I just received a solicitation from Creative Nonfiction Magazine, which is looking for true-crime articles for an upcoming issue. The catch is that they require authors to pay a $20 reading fee or to buy a subscription for $25. In return, they will award the best submission $1000. So Creative Nonfiction Magazine is, essentially, not so much a magazine seeking submissions…as it is a thinly disguised writing contest with a $20-25 entry fee.
If this was a reputable magazine, and not a facade for a contest, money would flow from the publisher to the writer, not the other way around. This is a scheme by a company that apparently makes its money from writers…as opposed a real publisher, who commissions work from writers and then makes its money selling the final product. Avoid them.
UPDATE: 6-16-2011 I received the following note from the magazine:
You should've checked us out quickly online before making that erroneous judgment.
To which I replied:
I see nothing "erroneous" about it. I did check you out online. You should be ashamed of yourselves for charging a "reading fee" and/or a subscription fee to submit articles for consideration. Are you charging Ruth Reichl, Sarah Wexler, John Edge, and Phillip Lopate a reading fee? I doubt it. You must be in pretty desperate shape to be trying to make a quick buck off of writers.
To which they responded:
Anyone is welcome to submit to general submission for free. Contest entries require a reading fee, which is used to pay the prize money for the winning essay, as well as any readers and judges we have to hire to read the submissions. We sometimes have to hire readers because we have a small staff who are taken up with reading general submissions and essays for other categories. This is standard practice for literary magazines.
So I looked into it some more. And they are right, it is standard for literary magazines to run contests that charge a reading fee. I owe them an apology on that score.
However, no where in their solicitation to me, or on their home page, do they acknowledge this is a contest. Here's the original email I received from Creative Nonfiction magazine in its entirety:
For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about true crimes—detailed reports of premeditation, follow-through and aftermath, whether gleaned from police blotters or the news, passed down as small-town legend or family lore, or committed in cold blood.
We’re interested in a variety of viewpoints and are hoping you will help us reach your audience—or will consider submitting.
We want true stories of petty theft, identity theft, embezzlement or first-degree murder; of jaywalking, selling (or maybe buying) weed or assault; of crimes and punishments and unsolved mysteries. Think "The Devil in the White City" (Larson), "In Cold Blood" (Capote) and "Iphigenia in Forest Hills" (Malcolm); or "Half a Life" (Strauss), "Lucky" (Sebold) and "The Night of the Gun" (Carr). If it’s against the law and someone—maybe even you!—did it anyway, we want to know all about it.
We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice. Essays can be serious, humorous or somewhere in between. Creative Nonfiction editors will award $1000 for Best Essay.
Submission guidelines: essays must be unpublished, 4,000 words maximum, postmarked by September 30, 2011, and clearly marked “True Crime” on both the essay and the outside of the envelope. There is a $20 reading fee (or send a reading fee of $25 to include a 4-issue CNF subscription–U.S. submitters only); multiple entries are welcome ($20/essay) as are entries from outside the U.S. (though due to shipping costs, the subscription deal is not valid).
Please send manuscript, accompanied by a cover letter with complete contact information including the title of the essay, word count, SASE and payment to: Creative Nonfiction Attn: True Crime 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202 Pittsburgh, PA 15232
For more information, please visit www.creativenonfiction.org.
Thank you for your time. We appreciate any help you can provide in sharing this announcement.
All the Best,
Editorial assistant, CNF
You'll note that they say "for an upcoming issue," not for a contest. And here is what they say on the home page of their website about the issue:
UPCOMING CALLS FOR SUBMISSIONS: We're always reading general submissions and queries for non-essay sections of the magazine. We'd love to see what you're working on! We're currently looking especially for Pushing the Boundaries essays—experimental work that tests the limits of the genre. (Postmark deadline: June 13). Just announced: True Crime!
You'll note that so far the word "contest" has not appeared anywhere. But if you click the link to True Crime, here's what you get:
CONTEST: TRUE CRIME
postmark deadline: September 30, 2011
For an upcoming issue, Creative Nonfiction is seeking new essays about true crimes—detailed reports of premeditation, follow-through and aftermath, whether gleaned from police blotters or the news, passed down as small-town legend or family lore, or committed in cold blood…
That is the only point where they finally disclose that this issue is the product of a contest that's outside of their usual publication submission requirements (where no reading fee or other fees are charged).
The problem here is two-fold. They aren't upfront that their contest is a contest…and I didn't dig deep enough before leveling a judgment. We are both at fault on this one.