Friday, March 18, 2016

Thoughts on submission fees

I thought I've talked about submission fees before, but a cursory search didn't turn that up here. Whatever. I've talked about how I only submit to paying markets, and that hasn't changed.

I've been thinking about submission fees lately. Ploughshares charges a fee ($3) to non-subscribers, and apparently Glimmer Train now charges a $2 processing fee.  This is not a "reading fee", but rather intended to defray the cost of using Submittable, I assume, and run the website, etc.

I'm not against magazines being able to make some money; I really want them to be making lots of money, actually, so they stay open and they keep paying contributors. So in theory, I'm not even really against paying a submission fee. I've paid a contest submission fee, certainly (which, I believe, is intended to go to paying the judge, paying the contest award, etc.), and those range from $5 to $25, depending. But that feels like a one-off, and also like what could be a lucrative gamble. It is also worth mentioning that if you submit to, say, the Plougshares Emerging Writers contest, the submission fee also gets you a one year subscription. And, arguably, you should be reading the markets you submit to, so you're not wasting your time and theirs with what they don't want.

But if it isn't a contest, even an acceptance from a market that pays pro rates wouldn't necessarily defray the cost of all those submissions it took to reach "yes". Take my two acceptances for example; "Adventuring" actually got accepted at its first time out, so my payment for that would purely have been profit with no submission fees paid out. "The Lion and the Dragonslayer", which will be in the Mosaics 2 anthology (Kindle preorder for Mosaics 2 here, Mosaics available both in paperback and on Kindle.), was rejected 11 times. So I could conceivably have reached $33 before getting to "yes", which isn't a lot of money, but it adds up, right?

So, ultimately, I don't know how I feel. Ploughshares and Glimmer Train aren't markets I submit to a whole lot anyway; it seems more of a "literary" thing, these submission fees. F&SF doesn't charge, nor Strange Horizons, nor Asimov's, etc. etc. and my stories more often line up with what those markets are looking for. I'll just decide on a case by case basis, and the world will move on.


  1. I do like those magazines that offer a subscription partly in exchange for those submission fees, because then at least I get to read the magazine even if my piece isn't published. The fees do prevent me from sending my work out as often as I'd like, because like you said, they add up.

    1. Yes, I do like that Ploughshares includes the subscription with that contest entry, because Ploughshares (and many/most/all? of those paid submission magazines) does not have any of their material to read online, so unlike Strange Horizons, which is entirely online, or Shimmer, which makes some things available online throughout the month, it's a blind guess. Unless you've read the magazine. Which isn't a "bad" model just, again, difficult if you have limited finances.

      Plus, I've literally never been in a physical book selling location which offered Ploughshares, which is a shame. I'd actually love to walk into a bookstore and just see a huge display of literary magazines.