Like most writers who wish to publish new writing, I spend considerable energy submitting unsolicited poems and stories through online submission managers, and to a lesser extent, the snail mail. In the old days, of course, writers would send all their submissions through the post office: a buck or two for the big envelope plus a single stamp for the SASE. Lately, a number of highly-visible literary journals have begun to require reading fees, typically $3.00 a pop, for online (slush pile) submissions. The journals defend this practice by reminding us writers that we’d spend just as much on postage; many indicate that the reading fees help them to defray the administrative costs of producing the periodical. I don’t wish to dispute either of these explanations, but at the same time, journals cannot demonstrate that they’ve actually considered the submission. They cannot demonstrate that they’ve provided a service (evaluating the submission) for the fee ($3.00) they require to accompany the writer’s creative work. At least by paying postage in the old days, I knew that the U.S. Postal Service had delivered the submission, and later, delivered the response; the post office had provided a service. If the journal didn’t choose to appraise my writing, that didn’t matter, because the journal didn’t profit from my correspondence. Similarly, if I upload an electronic submission for free, the magazine can choose to reject it outright, since it doesn’t profit from my interest in becoming a contributor. Unfortunately, these fee-for-submission literary magazines may have entered fraudulent terrain. Who’s to say they don’t delete poems and stories, while pocketing the money? If they receive several thousand submissions, then they may profit considerably without exerting much more effort than clicking a mouse. I would imagine that many thoughtful writers (as well as those who lack the means to submit) are offended by this practice and aren’t participating in the fee-for-reading environment. This would potentially shrink the population of viable writers contacting a given magazine, and to me, reinforce the sense that fee-for-reading journals solicit most of their published material on the dollars of those willing to pay the toll. In order to squash this perception, a journal should offer personal feedback to any author who’s submitted $3.00 along with a sample of writing. There must be incontrovertible proof that editors have dedicated time and consideration. Otherwise, more and more journals slither into gunk, junk, murk, mud, slime, grime, oil-spill, habitat-wreck, flight-of-species, blight-of-planet.
Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule
March 2: Crows & Owls
March 3: I Eat Mushrooms!
March 4: Literary Magazines That Charge for Slush Pile Submissions
March 6: Kits