Paying Submission Fees to Lit Mags

In recent years, a trend has emerged of literary journals charging submission fees to writers. This is a sore point for most submitters. As it is, the number of paying journals is far fewer as compared to magazines happy to compensate with ‘exposure’.

When Brevity started charging a submission fee, they explained their rationale behind it in a detailed post.

Most journals charge minimal fees of the order of $2 or $3. This is meant to partially offset the costs charged by Submittable or other online submissions management systems, and also to pay writers whose works are found suitable for publication.

Some journals like Narrative charge $20 and upwards to submit, which seems too steep, though I understand they pay their writers well.

Though Brevity charges a fee, they pay $45 for essays up to 750 words. This qualifies it as a Professional payment as per Duotrope.

Another aspect to consider here is if emerging writers really stand a chance in getting published in such magazines. It’s possible that the writers’ fees that are collected go towards paying solicited writers for their works. That’s something you have to weigh with each magazine. Check the bios of contributors. If it’s filled with familiar, known names, then new writers might not stand a chance.

The really objectionable ones are the magazines taking money but not paying writers. I’m sure their business model demands or at least justifies it, but it’s difficult to digest that writers input their creative work as well as part with precious currency merely to see their name in print.

There’s lively debate on this topic at several avenues:

Authors Publish takes a stand against submission fees

Writers Relief breaks it down for you

Michael Nye at The Missouri Review says they introduced fees to reduce the number of submissions:

My own experience

I usually wouldn’t part with my cold hard cash, but I do make exceptions in certain situations. For me, I found it quite convenient to submit online rather than go through the hassle of putting together a submission package consisting of envelope, stamp and printed out cover letters.

I did submit to two journals – Brevity and The Missouri Review by paying the submission fees. At $3, it works out to approx. Rs. 180, which is how much I’d spend on coffee for two at Starbucks. Though the pieces got rejected, I received personal rejections with glowing comments and an invitation to resubmit in the future. This doesn’t bring out such a big high as getting an acceptance, but regular submitters would recognize the value of a personal rejection as opposed to a standard form one.

In other lit mag news, Nathaniel Tower has another useful post on finding sustainable lit mags that don’t disappear taking your publications credits down along with them. Do take a look.


9 thoughts on “Paying Submission Fees to Lit Mags

  1. I feel that charging writers dampen the creativity to write for magazines and comes quite expensive. I wonder what will happen to newbies like me and its so not done. I call it exploitation in a way. There should be no toll on creativity!

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    1. I understand what you’re saying, but we won’t know for sure unless we try to run a lit mag ourselves. Its also true that we writers seek payment but wouldn’t want to pay for an issue of the magazine we’re looking to get published in.

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      1. I do agree. You know been working as a journo and what works is paid ads that makes for salaries of everyone. That’s why I find the accusation paid media ridiculous and there are feature articles that u do for companies and for which the mag/newspapers get paid for us. Its fine with me and see no problem:)

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  2. Before I would ever pay a submission fee, I would want to know exactly where the money is going (and what I am getting in return). If the magazine is charging submission fees just to exist, then I take serious issue with this. It’s not a sustainable way to run a lit mag. Prospective writers shouldn’t be paying for the magazine to exist. It’s fine to offer additional services (subscriptions, feedback, etc.), but just charging for submissions hits a very sour note with me.

    At Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine, we host a writing contest each year. We do charge a submission fee for this, but our contest guidelines clearly state exactly where all the money goes. We believe in making things as transparent as possible for our readers and writers.

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    1. Thanks for providing an editorial point of view! I do agree that writers need to judge if paying the submission fee is worth it. For me it has opened up the convenience of submitting to journals that were otherwise postal-only and therefore practically out of bounds for me.

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  3. I feel exactly the way you do. In certain situations, (low fee, they pay writers, accept newer writers, etc) I think it’s fine. But I don’t do those contests with the $15-20 fees at really impossible places like The Iowa Review. Fool me once! (Okay, like ten times.)

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