‘The Give and Take of Literary Magazines’ by Michelle Betters

— Hannah Cohen

As someone who co-edits an online journal, I ultimately want to be part of a community that gives back. I, along with my co-editors, have invested our own money into a journal that doesn’t charge submission fees (but we can’t pay). Most of us don’t go into publishing because we expect easy money. If anything, “[m]oney…seems to move in only one direction,” says Michelle Betters, who just recently penned ‘The Give and Take of Literary Magazines’. Betters goes in depth about the increased elevation in status of online journals; how they are challenging the landscape of publishing—increasing visibility of traditionally underrepresented voices, for example. However, submission fees are tangled up in several Venn Diagrams of economics, marketing, and accessibility. When it comes to the poetry market, it becomes more of a pay-to-play scheme rather than genuine interest.

How can literary journals better serve the very writers they want to publish that can’t afford fees? Speaking from personal experience, a simple $3 submission fee can turn into tens and hundreds of dollars over time. I don’t claim to have an answer, so just read the essay and think about what you and I can do in the long run.


Ploughshares