Amy Holman's Literary Report: Reading Fees
Whenever I speak at writers' conferences, someone inevitably asks a question about reading fees. Often the person is frustrated at the expense and is either insulted or worried about the significance of paying fees. I'd like you to understand what fees are, why they are in place, and when you should and should not pay them.
A reading fee is an amount of money required of a writer by a publisher offering a contest or award before that writer's submitted work will be considered. As a general guideline, this fee should be less than 10 percent of the prize money.
For magazine and book publishers, the reading fee is a common solution to the problem of how to deal with the heavy volume of submissions received for a contest. The fee pays the editors and freelance readers for the time and energy given over a short period of intense work.
Publishers who offer contests or awards with reading fees attached should also provide writers opportunities to submit manuscripts outside of these contests. If they don't, they should be viewed with suspicion, because then, the only way a writer can get published is by paying. The exceptions to this rule are chapbook publishers that produce one book a year and university presses that have first-book awards.
Do not let reading fees keep you from entering competitions. The presence of fees for contests or awards no longer means that you should be instantly suspicious. Just be careful. Consider the amount of money requested, the reputations of the publishers, and who they have selected as their judges before making your decision.
Take care with your writing!