It’s the Green Thing To Do

31 Dec


I have this dumb rule about submitting work to agents and editors, and applying for grants and awards, and entering pieces in contests; and that rule is:

Never pay to have your work read.

A few years ago, some enterprising literary journals figured out that if they accepted electronic submissions, they could transfer the costs of the submitting process (postage, paper, packing materials, etc.) from the author over to the magazine. Prior to 1999, when I first began submitting stories, emailing an editor with a story was considered bad form. Over the years, resistance to this practice has weakened (usually under the auspices of “going green”), and now e-submissions, and with them reading fees, are the norm. Yet my rule remains:

Never pay to have your work read.

That said, if you happen to have written an extremely technical 12,000-word novella about spelunking, and Caving Magazine is open to fiction submissions, but is charging a $3 fee, then you should probably go ahead and pay the fee. Three dollars is, to all but the lowest of paupers, an insubstantial sum of money. But paying editors to consider your work sets a bad precedent, and I predict that if the trend continues, it won’t be long before magazines are offering “premium members” the chance to bypass the slush pile and have their work zoom directly into the hands of an editor.

On a less political note:

Mr. Slag,

This is a great, detailed piece of experiences in young adulthood. I wish we had a place for it at the current time. Best of luck on all future writing,


Clearly this story was not ready to go out on submission. Praising a story for its “detail” is the equivalent of passing out a participation award at a fourth-grade spelling bee. It is a textbook example of damning with faint praise. I appreciate the personalized response, but moreover I am grateful for the masked criticism. The day I catch myself writing fiction about my “experiences in young adulthood” is the day I shoot myself in the balls.


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