Lit-Mag Editors Stop Being Polite, Start Getting Real

November 11, 2011 | 4

A couple dozen leading literary magazine editors recently found themselves debating “submission fees” in a long, heated, and candid listserv discussion. The complete transcript – names have been changed to protect the innocent – is alternately depressing and heartening. It’s a must-read for anyone who publishes in little magazines, or plans to, or is just curious about how editors see themselves. (Update (11/12): Apparently, the literary magazine that published this content on its website had not been authorized to do so by the Council of Literary Magazines and Small Presses, which administers the listserv. The content has since been taken down; we’ve de-activated the link to reflect that.)

is the author of City on Fire and A Field Guide to the North American Family. In 2017, he was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.


  1. If this transcript is found anywhere else online, it will be removed.

    It is troubling that the Millions would publicly link to material reproduced from a listserv discussion without first checking whether or not that material was reproduced with permission. CLMP has already begun an investigation of the breach of privacy of this listserv, and the community taking part in the discussion is outraged. This listserv was created to provide a safe forum for a particular group of people to discuss topics particular to their specialties and the guarantee of privacy was what allowed for such “candid” discussion. Privacy, in fact, is the hallmark of many listserv communities–to take it away would produce, as you might expect, a chilling effect on discussions. That the Millions, being what it is, wasn’t savvy enough to recognize this and investigate before posting this is disappointing indeed.

  2. I am one of the literary magazine publishers who took part in that recent listserv conversation, and run one of the few independent, non-grant-funded literary magazines that has required financial investment in our community before reviewing and considering work for potential publication (and not guaranteeing publication upon payment of a fee) – since 1988. We now have a 25-year track record of success, and a compelling “untold story”. As an active Publisher, one of my goals continues to be to find unusual ways to draw new subscribers and readers to my publication, via any and all means at my disposal.

    Therefore, for any new subscriber who takes a $30 two-issue Sensations Magazine subscription between now and November 30, I will include a transcript of my full comments on this listserv conversation for your perusal – I had one of the lengthier opinions included in the full conversation.

    Note that I will only include my comments, and no other part of that conversation, out of respect for the right to private conversation of the listserv community and the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses – but my comments give a sense of the tone of debate and some of the issues raised. No name of any editor or other publication will be included in any of my comments, and my comments are copyrighted for personal reading by our subscribers only, and not for publication on any website or electronic means without my written permission.

    Comments, and issues, will be mailed in mid-December.

    If interested in this unusual offer, please contact me at, “Contact” button, for how to make out a check and where to send it.

    David Messineo
    Publisher/Poetry Editor
    Sensations Magazine
    Three-time winner, national American Literary Magazine Awards
    2009 Recipient, NJ State Jefferson Awards for Public Service

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