On the Subject of Online Submissions

A few days ago I received an e-mail from Meridian, the Semi-Annual from the University of Virginia, announcing that the journal is now accepting electronic submissions of poetry, fiction, and essays. This is good news if you like to submit your work online, not necessarily via e-mail, but by using a journal’s specific online submission system.

Using such a system typically requires you to come up with yet another password, and you’ll have yet another e-account to keep track of. But there are benefits: you don’t need to print out a copy of your work and prepare an entire submission package; you don’t need to spend postage on the submission (or the SASE); you don’t need to leave your chair to get your work “out.” It’s less likely that the work will get “lost in the mail” and you can log in and confirm manuscript receipt and find out if the editors have rendered a decision yet.

But some people may wonder: is this convenience worth paying a reading fee that one can forego by sticking to the old snail mail system?

Meridian is charging a $2 reading fee for work submitted online (apparently one prose submission or up to 4 poems). The editors’ e-mail explained that this fee is necessary for two reasons. First, using the online database software raises their operation costs. And second, they’d like authors “to hesitate, a little, before just clicking a ‘send’ button.”

Two dollars isn’t outrageous, and as the editors point out, it’s possible that postage costs would end up “about the same,” anyway (and don’t forget the money saved along with the toner and paper). Still, plenty of journals (One Story and Kenyon Review are two examples that come to mind) accept online submissions through their own database systems without charging a penny.

Yes, these also tend to be journals that don’t accept snail mail submissions at all. Still, if they can run an online submissions system without charging writers money to use it, it seems that others should be able to, too.