When I set the submission fee to $10, I told myself I wouldn't write a long apologetic post about it. When I spent $30 of my final paycheck to run a Facebook ad to reach almost 10k people, I steeled myself to take some heat from people who are against submission fees.
When I say "steel myself," what I mean is "hahaha I'm a poet, my skin is made of stale pastry flakes held together by honey, but I will so pretend to be tough!" This approach of being tough even though I'm not is how I've survived to my 30s, but enough about me.
Should You Pay Submission Fees?
Only if you want to. There are over 100 reputable literary prizes and journals that charge no submission fee. You can publish your own work for free, though marketing your book will likely cost you. So will marketing your blog, hiring an agent, paying an editor, attending a workshop, or any number of things writers pay for in order to be read.
Writers are woefully underpaid and undersupported, and being asked to shell out money for the privilege of an editor glancing at your title page might be too much. If it's too much, then please don't do it. You will find a way, you will meet the right people, you will discover the right opportunities, as long as you don't give up. Only you know what you're able to invest, and you deserve support, so surround yourself with those who believe in you. And don't give up.
Why We Are Charging Submission Fees
The primary reason is to cover administrative costs, which add up to about $200 annually. That is, if I don't splurge on Facebook ads, which I do, actually, in order to get our writers' work seen. But I'm willing to do that out of pocket, so let's go with that $200 figure.
At $10 per submission, we need 20 submissions per year, or 10 per issue, to run the publication.
Breaking even seems like a realistic goal. The next goal is to offer prizes. I would like to see the prize amounts go up and the submission fee go down as we gain more readership and build a real community. That's the plan, and I'm sticking to it!
What Do Writers Receive In Return?
In addition to administrative costs and the chance to be published, the $10 fee gets writers:
Personalized, constructive feedback on each submission
Coaching in the form of recommended reading, suggestions of other publications or contests to enter, and encouragement from a fellow writer
Additionally, winners who are selected for publication receive:
Publicity in the form of SEO-optimized blogs and paid social media ads
Ongoing relationship through which you can promote your future work
There are a lot of literary journals out there, operating on a variety of business models. At this time, Wards is a small, volunteer-run project that makes less money than it costs to run. Nevertheless, we are committed to giving you something valuable in exchange for your work and for the cost of submitting. As we grow. we'll gladly offer payment and/or prize money; to expedite this outcome, we're currently seeking alternate sources of funding, so stay tuned!
I truly don't know how we'll grow after issue 02, but I'm determined to grow, and my thin skin will just have to put up with it. The thing about thin skin is it's pretty transparent, so there you have it: transparency about fees.