essay on poetry contests

Publishers Who Take Advantage of Poets and Writers

By g emil reutter

When we published The Fox Chase Review the thought of charging a reader fee never entered our minds. We were delighted that poets and writers would contribute to the review and allow us to share their work with our readers. We thought it generous of them in that we could not pay them for their art.

The proliferation of reader fees for submissions continues to expand across the print and electronic press. Although some use the reader fee to pay those they publish many more do not. Coupled with the dramatic increase in publications charging poets and writers to pay a reading fee is the vast number of contests required to submit to magazines or publishers. Once again many do use the fees to pay poets and writers, far too many do not.

For example a publication that receives 3000 submissions per year and charges a $3.00 reading fee via electronic means does not seem that costly considering the price of mailing a submission in today’s market. The publication does pocket $9,000 from poets and writers. While this profit from struggling poets and writers may go to the cost of publication, or paying staff, many of these publications receive funding from other sources. Many book contests use the money to pay a stipend to the contest winner with a few complimentary copies of the book, these contests charge anywhere from $25.00 per submission to over $100.00. Even at the low end of $25.00, if a publisher receives 200 submissions that is a profit of $50,000. Of course the poets and writers who enter contests and win get to add the award to their resume and reward their ego. Those who don’t continue to expend money to other contests and magazines with little reward for their art.

I do understand the cost of publishing a print or electronic magazine and the costs involved in small press publishing even with POD. After eight years of publishing The Fox Chase Review with a small staff and the costs of maintaining the website we decided to retire the review. We felt an obligation to those who contributed to the review and each edition is available though not in the original form along the masthead of our blog at The Fox Chase Review

So is there a solution? There is. Poets and writers should support the fine print and electronic journals who do not charge a fee for reading their art and those small press publishers who do not engage in for profit contest fees. I know they all ask where you have been published and you probably like to add your contest wins to your resume but all in all it really doesn’t matter where you are published, the fact that your art is out there and people are reading it should matter the most.

The submission process is difficult enough without paying fees. Do the work and search out compatible publications with your art, support them by submitting your poem or story and if rejected reach out and find another.

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter