C. Dale Young has a poll going on at his blog asking what, if anything, we various and varied poets would be willing to pay to submit poems to a journal electronically. The comment stream is long and full of thought-out and reasoned opinions. Based on the results of the poll, an overwhelming majority would be unwilling to pay any fee at all. I lean that way myself, and I’m trying to organize my thoughts to explain why.
- One argument for fees is that $3 is what you would pay for a postal submission anyway, why not put that money toward supporting a journal? To which I say, Wha?! Maybe in your spendthrift universe, but not here! I just bought two reams of paper for a penny per, and I’ll make them last, too. Toner was more, but still purchased at a bargain.
- And if you want to argue that time is money, it’s actually quicker to print up a hard copy submission than it is to copy & paste different poems into a single new document to upload to a submission manager or attach to an email. I do it because it saves me money in postage.
- And what makes submitting online so free, anyway? I’m paying a goodly amount per month for my internet connection, more than I ever spent on stamps. I do so because it makes my job and home office possible, and endlessly enriches my poetry community. It’s a necessity these days. But it’s sure not free.
- The idea of paying a fee for the honor of a form rejection rankles. A lot.
- Would this mean that journals would start paying for poems in cash money instead of comp copies? Somehow I doubt it. I’ve never minded receiving comps as payment for my poems — I’m a fan of the journals that publish my poems. To my mind, it’s a deal we’ve struck: I won’t charge you for printing my poems, and you don’t charge me for reading them. Without submissions, a journal would have little to print.
- Subscriptions and donations are how a journal should raise money. Reading fees are coerced donations and feel predatory. And punitive.
- And for those of you who say, But $1-3 isn’t too much to ask to support a journal you like, $1-3 adds up! How lovely for you if you can afford to spend money on air, but when I send a journal a check, I like to receive an issue in return. For those of you who have that marvelous, ephemeral thing known as “discretionary” or “disposable” income, I’ll put that $1-3 in perspective for you: my 18 month old’s primary food group is yogurt, he eats two 6 oz. containers a day. On a sale day I can find his favorite for 49¢. For $1 I could put him in yogurt for a day, for $3, three days. That’s not nothing to me.
I love literary journals. Anyone who’s been a reader here for a while knows I subscribe to many. But I won’t submit to a journal that raises money on the backs of writers who make little or nothing for their work as it is. I probably wouldn’t subscribe to one either. If you need to raise money, get creative: print up some broadsides from poems you’ve printed, have the poets sign them, & sell them on your website. Hold subscription salon parties. There are many journals making a go of it without university support, and they do it with great heart and without taxing would-be contributors. I suggest the folks at hard-up journals have good long conversations with those editors if they want to keep on keeping on.
We’re all on the side of the angels here. What happens next could change everything.
Besides the stack of literary journals that have been arriving in my mailbox demanding to be more than flipped through (The Café Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Weave Magazine, Bateau, Tar River…off the top of my head), and in addition to the Tupelo Press books I am joyfully immersing in, there are a clutch of other titles I’m looking forward to reading:
She Walks Into the Sea, by Patricia Clark (Michigan State University Press, just released.) Her name rings no bells for me, but her picture looks familiar, so I’m thinking I must have seen her listed in her publisher’s sales catalog. I was introduced to her through SHE WRITES, and read about her online. Then she visited this blog and I became a fan for life. I can’t wait to dig into this new collection.
- The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song, by Ellen Bryant Voigt (Graywolf Press). The Art of... is a great series from Graywolf, and I love Ellen Bryant Voigt’s previous works of critical prose. And this is a subject that I could use exploring right now, the various ways poets structure their poems.
- Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within, by Kim Addonizio (W.W. Norton & Co.). On the one hand, I’m a sucker for this sort of thing. The autodidact in me can’t resist. But I’m afraid it’ll turn out to be a book more suited to the beginner. It has more than 300 pages, so I’m optimistic.
And my reading list would not be complete without mentioning my own chapbook. Again. Because the pre-sale is still going on for a little bit longer. If you want to order a copy, just click on the cover at right, or visit my Hunger All Inside page to get a gander at a few blurbs and a sample poem. The more books that are ordered, the better my print run will be, so thank you!
There are a few other journals I subscribe to that I forgot to mention, I don’t know why. It all seems like an abundance of riches now, doesn’t it?
- Parnassus: Poetry in Review. This comes out about once a year, and I can never keep track of whether or not I need to renew. I once bought a copy in a bookstore thinking it a new issue & my subscription must’ve run out — but I already had it on my shelves. Love this journal. It almost went under recently, so it could definitely use some support.
- Rattle. This subscription was part of a contest entry. The only kinds of contests I like to enter, and I rarely enter any, are ones that include reading material with your entry fee.
- Bateau. Great poems & the journal itself is beautifully done. Plus I got a free t-shirt with my subscription. What can I say, I’m a thrifty shopper.
- Weave Magazine. They’re having a subscription drive right now. And they accepted one of my poems for their fall issue.
Unfortunately, I’m tapped out now. But I was thinking: as I said a few posts ago, many small presses offer a good discount if you order directly from their website. However, maybe there’s a book you’re interested in from a small press that doesn’t seem to discount their books. Instead of ordering from Amazon, why don’t you email the press and ask for a discount yourself. Seriously. Why not? Amazon takes a big cut, regular bricks & mortar bookstores typically get at least 40%. I don’t recommend you ask for that much, but a 20-30% + shipping should still net the press a better profit than they’d get through Amazon.
Just a thought. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!
Financial necessity has taken a ginormous bite out of my book budget, but one of the best ways to keep up, and still support the poetry community, is through subscriptions. They’re inexpensive, and give me yet another reason to love my mail carrier. For less than your monthly phone bill you can subscribe to at least 4 literary journals. My subscriptions consist of all poetry journals, because, and I apologize to my fiction-writing friends — I will buy any issue you appear in, I promise! — I don’t read much short fiction, however optimistically I begin. And I hate waste. Hence my meager funds are devoted to my heart’s insatiable desire for poems:
To that list I will periodically add more journals, including American Poetry Journal, which just accepted 2 poems, hooray! Any recommendations?