It might seem strange to go from a post warning of economic language to one examining economic models for literary journals, but I’m not anti-finance — I just don’t want it to dominate all my creative work.
Here’s the situation: Literary journals seem to be moving away from institutionalized support. (See New England Review, TriQuarterly). This is mainly due to universities becoming dominated by a myopic business model plan that ignores the humanities in favor of “money-creating” departments. (a false assumption — Chronicle of Higher Education argues that humanities are actually paid for by student tuitions, as opposed to science departments).
What’s more, many of the new literary journals supported by universities are emerging online. Thus, these journals are also moving away from sales models that charge for content.
So if lit journals as a whole are moving away from institutionalized support and away from content charging, what are they moving toward? The general drift is toward supporting the journal on the backs of submitters.
Duotrope can refuse to consider journals that charge $3 for submissions, and writers can boycott these journals and magazines out of principle, but from a business model standpoint, it makes perfect sense.
If you have 500 people who want to buy your product (subscriptions) and 4,000 people who want to supply your products (submissions), then the obvious business model would be to give subscriptions online canadian drugstore away (at minimal prices or free online) but charge to submit.
It’s important to see that the recent flush of charging submitters (usually $3, but sometimes $2), is flowing along the same groove as contests. Contests create revenue.
200 submissions at $15 a pop = $3,000 – $1000 prize money = $2000 profits
400 submissions at $20 a pop = $8,000 – $2,000 prize money = $6,000 profits
And many others have pointed out that charging $3 clearly is a revenue creator for journals. Licensing the program from CLMP now costs between $330 and $550 yearly, which a couple hundred submissions would pay for. Plus, there are free/cheaper versions now, like Submishmash, Manuscript Hub and Tell It Slant. Even if every submission was printed out (which would kind of defeat the purpose of online submissions, right?), that fee would still cover the printer and paper costs.
I don’t regret that journals are earning money — they need funds to survive and support themselves, and editors and writers need to be paid. But I think people in the literary journal world should realize that the shift’s occurring, and why. It’s pragmatic.
Let me be clear: I’m not condoning the move toward contest fees and charging submitters. I would prefer submissions remain free. But I acknowledge that in our present situation with publishing and academia, the move seems to be inevitable.
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