I can’t quite put my finger on whether Chris Haven’s article Why I Must Charge People Fees For Their Own Art about the state of the state of writing is sadly funny or just sad, but I know it’s accurate.
I also kind of don’t mind that reading fees are now being charged.
1. Quality Control: I know for a fact that when I had to shell out money for postage, I spent a lot more time studying the journals my work might fit best. Never mind that I was never once accepted to one of those journals. I was choosier. I didn’t have much money those days, and I still don’t have many discretionary funds. It’s certainly easier to make my hopeful publishing transactions for free. However, it’s no secret that when writers are choosier about where their work goes, the reading load lessens for the editors on the other side. This means more interested eyes are available for my work.
With a submishmash account (or basic access to the internet; let’s just be real) and duotrope, I (the unpublished writer) have the ability to just blitz the hell out of fifty journals in one night. People do.
2. Possible Pay for Everybody: A small reading fee (not much more than the postage I’d once pay to send a story out), increases the likelihood that if I am accepted, I’ll be paid. If not, maybe my soon to be published story will be housed comfortably and available to new readership for years to come. Maybe the editors are to be paid a small stipend for partnering with me for a week or two until we both look good on the screen.
3. The Future is Now: Paper is on its way out. It’s uncomfortable to admit, given my difficulty adjusting to the Kindle, but now when I visit the shelves of any book store, I’m starting to get the same nostalgic feeling previously reserved for the CD collection at Half Price Books (and powerlines). The books are going to start stopping. This is the cut-off decade (for CDs, it’s the ’90s), and soon we’ll just be looking at shelves filled with a million used copies of Stephen King and Jodi Picoult and Janet Evanovich – the same way I run smack up against Poi Dog Pondering, Sophie B, Hawkins, and Dave Matthews Band every time I head to Half Price to scratch a cheap music itch.
If paper is disappearing, the traditional ways of paying and getting paid for paper will be changing. If paying a small reading fee helps the publishing world make the shitty transition from paper to e-reader/screen with a little less damage done to the writer, editor and publisher, then count me in.