I’ve been asked this question a few times since we began charging $3 for submissions back in June. The question’s a valid one, and I’d like to be as transparent as possible about our decision.
When I first started submitting work, and this wasn’t too terribly long ago, every submission required paper, ink, an envelope and a SASE. This cost didn’t support the journals we were sending work to, sure, but it did serve as a barrier. If you were going to send your work somewhere, you put some thought into it. You considered whether or not your work was a good fit, perhaps even read a back issue, and definitely made sure that you were following all of the submission guidelines. Why waste a perfectly good stamp?
Now, the transition to online submissions has been a fantastic one. It’s made things easier for submitters, there’s no question about that. It’s also made sorting through submissions easier for editorial staffs, especially when you take into account companies like Submittable. And while we adore Submittable, they are another cost for the journal that must be considered. (If you’re interested in Submittable’s pricing, you can delve into the numbers here.)
I’m going to pause here to say that it’s important for you to understand that we are not trying to make profit off of submissions. In fact, making a profit off submissions alone would be impossible. On the other hand, it would also be silly to say that they don’t help when it comes to the smaller things, like offsetting the cost of Submittable.
LUMINA is run entirely by a small staff of volunteers who are also full-time graduate writing students. Talk to any of our editors and they’ll tell you that they want to be able to give each submission the attention that it deserves. Just this past week we held interviews for Editorial Assistants, and our Fiction Editor, Kevin Zambrano, made it clear to each applicant that submitters are paying now, so they better be prepared to read every submission entirely and attentively.
While other journals, such as the Missouri Review, have reported an increase in submissions after they introduced fees, we have, so far in our submission period, seen a decrease. It’s not so much of a decrease that we are concerned about having enough quality submissions, but it is enough to make a huge difference in reading time.
So if having a small fee can reduce our submission pile while also increasing the number of submissions that are put together carefully and thoughtfully, I say let’s do it.
As I mentioned before, everyone on the LUMINA staff is also a student and writer. We are eager to read exciting work and publish new voices. And we also understand that this is a controversial conversation for all of us. So all I can say is take a look at our journal. If you feel as if we are not a good fit for your work, then don’t send it. But if we are, if you can see your writing finding a home within LUMINA’s pages, then please do. We’d love to read it.