Lately there has been ongoing talk about the ethics of charging submission fees. Timothy Green of Rattle wrote a particularly scathing article about literary journals that charge submission fees and, as a journal that charges such a fee, we feel that the best response is one of transparency and one that invites conversation.
After much discussion here at The Tishman Review, we’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right answer in either direction. Charging a fee might be considered unethical if the person paying does not receive any benefit from this charge. But in the event there is a service rendered that benefits the payer, as is the case here at TTR, then the argument of ethics dissolves. There are just as many people who understand the reasons behind charging a fee as there are opponents of the idea, and all for good reasons. So, rather than try to deflate the argument of our esteemed colleague at Rattle, or try to change his practices by encouraging him to read all of his submissions beyond the first three lines; which would (arguably) then bring about the need for a submission fee in his case, we decided to list the reasons why we charge a fee here at TTR, and what each submitter “gets” in return.
First off, we, like many other literary magazines today, are a non-profit journal not affiliated with an institution or wealthy benefactor. We have no obvious source of income that might cover our administrative costs each month. In this, we want to be transparent and honest about our practices and policies.
In the light of our commitment to being considerate editors at all times, we believe submission fees perform the following functions:
- Filter submissions: authors are more likely to send their most-finished and ready work when a payment is involved.
- Force the editorial staff to view the payment of a fee as the beginning of an agreement with the author and to conduct themselves in a professional and business-like manner.
- Eliminate the problem of spamming and sending of pornographic and offensive material to a predominantly female editorial board (a real problem in the literary magazine world).
- Eliminate the need to block certain individuals to stop them from harassment submissions (another real problem).
Also, we at The Tishman Review promise the following:
- When a writer submits her work she will receive a response within a maximum of 90 days.
- Our co-founding editors are committed to producing a journal that reflects the diversity of humanity.
- The entire submission will be read, from beginning to end. Much of the work we have fallen in love with and have subsequently published in the magazine had less than stellar opening lines. We are not engaging in 30 second skim readings.
- We pay semi-professional rates to all of our journal contributors.
- We host regular free submission days that we advertise through multiple social media channels.
- We will close submissions in any/all genres when we cannot read each submission and give it due consideration. We have already had to do this in poetry.
- Our general practice is not to solicit material, but we reserve the right to make a small percentage of any given issue solicited material. There are occasions when we have a relationship with a writer who we think is best exemplifying what we are trying to do here at TTR, or a writer who is really blooming that we want to spotlight for the benefit of that writer and our magazine readers at the same time.
- We provide personal feedback as often as possible. When a writer chooses expedited response, personal and in-depth feedback is guaranteed within 30 days. Feedback is always given in the spirit of criticism that will (in our opinion) strengthen the piece, whether we end up publishing the work or not.
- In many cases we do ask for revisions and revised pieces are sent to our email without further fees.
- A submitter will always receive a declination letter from us. We will never simply change their status on Submittable. A personal declination will be sent in the case of submitted revised pieces. And of course, the writers will always receive a personal acceptance letter.
- We will meet our deadlines, whether a response time or an issue launch.
- Accepted pieces will be edited and copy edited. We have the highest standards for the journal and strive for 100% perfection all the time.
- The most current online issue will always be free to read. This helps the writer promote her work as readers can be reluctant to purchase an entire issue to read one piece by someone they know. Our journal is running approximately 1,000 openings of each online issue for reading within the first six weeks of publication.
- We take the time and spend the money to convert the online issue into e-book and print-on-demand formats and this status as a print magazine increases both TTR’s and the writer’s exposure.
- Our editors are available to our authors and are willing to take the time necessary to engender a positive experience throughout the process, from acceptance to final copy.
- We have a commitment to seeking out additional sources of revenue to meet our financial goals and are always in the midst of doing this. This includes: selling advertising space, fundraising, grant seeking, successful contests and sales of POD and e-book copies.
- Our financial goals include: Paying our staff—a paid staff is a happy staff and happiness makes everyone work harder and better, paying our contributors in free print copies and then increasing their payments until we are paying professional rates, and having a presence at the annual AWP conference to increase our exposure (and thus the value of being published in our journal).
Please also remember that the literary writing community assesses surcharges on journals that charge submission fees, making the fees you pay more costly. Submittable takes 99 cents plus 5% of each fee. This is in addition to the yearly fee for using Submittable. Using Submittable enables us to manage submissions in a considerate manner, including having the time to read each one. Reading the work sent to us is what is important.
Certain avenues of placing call for submission ads or journal listing sites charge only journals that need submission fees. This too affects our costs. Hosting a website and producing a layout does have costs. There are many hidden costs in running a journal, as in any venture.
There really is no right or wrong answer in the never-ending debate over whether or not to charge submission fees, but here at TTR, we hope everyone who submits understands and believes that they are entering into a true collaboration. Your work will be read – every word of it, and sometimes several times over. If you’re accepted into our magazine, we will work for months to make sure that your writing is displayed in the best way possible when it is published. We will pay you, and we will do so in a timely manner. We’re proud of you and often seek to interview writers that appear in our magazine for our website. We consider you a member of our family and will help to promote you and your work in this ever-changing writer’s world. It is in this spirit that we proceed, with the hope that we can continue to publish your best words while treating every word you write and submit to us with the respect it deserves.