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 23, 2015

Submission Fees

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #69
     "Submission fees are just one discriminating editor removed from the Poetry.com scam."

     That was our reaction when reading fees first appeared.

      For those unfamiliar with the practice, submission (aka "reading") fees are monies paid by contributors for publication consideration.  They differ from contest entrance fees in that publication, not prizes, are the central purpose.  Indeed, folding in a subscription with an entry fee is a laudable way to increase circulation.  As for submission fees, if nothing else, they prove that Nobody Reads Poetry [without being paid to do so].  Would anything be sillier than a glossy like "Readers Digest" or "Golf World" charging its writers instead of paying them?  Actually, yes, there would be:  comparing thriving genres like fiction, general nonfiction or sports reporting to poetry.

Tim Green
      One of the most insightful discussions on this topic was Rattle Editor Timothy Green's¹ "Clowns Against Submission Fees" thread.  He and his supporters make a number of excellent, familiar arguments against reading fees, minus the consideration that it undermines the editors' incentive to seek subscribers.  In the margins, though, the conversation also aired a few thoughts in favor of the policy:

1.  For the individual contributor the cost is inconsequential.  Thanks to the Internet, "a $3 reading fee is less [or little more] than it would cost" for stationery and postage.  Does this token payment not serve the practical purpose of limiting the number of frivolous submissions?

2.  Printing and mailing is costly, requiring that such venues be "externally funded".  If their subscribers are writers rather than strictly readers (tanr), isn't it less like a commercial endeavor and more like a pot luck gathering or friendly poker game where everyone is asked to ante up?  A backer is putting up more than 50% of the total cost, the Greens are doing all of the "grunt work", and these "contributors" balk at ponying up a measly $3?

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #45
3.  Indeed, given that "the average circulation of a print journal is 500 copies, that the average Alexa ranking of an online journal is about 5 million", why not join the 21st century and put out a full-fledged e-zine instead?  Devote the majority of external funds to the staff and writers.  Sell the print versions as subscriptions to Old Schoolers, as collector's items, on Amazon as souvenirs or as performance contest marketing prompts², but concentrate on where the future lies.  Dominate the field.  After all, how many webzines have any significant funding whatsoever?  Yeah, that would be "about none".

4.  No one objects to entry fees, but the only significant difference between a contest and a magazine is that a contest must declare a winner (even if it's the best of a bad lot) whereas, in theory, if a magazine doesn't get enough quality submissions it doesn't have to publish anything.  In light of what is being put out today, though, this is a distinction without a difference.

5.  One final thought:  We are talking about chopping down forests in order to print magazines for a population dominated by tree-huggers (not all of whom are squirrels).  Think about that for a moment.

Coming Soon"Love is a Weakness", Chapter 1


¹ - As you may know, we here at "Commercial Poetry" have a different mandate, medium and approach to aesthetics and education but when it comes to promotion there is no one we admire more than the Greens, Tim and Meghan. 

² - For example, have a cash prize for whoever makes the best video using a poem in, say, the Summer 2016 edition.  "No purchase necessary!"

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