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?