We’re Taking a Stand Against Literary Journals that Charge Submission Fees

Written by Emily Harstone | May 8, 2014

I have submitted my work to well over 300 different journals in the past two years, and many more before that. When I first started submitting four years ago, one or two journals charged writers a couple of bucks to submit their work for consideration.

This fee did not cover anything else. It did not ensure that the writers work was considered more seriously, it did not guarantee editorial feedback, all it did was allow the writer to submit their work for consideration to be published.

Most journals back then justified this choice by saying that they were charging writers only $2-$3 dollars and it that cost writers about that much to submit via post. I still took issue with that argument. After all, it is one thing to pay the post office if submitting by mail is the only way, it is another thing to pay a literary journal to open email, read it, and more often then not, reject your work with a generic email.

I am not opposed to supporting literary journals. I subscribe to a number of them, but they should not be making their money by charging authors directly without offering anything tangible in return. On that same note, I will only enter contest where I am rewarded with a subscription to the magazine.

In the last two years there has been a solid shift towards charging authors submission fees. Most magazines that charge authors are not going to pay these authors even if they accept their work. This is a real issue for me.

At first it was only older more established journals that were charging readers to submit electronically. It is strange because most of these journals won’t even consider work  submitted by mail, so paying is truly your only option.

Some journals say this is because submission services, that save time for editors, like Submittable (formerly submishmash) charge the magazines to use them. Still that does not make a huge difference. Many journals manage to skirt this issue by selling people copies, having Kickstarters with rewards writers actually want, etc. Also most literary journals are nonprofits and submittable gives all nonprofits 50% off.

Lately I have even seen brand new journals with no reputation, and no Submittable account charging readers to submit. This issue has gotten out of hand. But the tipping point has yet to happen, you can still submit to the vast majority of journals for free. I am hoping it stays that way, but I am not assuming that it will.

One of the ways that I push against this new movement to charge to submit is by not submitting to journals that do charge. I also never review them. Authors Publish only publishes reviews of journals that do not charge for submissions.

Even though I no longer submit to Crazyhorse and a few other esteemed journals, there are still hundreds of prestigious journals that I can submit to without paying a premium to have my work considered.

One of the additional factors that complicates this whole issue is solicited submissions. Many of the more prestigious journals already solicit many of their submissions from poets that they admire. These poets generally do not submit through normal avenues. They never pay to have their work considered and it is in fact almost always accepted.

Ultimately you will have to make your own mind up about paying to submit to journals. It is your money after all. But in the meantime I will continue to review excellent journals who do not charge writers a fee to have their work considered.