C'est le malaise du moment, l'épidémie qui s'étend

Just to clarify, any opinions expressed on this blog are my own and not of that of my employer or any movement I may be a part of.

This post came after a discussion I had with a former classmate concerning a $10 entry for a literary competition. I said it smacked of highway robbery when even the most renowned literary journals out there don’t charge that much. At most, they’ll charge $3, which I’m still not a fan of, but that’s a proper fee for printing and all that stuff. I just think that generally, reading fees are exclusionary and don’t really serve a purpose outside funding lit journals.

Unofficially, I’ve submitted stories and poems to 65 different journals in the last three years. In that time, I have had 16 submissions accepted, 14 are still pending, and 35 rejections (the bulk of which are this year). Let’s assume every one of those submissions had been to a market with reading fees.

$3 = $195
$10 = $650

Let’s try the DosAguilas Fee Litmus Test. Ask the person closest to you if they’d loan or give you $650. Nope? Alright, how about $195? Still no? Well, damn, then I guess that must not be just a whatever fee. I understand that writers aren’t dropping hundreds of dollars at once, but even if you spread out, you start looking at three bucks here, three bucks there and then suddenly you realize that you just dropped a week’s worth of gas on somewhere no one’s going to read. I have a problem with that because there’s no real guarantee your fiction is any better. Proverbial you just has more cash to throw around.

Whether or not the writer and editors want to admit it or not, there is some level of taint associated with that money, an unspoken arrangement. I’m paying you to read, and you are accepting my money. So when it doesn’t surface from the slush pile right away, what’s stopping the editor being like “okay, maybe it’s not that bad, we’ll accept it but send it back and have him revise a few things.” Or what’s stopping them from sending out a form ‘Dear Saint Selena, we appreciate you taking the time to send your poem, Quintanilla, for our journals. Unfortunately….’ Email?

RW Spryszak, editor of Thrice Fiction, shares his thoughts here

Don't submit to journals that require fees and do not require a fee for anyone to submit to ours. The amount of money it would bring in is inconsequential and I feel guilty enough about not being able to pay authors whose work we accept… Most journals pay the writer nothing to begin with, but to pay the journal just to be read? I wouldn't. Besides smacking of desperation, from an editor's viewpoint it is a stupid, troll-like toll…Bad enough writers get nothing for their work, but to PAY just to be read? Go join a workshop…


Remember writers, ‘exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills and a good majority of us didn’t go into this business to make the money. Actually, if you’re going into writing to make money, you’re in the wrong business. Sometimes, money comes. Mostentimes (yeah, words!) it doesn’t. So, why gamble with it?

pictured: not you. Source. 

pictured: not you. Source. 

At least with workshops, you can at least know that you are getting read.

But if you do have the bucks and still want to go ahead and submit to markets that charge a reading fee, hey, be my guest. It’s your money. I’m not a starving artist, but I still like to save money. 


(Blog title lyrics from Placebo - Protege Moi)