Why We Never Charge Reading Fees

January 7, 2022

We launched a Patreon page to help us pay our contributors and cover our operating expenses. Thanks for signing up!

While you ponder this, let’s talk about another potential revenue stream, which seems like a no-brainer, but actually is the worst idea possible:

Reading fees.

But really, why not? After all, reading slush is work. In fact, we’re taking this entire month of January off from publishing new fiction while we work through the hundreds of submissions we received from our last open call.

Reading these submissions is not easy — is, in fact, physically taxing, and emotionally draining.

You can’t just churn through the slush pile; like any long session at a screen, it wears you down. And if you end up asleep at the wheel, you’ll miss something good, and do a worthy manuscript an injustice.

Sometimes the slush pile has some deeply felt stuff in it. Stories about loss. Anger. Regret. Folks are working out their issues. Even if a given submission isn’t a good match for your publication, you can still get a gut punch from it.

So why not charge a reading fee? For the time, and energy, and hard-earned editorial discernment.

After all, if The Fabulist charged $5 per submission for our last open call, we’d have brought in $1,750 from the 350 manuscripts we received. That would cover all our annual software and digital-publishing costs, and even leave a bit left over for paying writers.

Yeah, but no.

We accept around 1 to 3 percent of the submissions we receive. The vast majority end up declined. For a myriad reasons, they’re not a good match for our pages.

That means most folks would be paying a reading fee for the privilege of being told “no.”

Worse, our business model would start to depend on getting more and more submissions that we’ll never accept.

Well, we could try to justify this by offering some advice to every declined submission, right?

No!

If we took as little as five minutes to write a short critique for every submission we declined, that would add up to almost 30 hours of manuscript critique for our current open call alone.

And what can a writer really get from a critique that took a mere five minutes to write?

And also — what would be the point? We only know what’s good for us. What we want to see. Our advice about a manuscript might be total bunk for another publisher.

No, we can’t, in all fairness, charge a reading fee. It’s an honor to read the manuscripts that we receive. Even the ones we don’t accept. The authors are doing us a service. Sharing with us their creative darlings. We’re quite knocked out to know that anyone would want to see their work in our pages.

Our goal is to make a beautiful home for fantastical fiction that we like. Glad to know that’s working.

Rather than mine the wallets of aspirants, we’d very much like to inspire the support of readers who value the venue we’re creating for new fantastical fiction.

Which brings us back to our new Patreon page, which exists for exactly this purpose.

Please do pile on!

Subscribers gain access to a new monthly e-zine for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Apple and Android e-readers, plus a number of other excellent literary treats.

Thanks so much for your support, and read on …

If you like what we're doing, please support us on Patreon
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