The other day, I reblogged a posting about reading fees. I had been thinking about this recently because of a couple of other blog postings I saw on The Review Review, those can be found here and here. When I reblogged, I mentioned that I personally don’t have a problem with them, and now I’d like to expand on that.
I started submitting while I was an undergraduate. Then, few people had email accounts and online submissions were years away. Everything was by mail. When I could start emailing submissions, it became a little cheaper, and occasionally faster. With online submissions, there was a convenience factor coupled with the fact I didn’t need as many envelopes, paper, stamps, or as much toner. Which was a minor, but noticeable drop in my budget.
The thing about reading fees has been, in part, that they are still relatively uncommon and something I hope will not change too much in the future. Smaller and newer journals might find it hard to wring out a couple of bucks from writers who won’t be sure if the journal might not survive until their publication, than a more established journal. In any case, the cases for and against journal reading fees are both compelling and I don’t think there are any good answers. In any case, times changes and things change.
When I first started out, the idea that you could do a simultaneous submission was really a taboo. I still don’t do that and maybe that is being a bit old fashioned, but the number of journals I see saying it’s okay has skyrocketed over the past few years. If this is so, then I would imagine that would explain in part the high numbers that electronic submission applications have been getting, at least according to some of the articles I’ve been reading. The key, as mentioned in the TMR blog, is transparency.
Whether you should or shouldn’t submit to a journal asking for a reading fee is a personal decision. As I mentioned in the reblog, I don’t really have a problem with it, although I do prefer and generally submit to those not charging. My rule of thumb is to limit reading fees to the amount I would have had to spend on printing supplies and postage were I still doing only snail mail submissions. The real question is is this a journal I’m willing to pay to get a shot in, something I reserve for only the poems I like best and at the beginning of their submission cycle. Full-length manuscript fees are, in my mind, a different story.
I do view poetry as a second career, and I treat it as such. There are things that I need to do in order to maintain it in conjunction with my day job and the other second career and my family commitments. And there are costs to it. Becky begin a singer understands the work and costs of poetry better than of martial arts. I view some modest reading fees by certain journals as part of that cost of doing business. That being said the danger of reading fees if left unchecked is to eventually turn journal submissions into a kind of literary golf where more and more cost will effectively drive out a substantial part of the writing community from participation. The problem of that excluded portion wouldn’t accommodate for talent or work ethic. I do believe that there are, for lack of a better term, market forces that will keep reading fees in check. Of course, I could be wrong.