Lazy Is As Lazy Does

Last week, during my week four anthology update, I mentioned how fascinating I'd found it that more than half the people visiting the Hint Fiction page didn't click on the contest winners and honorable mentions to get a better idea of the form. Then, in the comments, Jess mentioned how most of the writers she comes in contact with want to be spoon-fed. They want the easiest route possible. They want that instant gratification of seeing their name in print (or, as it is nowadays, online).

Has it really gotten to this point? I suppose it has. The Internet is to blame, of course. Now there are just so many outlets for writing. New "journals" are popping up every week. More and more writers are self-publishing. They find the route of trying to get an agent too difficult. They also find the route of trying to get a publisher to at least look at their manuscript too tiresome. So what is a poor writer to do? Why, self-publish, of course!

(A few years back I worked with a guy who had written this sort of nonfiction book. He immediately decided to self-publish it, and not only that, self-publish it with one of those places that charges an arm and a leg. I asked him why didn't he try getting an agent first, find a real publish. His response? "Why would I want some stranger sitting in an office, some person I don't even know, tell me my book's not good enough to be published?" Um, because that's their friggin job, dumbo. People just don't walk into a publishing house and sign up to be an editor; they start at the very bottom and work their way up. They know what they're doing. They know what sells. That's why they can sit in an office and tell you your book's not good enough.)

Anyway, as September is now upon us, that means most journals have reopened for submissions. Trolling around Duotrope, I saw Tin House was open and clicked on the link to their guidelines. And what did I see there?

I'm sure many of you know about Word Hustler by now. I'd heard about them in passing awhile back but never gave them much thought. As far as I cared, they were a scam, and as with most scams, I try not to give them the time of day.

For those aren't familiar with Word Hustler, basically it's a site that will submit your work to magazines -- for a fee. For the low, low price of $2.99, they will send out something under four pages (query letter or poetry submission). For $5.99, they will send out something under 20 pages (short stories, partial mss, articles, essays). It goes on and on.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, That's ridiculous! But wait, it gets even better. Because then they say:

All of our prices include tracking, postage, and free SASEs! And remember, our database of more than 5,000 literary markets is 100% free. So go on, check out our markets and put yourself on the path to publishing success, today!

Now what I find distressing is not so much the fact that a site like this exists (come on, people, it's the Internet, you're apt to find just about anything). What I find distressing -- outright fucking ridiculous, really -- is that enough writers are using this site to keep these people in business.

And why?

Is it really that inconvenient to submit to magazines? Yeah, okay, it takes up time, but so what? So does sitting in front of the TV for two hours watching shows you'll barely remember in a week. Personally, I don't enjoy printing out stories and cover letters, making up SASEs, printing up labels, taking them to the post office, but I do it. In fact, I don't even like e-mailing submissions or even using those nifty submission managers everyone seems to have nowadays (which are really really nice, actually), but I do it. Because I'm a writer, and I write things, and I would like to publish those things, and since publishers aren't going to come to me I have to go to them.

Look, if you want to use Word Hustler, be my guest. I'm sure there are writers who can rationalize using their services. For me, the whole experience -- the writing, the submitting, the rejecting, the accepting, the eventual publishing -- is what makes it all worth it in the end. If you haven't figured it out yet, I personally think using Word Hustler is a waste of money. Especially when magazines like Tin House have a link to their own submission manager in the paragraph right above the Word Hustler link (and I don't know about you, but I find it disappointing that Tin House even acknowledges them). If that's too much for you -- you know, uploading your own story for free -- then by all means, pay someone else to do it. After all, you're a writer, aren't you? You shouldn't be submitting to magazines. You should be writing.

But don't worry, my friends. One of these days a new website will come along, a site that will not only submit your stories for a fee, but will also write them. Won't that be great?

Yeah, sure, okay. Crazy thing is, if that site existed, people would probably use it.

Ah, the future of publishing.

I can't wait.

P.S. Anyone else catch the bad grammar in that demotivational poster?