Based on a question I found on AbsoluteWrite, I decided to blog about it, particularly because I'm an aspiring author as well as fiction editor of The Corner Club Press.
So, the main question was this: Would you submit to a magazine that paid well but had poor circulation?
I automatically knew my answer was no. For one thing, I care about readers more than I care about money. I want to be like Emilie Autumn, who calls her fans 'muffins.' She cherishes and adores her fans, and I want to be one of those writers that cares about her fans as well. Call me idealistic, but while I write what I want to write, I also want to bring smiles to those who are going to read my work. And I WANT people to read what I've written. It's not enough for me to simply hand out my work on-line or whatever and say 'read it.'
For another thing, unless you're able to support yourself on writing alone, which many can't, you shouldn't even be writing to pay your bills. Most writers have a steady paycheck, and writing just gives them extra money. Money's nice and great, but I'm willing to bet that extra money will go to things you don't even need. There are writers out there who make a steady living off short stories, but it's because they can afford to. Some of them might even have taken a chance by quitting their jobs and jumping into the short story market, but for writers like me who don't want to be kicked out on the streets because I can't pay my bills, I'm going to have a steady job until I know I can support myself with writing without having to risk anything.
And another thing, a market that has poor circulation has poor circulation for a reason. That market is likely going to do nothing to bolster your credentials as a short story writer. Sure, editors, like myself, only care about the story and not the credentials behind the story, but magazines that often have poor circulation are magazines that'll probably fold in the future. Don't you want to be with a magazine that'll archive your work for a long, long time? A magazine guaranteed not to fold in the near future?
I'm being critical, I know, of those who opt to sell out and run for the money rather than the circulation. But you shouldn't be writing for the money in the first place.
Call me judgmental, call me whatever, but I've never been the one to sell out. Money's nice, but money can't tell you what a great story that was, how that story changed someone's perspective on life, or whatever positive things fans say to authors. By all means people should be paid for hard work, and I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't desire money for our work, but at the same time we also need to be realistic and realize the short story market is damn competitive. You should just be happy you're getting published at all, particularly because ones that do pay well sometimes have less than a 1% acceptance rate.