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’.
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.
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:
Writers Relief breaks it down for you
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.