Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reading Fees?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #19
    A Facebook friend pointed me to Sandy Longhorn's blog post entitled "The State of Poetry Book Publishing in America Today" and to a controversy brewing over at Ben Mirov's Subito Press.  The issue is Manuscript Reading Fees.  Just to be clear, such a reading fee, like a manuscript contest entry fee, is money paid in the hope that the editor-judges will publish your book.  They differ in that a contest must have a winner, no matter how bad the submissions;  a reading fee usually means that the publishers will wait until they can put out a quality product.

    Ms. Longhorn writes:

   "Aside, when a friend from another academic field read my FB post about this she was stunned.  'You have to pay someone to read your manuscript on the off chance that they might publish it?' she asked."

    I, too, was surprised by the use of reading fees, but not because of unfamiliarity with the practice.  My shock was in discovering that they haven't been obsoleted yet.  Magazines have long since abandoned reading fees for subscription entries, where contestants get a subscription to the periodical.¹

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #34
    The benefits to the book publisher are obvious.  By giving all the entrants a copy of the winning manuscript/book everyone involved gets to see the victorious effort.  It provides a ready-made market, raising the profile of the publisher, author and the competition.  How many poetry books sell as many copies as submissions?²  These books would start with that many sales!  Also, when the books are mailed out the publisher can include a newsletter, brochure and thank-you note.

     In addition to the advantages for the publisher, the author gets a guaranteed audience and the entrants all get a consolation prize that might, itself, inspire them to re-enter.  It's a win-win-win situation for everyone.

   Meanwhile, the distinction between reading and entry fees goes from being almost moot--no, the venue using reading fees doesn't have to produce a "winner" but how long will it be in business if it doesn't produce anything?--to being completely so.  Depending on the quality of submissions, an outlet using subscription entries can publish any number of volumes a year.  Essentially, subscription entries do everything that reading fees do...and much more.

    Let me conclude with two points:

1Do not pay reading fees.

2.  If you see anyone considering reading fees please send them here.



¹ - Or, if you prefer, you could view it as subscribers getting a free entry into the contest.  Same thing.

² - An innovative publisher might even give out a prize for the best review (even if it isn't entirely positive).

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