One of the worst parts of writing (or attempting to write) for the masses is rejection. Thus, the success of blogs. Here I can write for the masses (OK, three people tops) and no one but no one is going to reject me.
Internet as playing-field leveler? Hardly. There’s still no elixir so sweet as acceptance to a magazine’s or newspaper’s pages, especially with pay (no matter how nominal, remuneration seems to legitimize any enterprise, at least to those weaned on capitalism’s murky milk).
That said, for writers, rejection is the standard. The chief player here is the “standard rejection notice” in which the writer becomes Emily Dickinson’s Nobody (“Are you Nobody, too?”). Nothing makes you feel more ordinary, more run-of-the-mill, and more vanilla than “Thank you for submitting your work, however, we do not feel it fits our needs and wish you best luck in placing it elsewhere.”
Sometimes, upon rereading what you submitted six months ago, you agree. Other times you feel indignant — childishly so. “I’ll bet they never even read the damned thing,” you think. Or, “If I slapped the name Billy Collins on it, they’d snap it up in a deadpan second.”
Now comes the “reading fee” disguised as a “processing fee” brought about by Submittable, the ubiquitous online submission manager. Three dollars, please. Nominal fee. To pay the expenses of using the service, you see.
Uh-huh. With a little profit inserted. And the paranoid in you wonders, Are they even reading half of these as they deposit (ka-ching!) three bucks a pop from oh-so-fleece-able wannabe writers of the world?
Ah, to be a sheep in an unheard herd!
So far, despite dwindling choices, I am holding to journals that do not charge a reading fee — in sheep’s clothing and via wooly euphemisms or not. Whether I will eventually run out of options remains to be seen.
Who knows, the day may be nigh when freelancers and would-be artists will always have to pay for the privilege (real or imagined) of being considered. When we reach that point it will be more than the ego taking a beating. It will be the wallet, too.