How do you feel about magazines that charge a fee to read your submissions?
On the one hand, there are contests, some of which are better than others. And there are lots of variables in contests. Is the contest judged blind? Is the judge announced ahead of time or only after the winner is chose? How big is the prize? Are finalists published? What is the entry fee and does it include a subscription, or at least one copy of the magazine? (My personal guideline is that I’ll enter a contest if the fee includes at least one issue of the magazine, and if the prize is worth the trouble, which means it needs to be in the neighborhood of $1000 for first place.) The merit of contests has been well debated. Check out the article by Jacob Appel (who has won or placed in lots of contests) in Poets & Writers about his experience.
On the other hand, there are some magazines that charge a fee just to look at regular submissions, and that’s what I’m talking about here. The first magazine I was aware of charging for online submissions was Missouri Review, which, come to think of it, was the first magazine I was aware of that even accepted online submissions. They charge $3, payable by credit card, but for writers who don’t want to pay the fee they also will accept submissions sent by post. If you are submitting a 20-page short story, you’ve paid $1 for photocopying and $2 for postage including the SASE, so that’s about a wash. Might was well pay the fee and save a tree. Some other magazines have adopted a similar approach, with small fees charged for online submissions, presumably to offset the cost of operating the system, but with optional no-fee submissions allowed by post. Sonora and Meridian come to mind, both of which use the ManuscriptHub.com submission system.
An increasing number of literary journals use the CLMP Online Submission Manager, and until recently I thought that was a mostly free service. That has changed, though, with the introduction of American Short Fiction‘s fee of $2. They don’t seem to offer a no-fee option, though, and some writers are upset about that. Probably the objection is not just about the money, however. As noted, a typical submission sent by post actually costs about $3, a little less if you’re sending to Subtropics, which doesn’t want the SASE since they’re going to contact submitters by email anyway. But there are privacy concerns with the use of credit cards for online purchases, and that, it seems to me, is a legitimate worry. ASF won’t be getting submissions from those people.
And then there are the magazines that charge real money for reading submissions. Narrative and Glimmer Train are the primary examples here. Both have short open submission, no-fee periods, but some writers suspect that submissions during those open periods are given little or no attention. It’s hard to know what the facts are, but I can’t blame writers for being suspicious.
So, what’s your view? Do you pay to play?