I wasn't going to throw in my two cents about this whole Flatmancrooked submission debacle since it's already been done here and here, but I figure I haven't done a good rant in awhile, so here goes. I believe this was a long time coming and isn't surprising at all. After all, Narrative opened the door with their outrageous $20 reading fees. I mean, seriously, $20 for a regular submission? Most contest entry fees aren't even that much. People complain about Narrative but Narrative gets away with it, year after year, and why? Because writers are stupid enough to pay. They believe in their hearts and minds and souls and whatever else body part that their stories are great enough to be published in those hallowed webpages and so they fork over $20 and wait half a year for a form rejection. And their $20? That goes to help pay the professional writers who are solicited by Narrative and who aren't required to pay any reading fee. See what they do there? The magazine takes the money from writers who will never have a shot to be published there and uses it to pay the writers with name recognition; the writers with name recognition being published in the magazine gives the magazine enough esteem that novice writers think they can get published there too, and so they submit their stories along with their $20 reading fees ...
Yes, that's right, it's a literary journal circle jerk, except the only ones getting screwed are the writers who don't know better.
And now here you have Flatmancrooked who will read your stories and get back to you in, oh, maybe a year. Or you can do this option:
Flatmancrooked offers !EXPEDITED! submissions and charges a $5.00 read, review and handling fee. These fees help cover infrastructure and printing costs for the website and journal. The current response time for !EXPEDITED! submissions is 14 working days.
Notice the "current response time" is 14 working days. This is, of course, subject to change. It could become less. It could become a whole lot more. And a response is a response; it doesn't necessarily mean your story will be considered any seriously as those stories wasting away in the regular submission slush pile. Most editors read the first page or two of stories and that's it, so, in theory, all your $5 is getting you is a quicker rejection.
Honestly, I don't really know much about Flatmancrooked. Their name is familiar but I've never read anything they've done or even submitted. And now with this new scheme they have going, I'll definitely never submit.
But they, I believe, are only the first. Soon more will follow. After all, it costs time and money to run a literary journal, even if it is online, and if you're receiving hundreds of submissions a month, then why not charge a few bucks per submission? In fact, based on John Minichillo's comment at HTMLGIANT, it seems Submishmash is encouraging such practices:
I think the bigger question is that Submishmash, which very quickly became the standard for submissions, has openly supported this kind of thing. They have a vested interest in charging for submissions and if it comes down to Submishmash going away or magazines charging a nominal fee, more easily justified because some of the places people respect and covet already do it...
You see, Submishmash offers their services to journals and writers for free. Hell, I have an account with them. They do nice work. But they're also a business, and ultimately they want to make money, which shouldn't be surprising at all.
It seems, once again, that in the literary world, the only ones not making money are writers. Right or wrong, this is where we now find ourselves, and it's only going to get worse.