Should you pay submittable fees? Shouldn’t money flow toward the writer?

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What is all this bit about fees for submitting poems and stories and what about fees for submitting manuscripts to awards?
Is this working for me, the writer?
If you want to be part of a world, whether it’s the world of writing and publishing or the world of dog shows or horse shows, or ballroom dancing, you have to pay your dues. You pay to be part of a world that you want to enter.
Every time you pay a submittable fee to submit to a literary journal or to an award, you are paying to help to support the world you swim around in. That’s a good thing for you. You want the world of publishing to continue, to be viable so that you can get your work out in the world, get something printed or published, get your work read or recognized.
What dazzles me or astounds me is this. Some people, most of them writers, have taken enormous risks, with their time and money to start literary magazines and presses. The rest of the people haven’t taken those risks, haven’t sacrificed everything. The other people still have their secure tenured jobs, their money in the bank.
But they don’t like to contribute to the world in which we live, what they want is for the people who have sacrificed to start magazines and publishing companies to find a way to keep sacrificing. Okay, they don’t quite think like that. What they actually think is more like this. I am a writer. Someone should pay me for my wok.
Writers might get paid for something. They might get paid for something they write, or for doing a reading.
I’ve been paid for work that I’ve written, for editing projects, for speaking, for readings, but I still pay into the system as well. I pay submittable fees, I pay award fees because I want the world of literature to continue.
In a recent WOMPO discussion, one writer writes,
“Another journal, using Submittable, wants to charge $2.00 for a submission. That’s almost 200% what the postage, envelope, paper, and ink would have cost me. (Yet they won’t take snail mail.) I’m relatively certain the submission service, Pay Pal, and charge card services cost them more than the 2.00 in fees.

Two of the most recent journals that published my work didn’t even pay in copies.

So in essence, no matter how prestigious they are, they are now vanity publications.

Given: Journals receive many submissions by writers who don’t “get” their mission or read enough of the journal to understand their editorial bent.”

The discussion went on after this. The writers discussing how terrible it is that journals charge this $2.00.
So let me give you the journal’s perspective. Once you accepted online submissions, you went from maybe 500 submissions to 3000. If you were going to survive, you had to charge a nominal fee, say $2-$3 so that you wouldn’t be swallowed. You hoped that this tiny amt of $ would slow down the gush.
Our journal, The Los Angeles does give out contributor copies, but I don’t think any journal that doesn’t give out copies is a “vanity publication.” That’s simply ridiculous. The publishers of that magazine are working their asses off to raise the funds to publish it and promote it. Just because you have to buy a copy does not make it a vanity operation.
Writers are prima donnas. They want someone to fall in love with their art, and want to support it.
Really? Why such small aspirations? I want someone to bring me coffee in the morning, send out all my work for me, I want that person to sing to me in the morning too and why not make me dinner , I’d like a healthy low carb dinner with a glass of wine. I’m fond of asparagus. Big thick bunches of asparagus. I’m also fond of plums. And kiwis.
But enough about me, let’s talk about what else you could do for me. Publish my work. Don’t charge me a reading fee. I don’t want to help the publishing world. I just want it to work for me. Do things for me. I don’t like award fees either. Publish my work, promote my work, you out there in the ether. Work for me. It’s all about me, isn’t it?
I’m going dancing, don’t charge me an entrance fee to the club. I’m going to be out there on the floor doing my thing, I’m going to be making my moves, can’t you pay me for that? You should see my dance. You should really see me.


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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d be curious as to what Joe Ponepinto would say: A Radical Idea: Pay the Writer

    Another on topic article at The Millions: On Getting Paid: Literary Magazines and Remuneration

    Other thoughts:

    Some stories will be rejected 20 times or more, that $2 fee adds up quickly.

    Many magazines have contests where all entrants receive a copy of the winning issue.

    Any lig mag that solicits published authors has no business charging reading fees. Narrative Magazine by far the most egregious, with high fees used to pay established authors.

    • I’m with you all the way.

  2. As someone who ran a poetry journal for 6 years, what I find most troubling is the attitude of the writer’s submitting. There’s this growing sense that the journal exists simply to get them publication credits. If 20% of the people who submitted to mine had actually bought a copy or got a friend to buy a copy or got anyone to buy a copy, we’d still be publishing. But the expense of keeping the journal in print — solely borne by me — was too much. Writers have to find ways of supporting the journals they’re submitting to. If a small administrative fee for the online submission can help, then that’s the price.

    On the other side, print journals have to give contributor copies if they’re not going to pay actual dollars. There is an explicit contract when your work is accepted, and there must be some “consideration” paid to make the contract valid. Contributor copies have value and sending them in lieu of a cash payment works fine.

    • I agree on the contributor copies. But yes, this idea that “I need my pub credits,” is crazy.

  3. Kate,
    This brings to mind a poem that was sent to me today. Somehow it fits your theme about writers.


    if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
    in spite of everything,
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes unasked out of your
    heart and your mind and your mouth
    and your gut,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit for hours
    staring at your computer screen
    or hunched over your
    searching for words,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it for money or
    don’t do it.
    if you’re doing it because you want
    women in your bed,
    don’t do it.
    if you have to sit there and
    rewrite it again and again,
    don’t do it.
    if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
    don’t do it.
    if you’re trying to write like somebody
    forget about it.

    if you have to wait for it to roar out of
    then wait patiently.
    if it never does roar out of you,
    do something else.

    if you first have to read it to your wife
    or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
    or your parents or to anybody at all,
    you’re not ready.

    don’t be like so many writers,
    don’t be like so many thousands of
    people who call themselves writers,
    don’t be dull and boring and
    pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
    the libraries of the world have
    yawned themselves to
    over your kind.
    don’t add to that.
    don’t do it.
    unless it comes out of
    your soul like a rocket,
    unless being still would
    drive you to madness or
    suicide or murder,
    don’t do it.
    unless the sun inside you is
    burning your gut,
    don’t do it.

    when it is truly time,
    and if you have been chosen,
    it will do it by
    itself and it will keep on doing it
    until you die or it dies in you.

    there is no other way.

    and there never was.

    ~ Charles Bukowski

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