Writing Tip: Never Pay Submission Fees

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Today’s post is brought to you by the letter S. Or more specifically💲.

I’m preparing to submit another round of short fiction, and noticed quite a few “start up” magazines (especially on the gross-but-necessary Facebook) are charging submission fees. This isn’t cool, and I’ll try to explain why without it turning into a rant.

Suffice to say, you should never pay anyone to read your writing.

Submission Fees

Are bull$h*t.

Also known as “reading fees”, many literary magazines and journals claim they need these to cover production costs or to pay their editors/slush readers. You should never submit your work to a magazine that is asking for a reading fee, and here are a couple reasons why.

🎩 ::puts on curmudgeon-y businessman hat:: 🎩

  • It’s not your problem if they operate at a loss.
    • Many of these tiny journals are passion projects. Nonetheless, they probably get way more submissions than they can or will accept. Lit mags have notoriously low acceptance rates, and that means you’re subsidizing someone else’s creative endeavors for them to potentially read one sentence (if any) of a story and chuck it in the trash. If you DO get accepted and published, you likely won’t get any payment.
    • Most writers aren’t rolling in dough. You need to save money for more important things involving your own work
  • You don’t know their readership or margins
    • Often they ask for a fee, but either don’t pay the accepted authors or pay them in token copies
    • Sometimes the journals are “online only” which means their overhead costs could be next-to-nothing
    • If they ARE selling the magazine, you’re paying them to take your product (writing), and then make money off of it, essentially “double-dipping”.
  • The project may never happen
    • Not all ideas come to fruition. I like to believe people are good, but there are plenty of scammers out there who prey on idealistic writers and disappear without ever creating a journal due to “circumstances beyond their control”, but by the way “no refunds”.

I’m not saying all literary journals should be operating at a loss, but the legitimate ones that you see on Duotrope and Submission Grinder are usually stable enough to accept work without charging, even if they don’t have enough of a budget to pay the accepted authors. They understand that writers are providing their hard work for either a token payment, or exposure to a wider audience.

In my opinion, “Pay to Play” is never an acceptable model.

Exception: Contests

Here’s where I contradict myself.

If a writing contest is requesting a submission fee, because it intends to pay a cash prize to the winner, then a SMALL payment is usually OK. You should still do some research and only enter legitimate contests that have been around for a while. You can usually spot sketchy ones:

  • They’re “annual” but this is the first year they exist
  • The fees are much higher than the final collected pay out to the winner
  • There is little-to-no information or backing, other than an address to send money and writing to

I know some authors who have hard & fast rules about never giving their writing away. I don’t feel I’m at that level yet, so I’m open to opportunities that don’t involve direct payment. However, I will never pay money to either submit (or be published), and I’d encourage you to never do that either.

The entire reason publishers and magazines exist is to build a readership by selectively publishing the work of authors they feel deserve merit. It’s not our job to keep them in business.

That’s what readers are for.

 

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Thoughts on Amazon Bookstores

image of amazon bookstore

via Amazaon.com

Amazon bookstores are a curiosity to me.

This article about the Amazon Bookstore “experience” from Book Riot doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the brick & mortar operations, although further digging seems to show an inherent bias against Amazon from this particular outlet.

Criticisms aside, I hope I get the opportunity to visit one of these stores. I’m interested to see how they mesh the aforementioned “experience” of shopping on Amazon with a traditional bookstore. Even if the selection is limited, the idea of having traditional print and eBooks presented in the same shop sounds fascinating. Barnes & Noble technically does this already, but they really discourage the purchase of eBooks, while ironically trying to push Nook devices on their customers.

I believe these stores may be a short-lived experiment since Amazon recently purchased Whole Foods and could easily begin selling Kindles and eBooks to captive audiences in the checkout lines. Plus, Whole Foods already has numerous locations in the “upscale” urban areas they targeted with the initial Amazon Books roll out.

Have you visited an Amazon Bookstore? I’d be interested to know what your experience was like. Did you actually buy anything, or just window shop to investigate what it was all about?

Print Books versus eBooks in 2017

image of book and ereader

via Buzzfeed.com

I like to check up on the whole “print versus eBooks” debate periodically, and the status of the industry is pretty interesting halfway through 2017.

This subject tends to get a bit heated in some circles, so I want to preface by saying I see the merits of both formats. I love print books and their tactile experience; dog-earring pages and scribbling notes in the margins. I also love how easy my Kindle Paperwhite is to travel with, and read in the dark. Both are great, and as long as you’re reading quality fiction, we can be friends no matter which format you prefer.

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Submitting to Literary Journals

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I’ve begun submitting work to literary journals.

As part of my exploration of the “hybrid author” model, and at the behest of my friend and co-conspirator Jeff Conolly , I’m sending off short stories and flash fiction to a number of literary magazines.

This is something I hadn’t considered, based on my own biases. The last time I submitted anything to a journal, it was the late 1990’s (yes, I’m dating myself here), and it was a painstaking process of stuffing envelopes and licking stamps. That was followed by months of waiting to receive a rejection form letter in the mail. Sounds great, right? You can see why I compartmentalized these things into the darkest recesses of my mind.

Enter: The Internet.

Literary journals are WAY different than I remember them. First, there are so many more around due to the advent of electronic publishing and “the web”. Second, it’s far easier to submit your work via email or the free site Submittable (which many of them use).

I have to admit I feel silly for not looking into this sooner. I should have known better than to assume they hadn’t evolved in twenty some odd years. Now my plan is to continue submitting shorter works in between writing my current full length novel(s).

Have you ever submitted work to a literary journal or magazine? I hope so, and I hope it was accepted! Let me know down in the comments. I’m interested to hear other writers experiences with them.