More Thoughts on Reading Fees and Simultaneous Submissions

Frankly, I’m not surprised to find the “reading fee” wars continuing to wage.  For many writers it is a major issue, and should be.  My belief, and I’ve talked about it before, is mixed.  I do occasionally pay a journal’s reading fee, but I do have criteria for doing so and try to not drift from those principles.  Additionally I don’t have the same qualms about reading fees for book manuscripts.  In fact, I budget for that expense and save up for it like one would do for a car or computer or other potentially large purchase item.

As the debate rages, I continue tweak my opinions.  Like anything else in writing, I see reading fees as tools.  In fact, my opinions of them have evolved along with my view of simultaneous submissions.  Again, it’s a tool, and both are ones that should be used judiciously.   Just as I’ve paid some reading fees, there have been a few times where I’ve made simultaneous submissions.

When I started out, the general rule then was no simultaneous submissions, but then again reading fees were pretty unheard of too.  The landscape has changed a lot and simultaneous submissions have become, at least tacitly, more accepted.  It doesn’t mean I like them.  They are a useful tool when necessary.  In general, I will consider sending a simultaneous submission if a) it’s allowed in the guidelines, b) I’ve received no response to a query made on a submission when that query is called for in the guidelines (meaning if the guidelines say don’t query before three months, I might query at four or five and wait a certain number of weeks after that), and c) an appropriate and attractive submission opportunity presents itself.  In other words, I don’t send the same piece or group of pieces out to multiple journals at one time.  They are staggered and often months apart.  I do like to give the first journal I send to a lot of exclusive time.  And where a journal’s guidelines say no simultaneous submissions, I don’t do it.  But this isn’t just a reflection on my age and training.

I do like to look over a journal before I submit to it.  I’ve not submitted a lot of times because my research told me I wouldn’t fit very well.  This is easier to do today with the Internet than it was in the mid-90’s when I did my MFA and physical copies were the only way to do this.  The Internet allows us to have up-to-date information about mastheads when a good number of journals editors can change every year or term.  I spend some time trying to find good fits.  Sometimes it pays off.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

I also have built up, over the years, a big enough portfolio where I don’t mind tying up a submission packet for three to six months at one journal.  This took a long time.  It required a lot of work and, more importantly, a lot of patience.  Granted, I probably took longer than I might have because I adhered to my rules, but that’s okay.  That was my choice and I don’t regret it.  However, 20 years ago, I was often tempted to break these rules.  I might have had 20 or 30 poems in circulation then, with one or two stories I sort of felt okay about.  But the rules then were “don’t do it.”  If younger me were starting out now, I might have a different opinion.

Both tools, fees and simultaneous submissions, are double-edged.  Used judiciously, they are powerful helps for editors and writers.  Used poorly and they can sink you.

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