There’s been a lot of talk lately about publications charging small fees for online submissions. In the States, for example, both Ploughshares and the Missouri Review charge US$3 per submission. The idea is that the fee is set at about the level of printing and buying stamps for a posted submission, and helps to contribute to the costs of processing the submissions.
Opinions are divided on these fees: some people think it’s a good way to help raise money for publishing projects, while others feel that it’s an unfair burden on the writers.
Personally, I agree with many of the points made on both sides of the argument, and I’d certainly feel very uncomfortable about setting a fixed submission fee for The Fiction Desk. However, we do need the revenue: right now, only around one in three hundred of the people who submit actually purchase a single copy of our books, let alone a subscription. Even with other sales coming in from elsewhere, the figures just don’t add up. What this ultimately means is that there’s less time available for us to spend going through the submissions.
I’ve decided therefore to set up a voluntary submission fee, of £2 per story (about US$3). There’s now an option to pay the fee on our submissions form. You don’t have to pay it—writers who’d rather not can simply leave the box unchecked—but if you do, you’ll be helping to contribute to our running costs, which in turn will help us to promote the short story form.
There’s a side benefit too: our usual response time is three months, but where a submission fee is paid, we’ll make sure we reply within two weeks.
I think this voluntary system may be the best compromise between having an open submissions policy, and the need to raise money.
Let’s see how it goes.