I am usually very skeptical when submitting my writing for a fee. Of course I understand that small and independent presses need to somehow make money to stay in business, but it seems a bit ridiculous to pay a reading fee, unless it’s a small total ($2-$5). Why not just require purchase of the literary journal for each author whose writing is accepted?
I had bad luck with one such press and became a bit skeptical after my experience. I don’t want to name the press, but I will, because I feel cheated and want to warn others to be wary. A few months back, I submitted my fiction chapbook to the Black River Chapbook Competition for Black Lawrence Press. They’re one of few publications who hold fiction chapbook contests so I did not mind paying the submission fee. My money was received through Paypal quickly, but my submission was never confirmed. When I emailed Black Lawrence, they ignored me. Twice. I tried to add their page on Facebook. Denied. I thought it was a mistake so I sent a nice message and requested them again. Denied. I felt sad, angry, and cheated. So many thoughts went through my head. Was my writing so horrible that they have blacklisted me for life? I felt rejected, worthless, and it really made me doubt myself as a writer. During all this, I received a mass email from Black Lawrence asking all submitters to buy previous editions of their chapbooks. Anyone who does will have a better chance of being published with them, the email subtly implied. After the way I was treated, I refused to give any more money to Black Lawrence. It was obvious the way they conducted themselves and it was not for me. I will stay away from them in the future and will warn others to do the same.
Around the same time, I submitted to the 79th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. I had all but forgotten about it when I received an email that my short story, Three Little Words, had placed in the Genre competition. I was ecstatic. If Writer’s Digest recognized my work out of the thousands and thousands being submitted, I must be doing something right. The next day, I received another email. My story, Lies My Mother Told Me: A Semi-true Story in 10 Parts, had placed even hired in the Mainstream/Literary fiction category. I felt on top of the world. It made me realize that sometimes it does pay to submit for a fee, but it’s important to be cautious when doing so.
Always research the press/magazine/organization before submitting. Read reviews and check for others who might have been scammed. Of course, that’s not always effective. I couldn’t find any negative feedback about Black Lawrence, so I felt safe submitting to them. I will be careful in the future. Also remember to never pay a fee that’s higher than $50. Even that amount is a bit excessive. The higher the reading fee, the more likely it’s a scam. Submit cautiously.
P.S. Writer’s Digest has some upcoming competitions. Check them out and submit your best work. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Until next time,
The Accidental Blogger