Editor's Thoughts: Fool For a Fee

*** Editor's Thoughts ***

Fool For a Fee

The avalanche of fees smothering our writing craft in the past ten years has forced me to speak more vocally about this supposedly benign practice. It is tiresome to search markets for a suitable home for my work only to find another pesky fee hidden at the bottom of the page or after you click through a hundred prompts of Submittable.

For a practice that is zealously defended you would expect editors and publishers proudly and immediately advertising their glorious gate entrance toll. But very few do. Like sneaky marketers who dish out lots of melodrama before finally revealing the hefty tag ---editors usually adopt the same tactic. Writer’s consider this your first warning sign.

Contests: Why is it necessary for publications and even institutions to soak writers with $25 to $45 contest fees? It’s always the same nonsensical template: this contest honors a dead writer with fourteen names. We will give away $1000 for first place. It is judged by some other writer with only seven names. If you ever decide to monitor these semi-scams you will be startled to discover the awards are always given to young academics or much older academics. Joe Schmoe down the block who entered two months ago hasn’t got a shot. And you don’t either. These abominations are ways for you to subsidize the prejudicial viewpoints of literary snobs. Why don’t they get grants, or big donations or just fundraise for these prize monies? They don’t have to because YOU (the writer) pay for their lunch, their lousy literary taste and all that goes with those fees.

Submission Fees: These fees have climbed to Mt Everest in the past five years. A large number of magazines, journals and online literary entities now charge a submission fee of at least $3. Here are my objections to this disgusting practice:

1. I shouldn’t have to pay you shit for reading my work. Most magazines boldly warn we only accept to 3 to 5% of submissions anyhow. How the hell is this an incentive to give you my money? I can go to Jersey to any street corner dice game with my three dollars and get better odds. Better customer service too.

2. Why do I have to pay for your decision to use Submittable? I didn’t ask you to contract with them. No one emailed me for my input or vote. And my favorite kicker here, what is this service supposedly doing for the me the writer. I know it helps editors and their staffs organize and respond to writers. But none of this has trickled down to writers. They are not getting anything but robotic emails of rejection or acceptance. They are not seeing their response times increase. Nor are they seeing their acceptance rate increase. Basically we are getting the same crappy treatment as before Submittable but now editors get more help with this electronic service and we have to pay for it.

3. We are better than those free publications and actually pay our writers. Sure you do---directly from the submission fees. See Contests above, since the chances you are handing money to a writer who hasn’t left his mother’s basement in three years is highly probable. These journals are not looking for good writing; they are seeking yes-men and women. They want echoes; not voices.

Stage Fees/Performance Fees:  I love theatres that advertise no script or submissions fees and then you read further and see the dreaded stage fee. A number of theatres now charge for your production. If they grace you with their astounding wisdom and pick your one-act play (it’s almost always shorter works because that allows them to make much more money per evening performance) they require you to pay $150 to $250 to rent the “space”. The circular logic is practically laughable if it weren’t so unethical. Our selection process is not compromised because we don’t charge a submission fee so no one can be excluded. The only thing happening here is they are hitting you on the back end instead of the front end. You get selected and you pay that fee you just entered a vanity drama production. And any legit production house has every right to look at your drama resume with caution. You just pissed on your own leg.

Subscribe to our Publication Fee:  This is no different than a submission fee. And if they try to say different laugh at them and move ahead to another more ethical market. If you are being forced to hand over money in order to submit a written work --- it is a submission fee.

Buy One of Our Books or Chapbooks Fee:   This is not different than a submission fee. Chances are highly unlikely that press will accept your book but they just got you to buy one of theirs. Don’t pay a fee. Don’t buy one of their books in “exchange” for considering your manuscript.

Judging artistic merit is a time honored practice meant to instruct as much as invigorate the world community. It is not supposed to be a money-changing temple full of self-appointed critics who understand the price of everything and the value of nothing.

F is Not for Fees.

F is for fine poetry.
F is for flash fiction.
F is for fantastic creative non-fiction.
F is for focused drama

The F is for your failure to honestly care about writers.

And the F is for the word we should be giving you more often.

But writers also need to take personal and artistic responsibility and stop sending money to support literary destinations that do not support you. I am not suggesting a boycott or a street protest. I am plainly saying please save your money for print cartridges. And do not pay these people to ignore you, disrespect you, and reject you. You deserve better. They deserve an F.

Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of fifteen titles. He is a writer for 36 years, 34 of those did not include sending money to fools. He is also the Editor in Chief of Ariel Chart, an online literary publication that doesn't charge a fee of any kind. No spiel. Only real.



  1. Thank you for speaking out about this!!

  2. You are welcome. This is a necessary article. Fees getting out of control.

    Mark Antony Rossi

  3. You need to write a sequel. The fees are getting worse.

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