I’ve just finished an article in Harper’s about people who serve as life coaches. Though largely unschooled and uncredentialed, these folks make a living advising others on how to conduct their lives. “Why didn’t I think of that?” I asked myself as I put the magazine aside. I’ve spent years giving away free advice. If I hadn’t, maybe I would be rich now. Even famous. (“50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong,” by Genevieve Smith, Harper’s, May 2014 pg. 29-34)
But my folly is another matter. This blog isn’t about what to do with advice. It’s about flying under false colors. Along with uncredentialed life coaches, I count literary magazines that feed off the aspiration of writers. Specifically, I’m thinking about Tweed’s, a start-up glossy that placed an ad in Harper’s, recently.
Most start-ups can’t afford to advertise in that prestigious rag, so the announcement caught my eye. Were they open to submissions, I wondered. Or did they fill their pages “by invitation only”? Its first edition featured the works of Joyce Carol Oates, James Poissant and Ray Storm, so I presumed their policy was the latter, though I checked the website to be sure.
To my surprise, they were open to submission; but there was a caveat. Each story required a $15 reading fee. The money, the editor admitted, would be used to “subsidize” the journal. That’s literary speak for saying he intended to live off the hopes of writers rather than the interests of readers. It also explains why the “y’all come” welcome mat was out. I doubt Oates submitted a check. Her name was probably a lure to give credibility to the newbie.
Disgusted, I left the site. A magazine that survives off the dreams of writers is, in my world, despicable, as are those that reject my stories then ask me to subscribe. I’ll say this about Harper’s. Twice they’ve rejected my submissions, but I’ve never been asked to pay for the insult.
Sadly, I feel the urge to offer free advice once again, this time to beginning writers. Don’t send money to an agent, publishing house or magazine for the opportunity submit. When they come hat in hand, tell them to go fly a kite.
(Courtesy of www.windrushkite.co.uk)