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Short Fiction Writer: What
League are You in?
Terry W. Ervin II
Many businesses and organizations are fixated on lists,
charts and rankings. The writing community is no
different. Am I a professional writer? If so, where do I
standhow do I compare?
In an online discussion several years ago, a writing
friend, Mark Orr, compared writing to the different
levels of professional baseball (as played in the United
States). With his blessing, Ive expanded upon his
original analogy, forming a rough standard by which
writers of short fiction can determine where their
current skills, drive and talent have placed them.
Before that can be accomplished, quick review of the
levels of professional baseball (from Top to Bottom):
League Where the real pros reside. An elite
crowd, mainly due to their skills in fielding, batting
and/or pitching. Major League teams are based in large
metropolitan areas, offering the greatest chance for
exposure, both locally and nationally. Theres
strong upper level management overseeing the team, from
marketing to contract negotiations. The best coaching
staffs are hired to manage, improve and refine player
skills and technique. Salary compensation is high by most
standards (minimum seasonal salary was near $400,000 in
2006, with the average salary around $2.7 million).
The levels then move down from Class AAA, to AA, A and the Rookie. In theory,
Triple-A players are the best out there below the majors,
the Double-A are a notch below that, Single-A, and then
Rookie. The home fields of Triple-A teams are in major
cities, with Double-A, Single-A and Rookie Leagues
playing in progressively smaller venues, garnering less
exposure. The pay scale also drops, down to $300 a month
for some players in the Rookie Leagues.
Players move up or down based mainly on their skill
development and performance. Rookie leaguers are usually
first year draftees looking to develop skills without
major spectator pressure and Single-As are hungry players
early in their careers, eager to improve and move up. And
its not uncommon for Double-As to bypass Triple-A
and jump right to the Majors.
of professional baseballs ranking structure to
short fiction writing:
League ezines and magazines which
dont pay the writer but give a bio and link, and
maybe a contributor copy. Minimal advertisement and
limited exposure, other than by word of mouth. Most
writers at this level are learning the basics, including
the submission process.
of markets at the Rookie League level:
Alighted Ezine (http://www.alightedezine.com/ )
Mysterical-E (http://mystericale.com/ )
A- magazines and ezines which pay a flat rate
of $5.00 or $10.00 for a story, and usually a contributor
copy. The competition for placement in these markets is a
little stiffer, the editorial input a little more
critical, and marketing and distribution efforts, while
small, are made.
of markets at the Single-A level:
Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine ( http://www.fmam.biz/
Mouth Full of Bullets ( http://www.mouthfullofbullets.com/ )
Haruah: A Breath of Heaven ( http://www.haruah.com/ )
Double-A - magazines and
ezines which pay a rate of ½ cent to 2 cents a word for
fiction, and often a contributor copy. Competition for
slots in the publication schedule is increasingly
stiffer; the editors often receive well in excess of 100
submissions a month. The magazines/ezines often have some
name recognition, especially if they specialize in a
specific genre market (Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror,
of markets at the Double-A level:
AlienSkin Magazine (http://www.alienskinmag.com/main.htm )
Dragons, Knights & Angels (http://www.dkamagazine.com/ )
The Sword Review ( http://www.theswordreview.com/ )
Triple-A - magazines and
ezines which pay from 3 to 5 cents per word (but may have
a cut off or maximum payout) and contributor copies. Name
recognition, even outside their genre, is more
commonplace and competition for publication on their
pages is highly competitive. The number of regular
readers or subscribers is consistent such that
advertisements supplement publication and distribution
costs, and the editors (beyond the owners of the
magazine/ezine) sometimes draw a salary.
of markets at the Triple-A level:
Aberrant Dreams (http://www.hd-image.com/main.htm )
Cemetery Dance (http://www.cemeterydance.com/ )
Withersin Magazine (http://withersin.com/withersin.htm )
League - starts at 5 cents per word and goes up
from there, or a flat fee that is equal to or above five
cents per word. Some markets pay 25 cents or more per
word, often based on a writers proven track record.
The magazines promote, advertise, and are often found on
magazine racks in retail locations nationwide. In
addition, through sale of advertisements and sufficiently
high readership and subscriptions, a magazines
staff may also draw a salary.
of markets at the Major League level:
Jim Baens Universe (http://www.baens-universe.com/ )
Glimmer Train ( http://www.glimmertrain.com/ )
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/index.htm)
Even by breaking fiction markets into different levels,
they (like professional baseball teams) vary greatly in
how well theyre run, the quality of writers
(players) theyre able to attract (recruit), and the
interest/loyalty they garner among readers (fans) and
respect of critics (sports writers).
Just as one could theorize that a strong Double-A
baseball team would beat a mediocre Triple-A team on the
field, one could argue some Double-A magazines publish
better quality reading than some Triple-As. And, whether
a pro-rate magazine, or a non-paying recent start-up,
each strives to field the very best short stories they
all writers have the talent to make it to the Major
League level? No, just as all aspiring
professional athletes dont.
all writers with talent make it? No, for a host of
reasons, including questions of dedication and
those writers who put in the time and effort to learn the
craft of writing (like a ball player learning to refine
his skills and knowledge of the game) improve their
chances to place and move up? Yes. And if a
writer enjoys writing, that is a form of payment in
The above analogy isnt perfect. For example,
Professional Baseball is structured as a farm system
where Rookie League teams will never rise to become Major
League teams. Whereas, fiction markets are generally
independent and have the ability to move up
based on readership and revenue theyre able to
attract. One might even disagree with the criteria used
to categorize the fiction markets and the examples
Even so, as listed, a writer can evaluate where his work
is being published and gauge his current
professional level. In the end, a writer
cant reach the majors if he doesnt
submittake his turn at bat.
Copyright Terry W. Ervin II. All rights reserved.
Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys
writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is a frequent
contributor to Fiction Factor and his fiction has
appeared a number of places, including The Sword Review,
Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and MindFlights.
When Terry isnt writing or enjoying time with his
family, he can be found in his basement raising turtles.
To contact Terry or to learn more about his writing
endeavors and recommended markets (among other things),
visit his website at: http://www.ervin-author.com
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