In the few short months since we’ve launched our magazine, one of the questions that keeps coming up is why we charge $3 for online submissions. We figured it’s time to take a deeper look into this topic, as submission fees are somewhat of a controversial issue in the literary community.
When we decided to start our magazine we considered several delivery options for accepting submissions, and we ultimately decided that the best option was to model our submission process after magazines we’d submitted to ourselves, like The Missouri Review, who recently wrote their own blog entry on this subject. So far it’s worked well, and authors definitely seem to prefer submitting online, even with the small fee, to mailing their submissions, as 98% of the submissions we receive are submitted to us through our paid online medium.
Now of course we understand that virtually all writers would prefer to submit electronically for free, as it’s easy, convenient and there is no cost involved. While we have no desire to make submitting costly for writers, from our perspective as publishers there are big problems with opening ourselves to free online submissions; and those problems primarily come down to volume and quality.
In the past, before there was any such thing as the Internet, submitting work for publication required not only money for postage and printing, but it also took a considerable amount of time—i.e. formatting and printing, producing an SASE, dragging yourself to the post office etc. As it turns out, that cost—i.e. time and money—moderates consideration. That is, if the process bears a cost to you, then you’re more likely to do some research to see which magazines are best-suited for your work before submitting. Similarly, paid online submissions have the same effect. Although they’re more convenient than printing and making a trip to the post office, there’s still a cost to consider. If the online process were free, and as simple as copy, paste, send, it never hurts to take a shot, so why not send that 18th Century period piece to the magazine that calls for gritty stories about the modern world? This simplifies things of course, but it’s undoubtedly true that free submissions cause volume to go up without a corresponding increase in quality.
So now let’s look at it from the author’s standpoint. If a magazine that used to receive 4,000 paid submissions/year, is now receiving 20,000 free online submissions/year, who does that benefit? Although the writer pays nothing, and can now afford to submit to more publications, they’re now swimming not in a lake but in an ocean, and the chances of someone finding them in that ocean are now much smaller.
One of the things we strive for at The Rag is discovering new talent. We base our publication decisions on the piece of writing that’s in front of our eyes, not on bylines, or how famous the author is. So if you’re a new writer, your chances of being noticed by a publication that has some moderating filters to its submission process are probably much higher than those that don’t. As it stands, our submission volume is manageable and we can give each story equal consideration.
Now let’s get down to what’s on everyone’s mind—that green stuff: money. It’s what makes the world go around. Or at least it’s what makes us go around spinning our wheels in the muck of Capitalism. Either way, it’s a necessary evil. Our overriding goal at The Rag is to pay writers. For some writers, submissions fees are anathema; for us, not being paid is anathema. One of our primary decisions in moving forward with our publication was that if we couldn’t pay writers, we didn’t want to run a literary magazine. That’s the whole point. Get the cash flowing. Distribute some wealth, even if it’s nothing more than enough cash for a week’s worth of groceries, at least it’s something that gives the writer a reason to keep moving forward.
The online submission fee advances that goal. With mailed submissions, the money the writer spends goes to the post office and to the print and paper manufacturers. With online submissions fees, that money stays in the literary community. That, to us, is a win-win situation. Writers can still submit to us through the mail at no additional charge beyond printing and postage expenses, but if they choose to submit online, whether that’s because it’s cheaper, more convenient, or if they just don’t mind sending some financial support our way, then the money increases our revenue and increases what we can pay our writers. It’s that simple.
The submission fee debate is an interesting one, and it’s possible to put forward logical arguments on each side. Certain people we come across, however, like to confront us with arguments that are nothing more than troll-logic. They email us to tell us we’re “scammers” who’re taking advantage of “gullible” authors. They’re apparently the only ones brilliant enough to see through our scheme and need to protect the other writers, who are all mildly-retarded or, at best, hopelessly naïve.
Indeed, we’re living the good life off of authors’ hard-earned cash. We spend many of our days drinking Martinis made from Banker’s Club Vodka and premium olives—not those generic supermarket olives. The Whole Foods shit—Organic motherfucking olives. As everyone knows, running a literary magazine is a sure ticket into the 1%. We enjoy driving past Occupy protests and throwing $3 out the windows of our limo for the degenerates to pluck from the pavement. We’re currently lobbying the Fed to issue and circulate a $3 bill so that it’s easier for us to count all our fucking money. Seth even has a vanity plate on the back of his Prius that says “3-RIPS.” We buy our Coke by the pound. Good times, I tell you.
But seriously, we’d like to make it known that we greatly appreciate the support we’ve received so far, both through submissions and subscriptions. Hopefully, this answers some questions concerning why we chose our current methods of accepting submissions. We are open to change and new ideas, and we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our methods. So we welcome civil debate on this and other subjects.