The publication game is a beast with a big appetite. You’ve been there. You submit to this journal and then to that journal or a whole list of journals. Maybe you’re like me and you create tiers of journals and cycle your short stories through rejection after rejection. What’s the price we’re paying? No, I don’t mean the soul crushing price, but that will make for a great post in the future. I’m meaning, sad to say, the actual dollar bill cost for submitting your soul to the highest bidder.
I don’t like to think of myself as a pessimist–more a realist. I’m not going to dissuade anyone from going after their goals and dreams. Some dream for the dollars, others dream for the story, while most dream for the podium. I would be in the last two groups.
But while we dream and chase those dreams and write for those dreams, there is this really real world outside our isolated matrix and it eats, sleeps, and shits money. I started the process of publication about ten years after I started actually putting stories into words (Or is it words into stories?), and I remember the good old days when you never had to pay for a reading fee. Not at a lit journal. Yeah, you had to pay for the postage on the big ass, thick, yellow envelopes, but that was a buck at worst.
Over the last few years I’ve seen it more and more. Lit journal after lit journal charging fees. They’re all falling to the beast. Agents have long ago tried to charge reading fees and writers are savvy so those individuals never lasted. But when the exception becomes the rule, you’re forced to pay homage to the gods of money.
And the contests. You knew it was coming. Yes, the writing contests. Every journal, whether they charge a fee or not, has jumped on this bandwagon. Submit to a writing contest and pay just a few dollars. Those few dollars add up when thousands of vulnerable and desperate writers throw themselves onto the flames. You’ll get recognition (but I’m already loved) and publication (but I already submitted). The things we do for gold stars and high fives.
Then they said, “You’ll need to attend a writer’s conference if you want a literary agent to truly consider your work.” And I have to pay for that one-on-one sit down? For a gentle “no” and some fake-ass rehearsed advice? What? You said how many hundreds of dollars for airfare, hotel, meals, breakout sessions, and class fees? Not to mention you’re going to have to take a week off work. Yeah, the job that puts food in your kids’ mouths.
All this is after graduate school…after. Holy shit!