Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fees, Business Models, Publishing, Oh My!

It may be worth a mention that when I set the submission fees for the print edition, I consulted with a marketing expert with more years of experience in his field than I've been alive. My initial thought was $5 across the board, and he balked at this. He urged us to go for $20, but I knew that was too high.

He offered his reasoning for this, which essentially entailed weeding out not-very-dedicated submitters, where the idea was to encourage a higher quality of submissions, and to let people know the print edition should be taken seriously. His line of reasoning is that people realize they get what they pay for, and having a fee on the higher end would provide the image of a higher quality publication.

Thinking about this, I considered the existing identity of the online journal, with an ackowledgement that any print edition would be associated with the online journal right out of the gate. We've always been free, and the only time a fee has been charged was for a competition for which, yes, there was a prize and print publication, with complimentary copies being awarded in tiers, from the Grand Prize winner through honorable mentions. But competitions are different from a standard print issue and therefore are based on a different model.

Updates that will be posted to the print submission guidelines are:

* That a complimentary issue is provided for all submitters
* Adjustment to the fees
* Removal of fees for reviews
* That published authors will receive compensation, TBD

I do take issue with Robert Swartwood saying that the business model is a bad decision. I am far from Narrative's greatest fan, but they are essentially doing the same thing. This doesn't make it right, but it doesn't make it wrong, either. Has it worked for them? Obviously, yes. That is neither to say that it would work for me, nor that our fee structure is based off of theirs. The reason I divulged how I came up with the fee structure in the first place was to show that it was not based off anything anyone else was doing, but by consulting with someone who knows what he's talking about, and by taking into consideration the current incarnations of the journal.

The bottom line is this: if you don't like the fees, don't submit to the journal. Soon they will look a lot friendlier, and then some other schmuck will likely come along and whine that we don't pay enough to our contributors... and the cycle goes on.

6 comments:

Laura Ellen Scott said...

Thanks for showing us what goes on in the back room! I hear Chumbawumba in the distance.

Nick said...

Dear Cynthia, I appreciate the reasoning behind your submission fees, but please consider a couple of things:

Expensive reading fees will likely discourage quality submissions from heading your way. Dedicated writers often have limited resources (okay, gross generalization). To submit work widely to journals charging submission fees can be cost-prohibitive. Especially when many journals charge much less modest fees (or no fees!), many might opt to submit elsewhere.

Are you aware that, by associating high submission fees with the quality of the end magazine, you've just unwittingly denigrated all the fine publications that charge no fees-- and all of PRICK OF THE SPINDLE's previous online issues?

I've written more about submission fee policies on my blog: http://www.nickkocz.com/1/post/2011/02/submission-fees-aesthetic-consequences.html

Cynthia Reeser said...

Hi Nick--Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and the link to your blog. I well understand the reasoning behind keeping fees low, which is why I mentioned my initial suggestion of $5 as a reading fee. Several days ago, after this posting, the fees were lowered on the website.

Also, it was the marketing guy who linked the fees with the quality of the print publication. The online journal is a different animal--no fees charged, no compensation provided. The online journal is a different model entirely. The fees are associated with two things--the development of the print edition of the journal (emphasis on print, which is costly to produce, unlike the online edition), and the ability to provide compensation. So, apples and oranges.

Lisa Marie Basile said...

Thanks, Cynthia, for this post. It's actually super insightful as I deal with the same problems from Caper's publisher Patasola Press. Great post.

Stacia M. Fleegal said...

Cynthia, you say "apples and oranges" re: print and online, but that comes after you said this:

"He offered his reasoning for this, which essentially entailed weeding out not-very-dedicated submitters, where the idea was to encourage a higher quality of submissions, and to let people know the print edition should be taken seriously. His line of reasoning is that people realize they get what they pay for, and having a fee on the higher end would provide the image of a higher quality publication."

So...print is higher quality than online? You "get what you pay for"; so if you pay nothing for the web edition, you essentially get nothing in return?

Cynthia Reeser said...

Nope, print and online are apples and oranges. He was talking about the perceived high quality of the print edition, and I didn't say I agreed with him.

To my mind, the quality of online journals has nothing to do with payment if payment is not an issue; it has to do with the quality of work and the presentation. The presentation of an online journal does not have anything to do with the materials used, since we're talking about a platform that is the same regardless--i.e., you don't get something tactile to judge presentation on, it's all visual. The quality of presentation for e-formats is, rather, based on things like, design, graphics, layout, quality of the content, how well it is edited, etc. Those same considerations matter when it comes to print, but when you are talking about something you have to pay to produce, the higher the quality of the production, i.e., the interior and cover paper, the style (things like french flaps, ragged edges, etc.), the more you pay. Make sense? I appreciate everyone being so interested in what I think about this. ;)