Friday, September 29, 2006

Subscriptions and Submissions

Arlene Ang has had a poem accepted in the Poetry Salzburg Review, a magazine I’d heard of but didn’t know a great deal about. It looks very good (judging by the contributors), but before rushing to send your poems, take a look at issue 10’s editorial (.pdf file). A quick excerpt:

“When I receive email submissions, I send the poets a personal letter, acknowledging receipt of their submission and asking them to take out a submission. More than 90 percent do not reply. If only one third of these hopefuls replied and sent in a subscription, our finances would be in better shape. We could even turn Poetry Salzburg Review into a triquarterly magazine, or if deserted by our better judgement, start making token payments.” – Wolfgang Gortchacher

My first reaction is to sympathise. I see clearly the essential difficulty he points to, that ninety percent of poets want to see their poems published but don’t want to support the publication or even read it. If poets valued the literary magazines more, the magazines could be in a position to value poets to the extent of paying for contributions.

On the other hand, there are so many magazines, and even though subscribing to a few shouldn’t be a problem for most people, the subscription costs begin to add up. Should poets restrict sending poems only to magazines they subscribe to for fear of being thought parasites by those they submit to but don’t pay for?

I know that’s not what he means, and he takes pains to explain that his magazine will publish poems from subscribers and non-subscribers alike. But how many submitting poets don’t subscribe to any poetry magazines? Perhaps I’m living in a delusion. Maybe 90 percent of poets really don’t!


Kevin said...

I don't subscribe to any, and do feel a little bad about it; though being a jobless student, it's hard enough to feed myself and have some semblance of a social life. Can i make £80 last two and a half weeks?

Arlene said...

interesting question, rob. i've wondered about this myself — and you have a strong point about there being so many magazines out there.

i sort of work around it backwards: i submit to magazines that i like because i'd like to get a free copy/subscription. sometimes i waive payment if it helps keep the magazine running or revert the payment back to the magazine for a subscription.


Rob said...

Well, everyone has different circumstances, which affects what they can afford to spend money on. But no one can subscribe to everything, even if they are very well-off.

I know magazines need subscribers to survive and flourish and can see why editors might look at submitters and wonder why they don't suppoprt the magazine. In some cases, it might be because the submitter is supporting 10 other magazines.

I think your way of doing it is fine, Arlene, and editors no doubt realise that people who waive payment for a subscription will keep subscribing if they like the product, so it suits editors too.

I suppose it's possible to argue that there are simply too many magazines producing similar stuff. On the other hand, all magazine editors will feel that their magazine is unique in some way, and deserves support more than any other. There aren't any easy answers.

I suppose the targets of the editorial are people who submit, who could afford to subscribe to a number of magazines, and yet don't - possibly because they aren't interested in poetry half as much as seeing their name in print. Whether that applies to the majority of submitters (as the editorial implies) is hard for me to know.