Rhizomaticideas.com recently published a great short essay on the problems with literary magazines charging a reading fee. As someone with a serious Marxist chip on my shoulder, (see attached diagram for geo-spatial details) I have a serious issue with this particular form of class-based exclusion. I won’t waste your time restating what was stated so well and directly in the linked article, but I would like to take a moment to go on record about a few aspects of literary publishing.
1. Most reading fees are, indeed, bullshit. There are exceptions.
2. A contest, especially one that includes a journal subscription in exchange for your application fee, is not the same thing as a reading fee.
3. Lit mags that structure their entire submissions model as if it were a contest, a contest where every prize is shitty or nonexistent, suck, and in an ontological and irredeemable expression of suckiness.
4. I will, in spite of my deep-seated irritation at them, continue to pay reading fees, but only when I am submitting to a very high-tier publication that I feel my work is an excellent fit for. But I won’t fucking like it.