A recent article in Forbes magazine describes how more literary magazines will soon be charging fees for people who submit. This could be a really good thing. It will help small journals stay afloat--and lord knows they need all the help they can get! Also, it might decrease the amount of submissions they receive overall, minimizing their slush piles and response turn-around times. This is great for writers and editors alike.
On the other hand, submission fees might alienate the very people whose voices most need to be heard. Today I read a wonderful short story in the lit mag "Gargoyle." The story had been written by a woman who was homeless. It was a beautiful story and I'm so glad the journal published it. A $2 reading fee might not mean much to most of us. But to some this could be the difference between sending out a story and buying food.
I'm curious what other people think about this. Currently there's a discussion starting on Twitter with the hashtag #LitMagFees. If you post a comment, please include @TheReviewReview, so I will see your comment and can respond. I plan to round up various comments and include them in the weekly newsletter for The Review Review.
(For those who don't know, The Review Review is a website that reviews literary magazines, interviews editors, and offers publishing tips to writers. Our weekly newsletter offers a round-up of all the latest news in lit mag publishing.)
That Forbes article is incessantly annoying...especially because it's so true. When I started publishing seriously a few weeks ago, the payment requirements for submissions appalled me. How dare they ask me to PAY to be read? Then I realized exactly what the article's author said: that literary magazines must be stagnating. I also found annoying that he called me (and lots of other writers) out. I too am guilty of submitting to several publications at once. However, when first starting out, I need to figure out where to get my foot in the door, yes. Additionally, if each magazine takes six (or even two) months to respond, it could take me years just in the submission process alone. Editors are fickle. Even at magazines where my piece seems suitable, a host of random factors influence our ability to get into it.
As the article editor suggested, some publications are in fact encouraging writers to subscribe. However, there was one subscription rate that actually cost most than buying each issue separately. Where is the sense in that?
Gracious thanks for posting this!
Nichole, if you'd like to review literary magazines for The Review Review (http:www.TheReviewReview.net) we'd be happy to consider taking you on as a reviewer! This is a great way to get free journals in the mail, and acquaint yourself with the wide variety of lit mags out there. Plus reviewing forces you to be a better reader and writer.
If this interests you, email me at email@example.com, and I'll put you in touch with our Reviews Editor.
This month's issue of Poets & Writers also has an article on this topic. "Price of Submission" (90-95) notes the journals that now charge fees for electronic submissions include Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, Missouri Review, and New England Review. It sounds as if most journals call this sort of fee a "submission fee" not a "reading fee" to avoid linking the editorial process with the financial transaction. PANK instituted what they're calling a "tip jar," which is a voluntary three-dollar donation.
A related issue is subscriptions. A writer tends to submit to many more journals than she reads or subscribes to. That's a tricky issue, though.
I'm not sure about some literary magazines' thinking. They don't have a physical presence in Hong Kong, Peru, or China, where I've lived. They also aren't found in the bookstore in the town where I stay when back in the US.
Furthermore few of them offer substantial examples of what they publish online. Therefore it's more difficult for writers to submit properly. And no, we can't subscribe to 25 literary magazines just to check if our material is suitable.
What I would suggest is that literary pubs put more of their stuff online-- not the whole thing, just a few examples of each genre-- so we can sample the thing. That might get more subscriptions and better submissions.The Kenyon Review did that and I love having regular access to it. If only more pubs would be like Virginia Quarterly Review, which puts lots of its stuff online. God, to be published there!
I'm thankful for those lit pubs who offer single issues for purchase to be read online. I can't possibly carry around the Harold Washington Public LIbrary from country to country.
I'm just excited too that people here are even submitting to pubs of this quality.
Submission fees are definitely not theoretical. Part of that is that the journal may have a monthly fee to maintain submissions management software, so the journal is picking up the lesser submission cost that the author would otherwise pay in printing or postage. With the number of submissions many journals get, an electronic submissions system (not email) is the only way to keep good track. But a journal can make money on the deal, too.
I agree that every journal with a website should put at least a recent sampling online. That seems good advertising for the journal, as well as good for writers looking to submit. But I'm also concerned about what the expectation of free content means in the larger sense for writers.
I've heard editors from The Kenyon Review talk about their decisions regarding the print and online variants, each of which the editors would like to have distinct aesthetics. That's a well-funded, well-staffed journal that's done its research and thought hard about long-term goals. When they decided to keep one submission pool, as I understand it, but accept for either print or online, but not both, the editors expected authors accepted for online to request being switched to print because it might seem more prestigious, but they didn't get those requests. They're tracking their numbers pretty carefully, and KR/KRO may be a model to watch. The Kenyon Review is now electronic submissions only, I think.
Most of the lit journals I can think of buy the rights to publish your accepted piece online. It's good marketing also for the writer then, eh? That way it can stay (accessible) for longer than the physical edition will be on the college book store shelves.
Kenyon is one pub I submitted my most recently completed essay to. Submissions are done through its web site.
Evidently Creative Nonfiction-- one of my favorite lit pubs ever-- will commence its relationship with SubMishMash this fall. I literally just received an email from an editor there who explained that the start date has not yet been set.
Meanwhile I was also told I can't submit my essay online, despite the fact I live in Peru, mail here costs about five times as much as it does in the US, and takes several weeks to arrive in the US.
Anyone submitted to published in Creative Nonfiction?
Nichole, it seems as if lit journals should make exceptions for foreign submissions. The time it takes seems even more crucial than the money, since the response time already is not often prompt. I like Creative Nonfiction a lot, but I think they should let authors in Peru submit electronically.