A Guide to Interpreting Literary Journal Submission Guidelines

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Free Online Submission

Interpretation: We really like you and respect you. There are diamonds in the slush pile and we want to find them. It’s virtually free for us to accept online submissions so we won’t charge you on some trumped up charge. We get undergrads and MFA students to wade through all the slush for free anyways, so labor costs aren’t exactly a problem. English/Writing programs are cash cows for universities, so it’s ever so nice they throw back a pittance of that money for a literary journal. Please send us your work and we will treat it fairly.

Avatar: The Saint

$2 Online Submission

Interpretation: We really hate having to charge for this. We really do. If we could, we wouldn’t charge at all. And we’re one of the few that understands that $2 is much closer to what people actually pay for snail mail (it’s actually more like $1.50 to send through the postal service), but we still apologize.

Avatar: The Annoying but Good-Hearted Neighbor

$3 Online Submission

Interpretation: Our university cut our funding by 70%. The Administration thinks every journal should be self-supporting, and the Dean who is a business guru doesn’t believe in the humanities unless they generate cash. Cash being the only measure of goodness in the world, obviously. Plus, we get too many submissions already and want only the truly serious to submit to us, even if most of those crazy enough to fork over $3 every submission are literary stalkers and desperate and talentless. Also, we want to make money off the backs of writers, because writers are a group with high hopes that can be exploited easily. Lastly, even after we receive your fee, do not believe that it entitles you to any kind of prompt response — the fee merely covers the privilege of submitting, not the reply. We might offer a written response to a large percentage of submitters to make them think they were close and prod them to submit again. If we’re a big journal, we’re trying to raise money; if we’re a small journal we have an inflated ego. Lastly, we have to charge this fee because it hurts our eyes to read things online (it’s hurting us even to write this, my preciousmy precious!) and so we print out every single submission we receive (*We don’t. But it sounds good*).

Avatar: The Shark

$5 – $20 Submission Fees

Interpretation: We are a small clan, but take great pleasure in economically raping vulnerable writers. After sending tsunamis of form rejections and making snow angels in piles of money, we drink the blood of children.

Avatar: The Vampire

Contest Submissions Only

Interpretation: We want to take advantage of writers’ desire to gamble. It’s not a submission fee if you could possibly win ONE MILLION dollars. Or something with a few less zeros. If we include a free issue of our journal, we can hike up the fee to $25. In a non-profit field, we have figured out how to be a for-profit venture.

Avatar: The Venture Capitalist

Print Submission Only

Interpretation: We hate the internet and we hate internet culture. Life was better before television and texting and maybe even the radio. We also have no desire to read the slush pile and wish people would stop sending us manuscripts because we get everything we need from agents. We still accept submissions because people only subscribe to our journal because they want to appear in our journal, and we aren’t dumb enough to shoot all our subscribers in the heart. Even if we turn into an online publication, we will still only accept manuscripts by the U.S. Postal Service, and the irony of this will escape us. We don’t believe in having a website made or updated in the last eight years and if we have a halfway decent website we don’t give away our stories for free on it.

Avatar: The Geriatric

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  1. Half bullshit.

    I have no reason to not respect those who only accept print submissions.

    Okay, 1/6th bullshit, then.

    Any shithead can cc 100+ online journals. But it takes a real writer to own a printer. With toner or ink. And paper. And then print that shizzle, go find a manilla envelope, go back home to find the address, off the Internet, etc.

    Writers who bitch and moan about not being able to submit online are writers, I would argue–and I’d put money on it–who aren’t worth reading in the first place.

    1. I am always excited to find out I am only 1/6th bullshit. Usually the fraction is much higher.

      But I wonder if your definition of a real writer — someone who owns a printer, ink and paper — might lack something.

      1. I think the amount of bullshit contained in a person varies with the time of day and the occupation in question. Printing off stuff which is not going to see its way into print could be viewed as just wasting paper.

  2. Hi, Yes , it is the cynical look and although funny, it also feels sort of correct. However, sending in and making the finalist list is good for my resume when I am querying and maybe it helps. I am taking the positive view.

    1. Yes, only meant to be funny. I still apply to journals using every category of submission, all except for the $5 – $20 folks.