I am extremely adamant about not submitting my writing to any publication that requires a reader’s fee. 1) There are plenty of wonderful journals, magazines, and anthologies that accept submissions sans money and 2) I should not be paying anyone to read my writing. Like many others in the arts and humanities fields, writers are grossly underpaid or not paid at all (which is more frequently the case). As a publisher, it’s your choice to run a publication which means it’s your responsibility to find funding (whether it’s through grants, patrons, or your own stockpile of basement cash). Paying for a finished journal itself is, of course, acceptable, but I think the concept of a reader’s fee is a crying shame.
I recently decided to conduct a little experiment. I submitted a story of mine to an anthology that required a fee. You paid it separately via PayPal so you are able to email them first and pay later. I did only the former and purposefully neglected the latter. I was informed twice about my lack of payment. I received the final email today: “Just a reminder: We’ve received your story but not your fee. If we don’t get it in the next week or so (before the deadline), we won’t be able to accept your submission.”
Which leads me to my subconscious dismissal of publications that only publish work by writers that have paid to have their writing appear there. It wasn’t until recently that what used to be subconscious had surfaced to the front of my mind. As a reader, I avoid such publications. Why do I want to read writing that someone paid to have placed? It could be entirely well-deserved of publication but the nasty business of reader’s fee has blemished it all for me. When a journal, magazine, or anthology puts out a call for submissions, it should be just that. “Hey! We’re looking for some great writing. Send it our way.” It should not be a palm greasing monetary transaction that excludes those who cannot afford to send cash-in-hand to every lame publication out there.
It is a real disappointment that writers in general are always being asked to work for free (although, there are moments when it could be acceptable–for example, certain non-profits). I think, in a way, it is even more of a travesty to make them pay for their own work as well as narrowing the pool of submitted work to choose from. Just remember, there are plenty of wonderful publishers who are looking for exciting, new writing and don’t charge you to submit. Now, paying writers for their work–that’s a whole other story.