Announcing a New Reader Tax

March 5, 2013 | 2 2 min read


It is with a mixture of regret (the feeling I would like to project) and unrestrained joy (my actual feeling) that I would like to announce that I am now charging a $3.00 processing fee for all new subscription requests sent to me by literary magazines.

The proliferation of literary magazines has forced me to implement this fee. How else can I be expected to sift through all of the possible titles? I discussed it with my staff (me), and we looked things over and it turns out that we’re pretty strapped for cash. The first thing we thought of? Get a better job. After quickly ruling that out, we thought of literary magazines. I’m sure you all have money to spare. Most of you don’t even pay any taxes, right? So, all that money that you would normally pay to the government, you can now pay to me. Think of this as a reader tax.

Please note that your payment of the fee is no guarantee that I will actually subscribe to your magazine. I will apply the same exacting standards to deciding which magazine I will subscribe to as I have in the past (which cover will make me look the most interesting to other people when I hold it). There are certain things I do think about when choosing a literary magazine. I like: 1) ones with pictures in them, 2) ones that aren’t so long that they make me feel guilty and/or too sleepy, and 3) ones with stuff in them that I can understand. But don’t worry; if you want to send me your three bucks, believe me, my aesthetic can evolve.

After you pay your submission fee, only then will I consider subscribing to your magazine. Maybe I will, and maybe I won’t. I only have so much space left on my bookshelves. But you can rest easy knowing that you have paid for the privilege of having me, your potential reader, go through the process of deciding. There’s value in that (isn’t there?).

Now, if you actually want me to read your magazine once it arrives, that will cost you an extra twenty bucks. Another fifty, and I’ll send you a critique of whatever work in there I get around to reading. A hundred bucks, and I’ll recommend your magazine to another reader friend of mine. A reader’s got to find revenue streams where he can.

I think this new fee can solve a lot of problems. Too often I receive offers to subscribe to magazines that simply are not the kind that I read. Too many magazines indiscriminately send offers to subscribe to all kinds of people without even knowing whether, frankly, they can even read. And get this: sometimes they will send an offer to subscribe to multiple people. At the same time! How can we readers be expected to survive in this economy? I don’t think any of us wants to see another reader go defunct.

Let’s face it: reading is a labor of love. We all (well, most of us) have full time jobs and a long Netflix queue. If serious readers are to survive in this economic climate, we have to find support somewhere. I hope you’ll be relieved by the transparency (I want money) of this announcement. I look forward to considering (rejecting) your subscription.

Image: Tax Credits/Flickr

teaches undergraduate writing classes at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His own writing has appeared recently or is forthcoming in places committed to paying writers including Arts & Letters, Grasslimb, The Grove Review, Blackbird, and The Hollins Critic, as well as a couple of places which have since begun charging fees for submissions. He was recently named the winner of the Deborah Tall Lyric Essay Prize (no fee!) by Seneca Review. He edits Wake: Great Lakes Thought & Culture, which does not charge fees for submissions, and pays writers for their work.


  1. This piece is so right I’m not only going to plagiarize it (look — over there) but I’m going to bill the author for the privilege!

  2. This article is so true. Reading fees are killing me.

    It particularly irks me when magazines charge for submissions and then pay me in copies.

    Writers are told to avoid literary agents who charge fees.

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