Monday, January 11, 2016

Thank you to the awesome donor! (and a small rant about reading fees)

I just wanted to throw out a special shout out to the one person that has been extraordinarily generous enough to donate in appreciation for organizing and posting Zebulon's Guide to Flash Fiction Submissions. As promised, I used the money entirely for submissions. I didn't feel right about using the money for a contest submission as that would be almost all of it, so I only used a regular submission's worth for that, but I have a brand spanking new subscription coming my way now that I may not have gotten were it not for the donation, even $15 being unfortunately a hurdle at this point. I was bummed to have missed out on the Redivider Blurred Lines contest, despite my excitement about the cause, and do wish them all the best. But again, I wanted to be sure to at least send a gesture of gratitude into the maw. I very much appreciated the donation and it allowed me to send my writing to markets I might not otherwise have been able to reach because of financial circumstances.

(A small thing about Submittable—arguably the best thing to happen for writers in decades In no way should the following rant cast any shade on submittable, they are a terrific vendor and have a great blog as well that more people should follow. They are not at fault for providing multiple billing options, nor are journals for charging fees, kinda.)

Most of the journals that charge $3 for their reading fee insist that it isn't a reading fee, but that's a Ticketmaster argument, to be frank. The $1 option pays for the credit card and vendor fee, $2 will even cover the basic subscription fee as well as generating a little 'appreciation party' for the interns that still read heaps and heaps of your submissions for perhaps a little course credit and a closer relationship with the faculty. They deserve it. The editors deserve the ability to treat their tiny staffs to a couple lunches, a drink, a team-building round of gasoline-powered go-kart races. There is not nearly enough money thrown at the purveyors of contemporary literature. $2 is fine. I can spare $2 once or twice a week. There aren't very many journals that charge $2.

$3 is a reading fee. Claiming that it's similar to the cost of submitters' snail mail cost is missing the point entirely. Claiming that it pays for printing the electronic files are missing the point (save the trees, only print the final round, embrace the computer and phone for reading .doc files). It really belies the negatives I see in the current political climate, but I don't want to expand this rant like some Swiftian diversion in praise of diversions. Just because submitters are saving money thanks to a wonderful service does not mean that you adding the reciprocal charge to offset that savings deems it anything other than a reading fee.

No journals want to officially have a reading fee, because for a long time that was a red flag that the market was a vanity press. Pay me to print your work, poetry.com etc as opposed to the long-established peer review system that is generally at least claimed. Also, I understand that there needs to be a way to stop blanket submitters that throw their spaghetti poems at every possible wall regardless of its viability (based on guidelines, preferences/tastes). My favorite way is to limit people to one submission per period for free/$1/$2 and allow an option to submit again for a fee.

Some journals are active in helping writers avoid this fee. A couple methods I've seen are: editors responding to pieces that were near misses with codes for a free submission, subscribers being allowed to submit for free twice a year. One journal, I can't remember which, offered a $5 unlimited submission pass for the year. Some journals have offered feedback for a small 'tip jar' fee. Some journals have a short period of free submissions and then read only 'tip jar' submissions the rest of the year. There are lots of options to help struggling writers being explored and to be explored. Especially for those markets that don't pay writers even if they print their work. Come on, guys, help a brother out.

(Any editors that happen to see this I'd love to hear your input/rant! And again, none of this should be interpreted as being anti-submittable. They rock. Hard. Also, all that said, I still love a large number of journals that charge $3 or even $4 for their submissions. There are tremendous journals that are using Submittable to help them shore up their budgets that might otherwise require a shorter journal or less art or cheaper paper. I get it. Just own it, that's all. And if your slush acceptance rate is extra low and you still charge $3+, realize that you're shifting the cost largely onto struggling, hopeful young writers. One dollar at a time you're sucking their livelihood out of them. Remember that.)

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