Welcome to our weekend conversation!
I’d like to talk about Submittable. What’s the dealie, friends?
In my most recent interview with Whitney Koo, Editor of Gasher, I joked that editors sometimes describe Submittable as the lit mag mafia. (I want to give props here to Whitney, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that submissions to her magazine always remain free.)
The truth is, I actually don’t know very much about the mechanics of Submittable. I don’t know how much it costs for editors. I don’t know why some editors have to cap submissions at a certain level, and/or have to cap free submissions after a certain point.
I know that many editors are frustrated with or cannot afford the platform. For these reasons, some never stopped using simple email submissions. Others are migrating to Duosoma. Others continue to use Submission Manager.
But I don’t know what Submittable’s costs are, why journals feel so beholden to the platform, or any details at all of what actually goes on behind the scenes.
And, if you know anything about me by now, it is that I must know what goes on behind the scenes.
Also, I don’t like seeing people with little money exploited in order to subsidize large companies with lots of money.
Is that what is happening here?
According to Crunchbase, as of June 2022, “Submittable has raised a total of $64.3M in funding over 7 rounds.”
Is Submittable itself taking home a ton of profit? Not necessarily. Their funding comes largely from venture capital firms. Thus Submittable is beholden to its investors. Everyone here must get paid.
Everyone, that is, except the writer.
And it’s the writer upon whose labor this entire endeavor rests. For without us, there would be no literary magazines at all. (And without literary magazines, there would be no submissions portal. And without a submissions portal, there would be nothing for Submittable to sell, and nothing for the investors to invest in.)
Of course, writers sometimes do get paid for their stories, essays and poems. But not always, and not very much when they do.
What we have, then, is a curious little situation: a bunch of people with not very much money doing a ton of work, and then paying in order to sustain a company that has raised over $60 million, which is itself sharing its profits with companies that also fundraise for millions of dollars.
Do I have that right?
All of this is not to tell writers that they should or should not pay submission fees. You know your own budget, your own ethical code and your own ambition. Personally, I do pay submission fees, though rarely will I pay over five bucks, and even that is usually more than I’m willing to pay.
What I would like to understand here is how Submittable works on the editorial end. I think a whole lot of writers would also like to know why, exactly, they are being charged fees in order to have their work considered by magazines.
If you are an editor with insights, can you share how Submittable works? Are you happy with the software? Have you considered using other platforms?
Is the system here fair?
Is there a better way?
What would help writers to know?
Did I misunderstand this situation entirely? What did I miss?
Let’s talk about Submittable!
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