so you don’t miss publisher preferences. The Do Not Send List is usually pretty obvious, but not always, so read carefully.

The Do Not Send List is fairly common in submission guidelines and comes in a few different versions. Let’s take a look at them.

1) Send at your own risk. The regular strength version of the Do Not Send List is more suggestion than command, but you should still be aware of the publisher’s preferences when sending them a story. This version usually looks something like this:

Originality demands that you’re better off avoiding vampires, zombies, and other recognizable horror tropes unless you have put a very unique spin on them. 

They’re not saying you can’t send vampire and zombie stories, but you’d better come up with some mind-blowingly original shit if you hope to get one published. You’ll see this kind of thing in guidelines pretty often, and I think it’s because, yes, the publisher is tired of getting Dog Soldiers and Twilight knockoffs, but they still recognize it is possible to make those old tropes fresh and interesting again. So, sure, if you think you’ve got a truly original take on a vampire story, send it to a publisher like this. You never know.

2) Do not send. Like, seriously. For really reals. Some publishers,  tired of seeing the same old tropes again and again and again, take a more aggressive approach to the Do Not Send List, in that it is truly a DO NOT SEND list. Those generally look like this.

We do not accept stories with the following: vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers, hitmen, excessive gore or sex.

As you can see, most of your standard horror tropes are included in the guideline above, though hitmen is one I don’t encounter as often (but if they put it in, it’s because they’re getting too many). In this case, absolutely do not send a story containing these tropes. It’ll just make you look like you didn’t read the guidelines, and that, my friend, is a real bad look. Most of what’s on the list is pretty straight forward. If your story contains a vampire, a zombie, a werewolf (or other lycanthrope), a serial killer, or a hitman, just don’t send it. Seriously, don’t. But what about the other stuff? The stuff that has the word excessive in front of it. That’s a tougher call because what’s excessive to one person may not be excessive to another. The best thing to do here is read the publication in question to get an idea where they draw the line is on such subjects. Of course, the question then becomes is the example story right up to the line or a few feet behind it? For me, excessive usually means gratuitous, but even that’s open to interpretation. In the end, you’ll likely have to use your best judgement.

3) A list of hard sells. Some markets expand on the send at your own risk example and give you an entire list of stories and tropes that generally don’t work for them. Like with example one, they aren’t saying don’t send them, but if you do, you better do something very different with that serial killer werewolf story. Below are some markets that have hard sell lists, and I find they’re pretty informative, especially when you’re starting out and you think every idea you have is super original (it’s not).

  • Clarkesworld: This market’s hard-sell list is right in their general guidelines and hard to miss. It’s also pretty exhaustive.
  • Strange Horizons: This list, called Stories We’ve Seen Too Often, is part of Strange Horizons submission guidelines. It’s a long list of cliches and overused tropes compiled over the years, and it’s an informative read.
  • Flash Fiction Online: FFO’s list of hard sells is shorter than the others, but they go into a lot of detail why a certain trope or theme is on their list.

You can learn a lot from these lists, and not just about the preferences of markets that include them in their guidelines. If one publisher considers a trope or plot device to be overused and cliched, well, then others might too. Keep in mind, though, that just because you write a story that includes an element that’s on these lists doesn’t mean it’s a bad story or unsellable, just that it probably is going to need an original spin to set it apart from all the other zombie apocalypse, vampire romance, werewolf soldier, and serial killer turned detective stories out there.


If you’ve read any of the other entries in this series, you probably know what I’m going to say now. Yep, read the guidelines completely, carefully, and every time you send a submission. Sometimes these little nuggets of information are buried in a publisher’s guidelines, but it’s still your job to find them, read them, and implement them.

Have you seen anything else pop up on Do Not Send Lists? Tell me about it in the comments.