Thursday, 25 October 2012

Literary Magazines Should Not Charge Reading Fees

I have to say, as a literary magazine editor myself, I'm disgusted at the amount of mags and journals that ask for a reading fee, or say that subscribers' work gets priority. And more often than not, these journals that have such stipulations, have sponsors and/or funding from arts foundations which means they don't even need that money! It's ridiculous and greedy. I could never imagine charging a reading fee with Vine Leaves Literary Journal in my life.

I understand that it's hard work. I understand that there are expenses here and there that need to be paid (website, classifieds ads, donations to places like Duotrope.com and PW.org, sponsored listings on places like NewPages.com and The Review Review, if you are a print mag you also have production costs to take care of), but in my opinion, if you want to run a legitimate journal, and be a respected journal, you should NOT be taking money from the writers, you should be PAYING THEM.

If you can't afford to run the mag without sucking these gullible writers dry of their hard-earned cash, then you shouldn't be running a journal at all. I am in this business because I love to give writers the opportunity to see their work published. I love to send that acceptance letter, and imagine the smile on the other end of it, the knowing that they feel appreciated and that their work is worthy. It's validation that every writer needs. If they have paid for you to read that work, how is it a true acceptance?

As a writer, you should not have to pay to have your work read. Would you pay your husband/wife to say they love you? Would you pay a traditional publisher to publish your novel? Would you pay a literary agent to read your query letter and manuscript sample? No way! So how is a literary magazine any different? It's not.

Those of you who are looking for places to submit, please do not be fooled by reading fees. By all means, donate and/or subscribe to magazines you want to donate and/or subscribe to; it's how we stay afloat. But you should not feel obligated to subscribe to every magazine you submit to. If I did that, I would be bankrupt. It's impossible. Please, look for magazines that do not charge you to be read, because the ones that do, are taking advantage of your desire for success.

Disclaimer: I do not feel this way about contest fees. Money usually needs to be raised for the prize money, so it's generally accepted.

How do you feel about reading fees for literary magazines?

26 comments:

  1. I didn't realize some of them charged!

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    1. Alex, you'd be surprised at how many do.

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  2. All money should flow to the writer. I think of this every time I want to submit a piece to The MIssouri Review, who, by the way, charge a $3.00 submission fee. It's not much, but enough to make me pause and change my mind. That three dollars is money I can't really afford to spend.

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    1. Yes, and places like that are HUGE, and I'm sure don't even need it.

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  3. I agree 100%. It's similar to the warnings we all hear when first querying agents. NEVER submit to an agent who charges a reading fee. It's bad form.

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    1. The thing is, it is generally accepted in the lit mag world. And it SO should not be.

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  4. I'm going to start charging people fifty bucks to comment on my blog. Think of the money!

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  5. Well, for one thing, it's a separator of those with the money to fork over and those without it. Having money is no guarantee of having writing talent. So, in one way, the literary journals requesting this are indicating that if you don't have the $$ to pay for reading fees, you obviously don't deserve to be considered. This sort of attitude is what turns many readers off reading literary work.

    I applaud you, Jessica for standing firm in your ethics. It's excellent to know you have an honest journal that supports writers, not the other way around. Enjoyed this post! Can I show your Journal badge in my sidebar to show my support?

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    1. Thanks so much for that offer, D.G. I've emailed it to you. Your support means the world.

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  6. It costs to run a magazine. My wife ran one for years (and two for a short time) and so we know full well how much it costs (and, of course, we're not just talking about financial costs) to bring out a quality product on a regular basis. Some people start off magazines without fully appreciating what they're getting into and those magazines usually fold within a few issues. Reading fees are generally frowned upon throughout the industry. We're told that if a literary agent is asking writers to pay for the privilege of them reading their manuscript then that's a definite warning sign; agents should have budgeted to account for this overhead. I believe the same should go for magazines. Competitions are another matter since the prize money has to be generated somehow; I agree with you there. Print magazines make money. If your magazine can't cover its overheads then it's a commercial failure. For some people—my wife included—this was never an issue; getting any money back was a bonus. We could afford to subsidise her. If someone thinks they can start charging submitters a fee just to be read then all the majority of us will do is go elsewhere. It's not as if there aren't plenty of other places we can send our stuff too. One other thing: I also think it's bad form for a publisher not to offer their contributors a free copy. If they can't afford to do that they shouldn't be in business. And that is the key word here: business.

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    1. Totally agree, Jim. You don't go into something like this and expect to make money yourself. You need to do it because you love it, and not expect any personal returns other than satisfaction.

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  7. No they shouldn't charge! Neither should publishers or agents. That is a big red flag in my book.

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    1. As I said to Lydia above, for some reason it's accepted in the lit mag world. I don't know why. It's something that I think should definitely change!

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  8. It's really shocking to me. i've never seen any that need reading fees (granted, i submit horror, so it's different) but i'm just really appalled by the whole thing

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    1. I've never seen any for horror genres either. I think it might be a 'literary' elitist thing. But don't quote me on it!

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  9. I just recently come across one that charged a reading fee and skipped over it. I write mostly poetry and let's face it: most people don't get rich and famous by writing poetry, so I can't afford to pay a fee.

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    1. LOL, exactly. I know how that feels!

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  10. It doesn't make sense to charge. If it weren't for the writers submitting work, the journal wouldn't exist. I agree with you.

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    1. Abolutely. I think the people in charge tend to forget that as time goes by.

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  11. great article! I completely agree--and I've been surprised how many big-name literary magazines have started charging! as a poet, i can't afford it--lots of other great magazines that will read for free =)

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