This is one issue I see from both sides. I think with the ease of electronic submissions, magazines are getting bombarded with rubbish, because if submitting a piece required no monetary investment, there is less of a stake in making sure it’s polished. There is sort of a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” sort of attitude. I admit, I’ve been guilty of this, only because I’ve seen so much bad, poorly written material get published, I thought, what the heck? Of course, I take pride in my work, but when something was free to enter, I didn’t worry as much about trying to make sure it was what they were looking for (I didn’t read their publication, because I didn’t want to pay for a sample copy. Yes, I’m cheap, but that gets expensive, if you start buying sample copies from numerous publications.).
So, I ordered last year’s Writer’s Market (it was a third cheaper than this year’s) from amazon.com (I rarely buy new books), and was pretty ticked off when I spent the better part of the hour I should have been sleeping, compiling a list of all the poetry contests that didn’t have an entry fee listed. And guess what? When I went to the websites, I found that all but one (some blue collar poetry contest–how narrow of a category is that?) was the only one out of 20+ contests that didn’t charge the author for submission. I think that’s a bit sneaky, because that is pretty much the deciding factor for me, at least for now, and I’m talking about fifteen dollar entry fees for the chance to win a hundred dollar prize, not to mention a few were chapbook contests, so for a collection of poetry, that was all you could win.
I get it. Most of these publications don’t make any money off subscriptions (I’m beginning to think the arts should pay for themselves, but I’ve heard it said if that was the case, only “art” like the latest pop music, etc., would exist, but that’s a topic of discussion for another time), but to charge (most of them) such exorbitant fees, just to read your work, is unconscionable.
Seems like everyone writes poetry, but few read it. Since I’ve gotten onto a poetry writing kick, I’ve been reading it more. It’s not like a mystery suspense novel, that makes you keep turning the pages–poetry isn’t something you consume like fast food, it’s something you savor, and, as Americans, we tend to like everything fast. Poetry doesn’t just make you think about what’s written, but what’s not written, what’s between the lines.
I have to say, I’ve had much better luck finding free venues in which to submit my work through http://writingcareer.com/, that a girl from our local writer’s group turned us on to. It’s fantastic! I’ve submitted to several publications through this, and haven’t had to pay a penny to do so.
It’s too bad, because I love to support the little guy (or girl, or people), but I can’t afford to pay them for the subscriptions they don’t get. I have to send my work to places like “Highlights for Children”, to give an example (though I think the only people who subscribe to them are doctors’ and dentists’ offices), even though the competition is much more fierce; yet, I think I might have a better chance with them, because they’re producing for the masses, and I get the feeling that having some kind of Ivy League or degree in English literature (“Glimmer Train” comes to mind) is almost a prerequisite.
I like what I like, and I don’t try to pretend I’m into all the classics, though there are a few I enjoy, but I don’t eat them up like I do with a novel of Lisa Jackson’s, for example, whose stories keep me reading late into the night. I like a little more substance than Harlequin romance, but I’m not into slogging through tomes like “Don Quixote”.
So, backtracking a bit, I don’t have a problem with a three or even a five dollar entry fee here and there, but for the most part, I’m going to avoid them and pursue all the free entries I can (ones that pay more than publication and contributor’s copies, anyway). Heck, as much as some of these fees are, I’d rather just have to pay to mail them in! That alone, would cut down on the rubbish they receive, because having to prepare a submission for snail mail, then having to drive to the post office and having to wait in line…that takes commitment. I guess an entry fee is the price we pay for convenience, because having to pay a fee on top of the cost of mailing it in, well, I think they would get few takers on that.