At our AGM in early November, the 20 volunteer editorial board and staff members who govern Room decided to scrap the submission fee introduced ten months ago. Room’s $2.50 fee was optional, and priced to be similar to printing and mailing. We reinvested the new income in our contributors by adding 16 pages to the magazine, allowing us to publish more writers and artists.
However, after careful consideration, we have decided to drop the fee for a couple good reasons:
First, although 75% of submitters opted to pay the fee (thank you!), it generated much less income than expected per submission. Service charges from Submittable (our online submissions manager) are in U.S. dollars, and the fall of the Canadian dollar meant that the amount that actually went to Room was very small. We would rather invite writers to donate to us directly, so they can be sure that the majority of their donation goes to helping Room continue our mission to promote and publish literature by women, including trans* and genderqueer writers.
Second, when we introduced the fee, we received some (mild) criticism about our decision. This led us to research the conversation happening about fees, and found that though there are valid criticisms, most did not apply to our policy. We kept our fee optional. We publish a large percentage of unsolicited work. We pay writers well. And, we priced the fee to be under the cost of printing and mailing. Ten months later, however, it still seems too easy to confuse what we were doing with some of the more unethical practices that we learned about after introducing our optional fee.
For example, the fact that several writers’ sites listed us as a “fees” journal without mentioning that there was a free submissions option raised concerns that many writers would not bother visiting our website, and we would miss out on the opportunity to read and consider their work.
After careful consideration, we concluded that with such a low return from our already low fee, and our own difficulties in communicating our policies and intentions, it wasn’t worth the possibility of losing submissions, or any ill will toward our community of writers and editors.
What’s next? Well, now we’re dreaming up some other ways to help pay for our online submissions and production costs, and continue to increase our contributor payments. (Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out!) In the meantime-if you’re in a position to do so-we’d greatly appreciate your donation, subscription, or contest entries. These are all ways to help support Room and help us help you, the writers, we are dedicated to supporting.
Thanks for reading, writing, and contributing to our community.
Rachel Thompson, Managing Editor & Meghan Bell, Publisher