Some literary journals, such as New England Review and Ploughshares, have begun charging for e-mail electronic submissions. In other words, if you want to submit poetry or prose electronically to these publications, you need to pony up $2 to $3 dollars per submission.
In thinking this over, I’ve tried to be as fair to these two journals as I can. Here’s the best I can do for their side: e-mail [and the internet] lowers lower the barriers to submission, increasing the workload in reading and responding to them, without lowering costs or increasing revenue for the magazine. It’s not really about the money; literary magazines aren’t for-profit ventures, but labors of love. The writers would be paying for postage, paper and printer ink to send a postal submission (which is still free at these magazines). Nobody wins if the magazines don’t survive.
I hope somebody can make a better argument, because that one is pretty weak tea. If it really isn’t about the money, but — as I suspect — about discouraging submissions, re-raising the barriers, un-democratizing literature, that’s worse than simple greed. If it’s only about reducing workload, that’s understandable, but this is an incredibly wrong-headed approach.
Let me make it clear: I know I’m no Seamus Heaney, but you are not providing me with a service by agreeing to read my submission. I’m doing you a service by sending it to you. Even if it’s the most pathetic drivel written this century. And what you are asking most writers to pay for is the privilege of being rejected.
New England Review and Ploughshares certainly won’t mourn the loss of my poems, but they won’t be seeing them. I won’t pay a (regressive) reading fee, though I could probably afford it. Call it a gratuitous act of solidarity.
1. I typoed C. Dale Young’s name in the original post. My apologies.
2. I should have said “electronic submissions,” not “e-mail submissions.” I don’t think it changes the principles involved, but it was inaccurate.
3. My comment (in the comments) about a “form-letter comment” was gratuitously snarky. Again, apologies.