I think I’ve been around the writing block long enough to see some changes – and NOT changes – in what I could loosely call the Pagan mentality in terms of publication, writing, and the writing profession in general. The occult section still fares somewhere between historical interest and the bastard children of new age, which is fine even if it has become a less than lucrative market of late. While I am still considering arguments that this status is good, that the occult should never become in any way mainstream and its hard-to-peg classification is part of this, I’m enough of a business woman to recognize that 1)that would never really happen anyway, because the entire point of occultism is to exist slightly outside of society ((with many clarifications and brawls as to what the role within society should be)) and 2)we’re screwing ourselves over with the same bad business practices that have been used since the 1970s. Not everything “the Man” does is a bad idea and to assume the sweeping attitude that it is is a form of bigotry in and of itself.
Because pagans are the last sector of society to associate fame with book publication, and because poverty has been wrongly mythologized as a virtue ((rather than an objective state of being)) Pagan magazine publishers get away with a lot of things they shouldn’t and wouldn’t anywhere else in publishing. This list is part of why I rarely write for Pagan pubs anymore, concentrating instead on other sectors despite occult writing being my first love:
I won’t write for you because
- You aren’t paying me.
Too many Pagans are in the something-for-nothing game, and not only does it make us look bad, it creates an endless devolution because you wind up with people who either go the workshop route to support what they teach (and get criticized for living on something other than sheer dedication) or who end up leaving the field – and the interesting things they have to say about it – altogether. Asking for free writing is a practice of entitlement that completely devalues the considerable skill of writing well.
I witnessed one publication that would not even give their writers a sample copy for their portfolios essentially browbeat the community for not submitting work because it was a “community publication.” Not once was there any recognition that the reason they weren’t getting submissions was not only did they not offer any reward, but they acted as though they were owed that work. Given the poor quality of writing from the staff itself and that the Internet had replaced the crowning achievement of their calendar, the entire situation was doubly ridiculous, made even more so when a staff member demonstrated no awareness of how libel law could apply to an editorial. ((and when corrected by someone with a journalism degree, refused to believe it.))
Writing is a skill. While there are those of us who have a natural talent for writing, even the naturals spend many years honing their ability to write, improving their vocabularies and studying how to relay their true meaning via print. It may all happen between head and hands, but a good writer still stokes a considerable fire to get there. To act as though these services are not worth paying for, and that they are simply owed to you, is shameful. You deserve remuneration of some sort for what you assemble for your community and for yourself, as do the writers who contribute to your grand schemes.
Payment does not have to be money, but it has to be something of value. Offer advertising space, or a small gift, or a gift certificate. Allow that person a feature article. Exposure is not payment, nor is it a reward. I do book reviews in part because I get to keep the books. I write for perfumer’s website because my shop link is prominently featured. I write for other blogs from time to time because it drives traffic to my blog – there is an inherent reward in that type of work.
In print, writers should always receive a print copy of their work. If your publication is so tight that you can’t afford to do this for the writers you need to revisit your business model. Writers should never, ever have to pay for that. This is especially true if the writer is also a subscriber.
2. You’re recycling the material and subject that you were 10 years ago.
I’m Wiccan. I know darn well we’re a seasonal religion based on an agrarian calendar and that many aspects of our spirituality are cyclical. I’m also aware that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. At some point, these wheels have overlapped.
Every so often an article will pop out at me because it is truly different from the usual fare, and every once in awhile so will entire publications, but for the most part it’s the same “Sabbat”-“yay nature” – “I have this personal rant about the community” stuff. Anything truly original tends to get buried in politics and paranoia or ignored because it’s outside the very limited expectations of the social culture establishing the publication. If I can’t get interested enough to read it, I’m not going to write for it.
3. You want entirely too much in exchange for entirely too little.
I’ve turned down solicitations where the requested pitch would have been just as much work as writing the article. While I appreciated the attempt to instill some professionalism, make-work is not the way to do it.
4. Your publication schedule is dodgy.
If you have a long history of missing deadlines it will suggest to me that you aren’t very organized and it will make me hesitant to write for you because any number of accidents can happen when a publisher doesn’t coordinate processes well.
Yes, there are some things that are fair to expect in return:
1. You should receive your work, formatted as you requested, on or before your deadline.
2. Those of us who write are not necessarily grammarians. I am notorious for my good writing and yet bizarre grammatic errors. It is your due that your writer make an effort to a)run a spell check and b)ferret out as many of those grammar errors as possible.
3. Because of the above, and also because the only constant is change, it is reasonable that a writer respond graciously should you request a rewrite of some sections of a piece submitted. If you want the whole thing rewritten, except in special circumstances, you might want to consider rejection, and if the rewrite is sent back to the writer more than twice, you may also want to scrap the piece or pause and ask yourself what you’re really looking for the writer to say – and why you’re not just saying that to the writer.
These are my feelings about writing for short term pagan publications these days. It was fine in the 90s when I was a bit more naive, but on into the 21st century things are very different, and I’m choosing more carefully where I land. I suspect that other Pagan writers are as well. There’s a lot of misplaced beliefs about virtue among Pagans but more and more are recognizing how they’re misplaced and moving forward – and I expect to see more of that change rippling into the small Pagan magazines of the world, soon.