Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writers = $: Using fees to cash in on dreams

Let's have a discussion about reading and entry fees. Most recently I've come across this little deal from New Rivers Press where, for only a mere $20, they will consider your hard work for publication. Does that sound like a deal to you? Then, switch to this little competition on Short Story where you're charged a fee to enter.

So now I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with these people?

I can understand a large circulation mag (for example, Writer's Digest) charging fees for entry to their competitions and can understand (maybe) non-profit and/or education based literary publications asking for fees.

But I think it is tacky and pretentious (not to mention has the potential to be highly abused) for a small, unknown periodical or publisher to try to make money by using fees, regardless whether the fees are going to the judges or prize money or whatever. It is also unethical to charge reading fees in the eyes of many professional organizations, like the AAR for instance. Granted, the AAR is for agents of authors but the same principle applies.

From Section 8 of the AAR Canon of Ethics:     

  • The AAR believes that the practice of literary agents charging clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works (including outlines, proposals, and partial or complete manuscripts) is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. For that reason, members may not charge clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works and may not benefit, directly or indirectly, from the charging for such services by any other person or entity. 

Obviously, though, it is a practice that is thriving, despite the information age.

Having been a slush reader for a literary mag and now owning my own publishing venture, there is something that these publishers don't tell you. It doesn't make you more likely to be considered for publication when you pay fees than it does when you submit to publications that don't charge fees. What they are doing is cashing in on writers who don't really know better; writers who haven't been in the game very long, writers who haven't yet come to the realization that if they are serious about their craft, they will go broke if they opt to pay all these unwarranted fees. And most writers who submit to ANY publication, including those fee-charging ones, will be rejected. So cha-ching! You've just given away your money.

You see, that's how the market operates. Pay $40 for this bottle of pills that will make you skinny! Pay only $75 to see how YOU can make big bucks at home. Pay $10 plus shipping to discover how you can quit smoking by using only the power of your mind. These types of ventures won't work for most people. You know that. I know that. But yet, people still get taken by them. To me, this is no different. Fee charging publishers are cashing in on desires and dreams knowing that most people won't get accepted in the first place.

"But I'm not scamming anyone! I just have bills to pay and costs to cover!"

You may not be intentionally scamming anyone but, in my opinion, the practice is still deplorable. You should've thought about bills you would incur before you took over the responsibility of having a publishing venture. You should've had the money backed-up as necessary to cover operating costs before you resorted to charging fees.

In case anyone missed it: I despise fees.

Granted, it is your money and you can do what you want with it, but isn't submitting for free better? There are plenty of places that want to consider your story, including mine. And you don't have to shell out moolah to submit it, either.

If you're anything like me (which I suspect most of you are), you're not made of money and every penny counts.

Peace, love, and say no to fees,


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