Back in mid-February I posed a question about submission fees. This post is a slightly overdue update on the subject, so here’s your recap:
[Female Voiceover] Previously, on Submitting Like A Man…
I don’t believe in paying submission fees. It’s an unfair financial burden, and it’s not the writer’s responsibility to fund the submission process. But a competition from a well-known organization, to which Max was slated to reapply, was now charging a small fee. So I asked my readers: What Would You Do? Do I pay the fee for the sake of SLAM, so that I can reapply under my male pen name? Or does Max sit this one out, because submission fees are so wrong that they shouldn’t be paid, even just one time for the purpose of this project?
The consensus, unanimously, was “different gender, same principle.” Everyone I heard from concurred that it was better for Max to skip this resubmission than pay a fee, which was agreed to be an unethical request.
And then an interesting alternate solution arose from the comments and messages. The idea came up that I could message the organization requesting the fee. It was decided that the most equitable solution was not for me to totally sit this one out as Max, but instead to email the organization, once as each of us, politely taking them to task about why they’ve instituted this very unfair fee.
And so that’s exactly what I did. Except that both emails came from pseudonyms—I realized I’d need to use one for my regular female self too, since the administrators of the contest could very well be readers of this blog, and sending the email from my own public name would be a slippery slope to blowing Max’s cover. So basically, a male playwright (Max) and a female playwright (me-ish) each sent them a variation of the same email, calling them out for the BS of instituting a fee and asking them for some accountability for charging one. This solution felt like a great compromise for how to deal with a submission opportunity that Max has to miss. As my friend Ryan put it, “it preserves the spirit of the project, [and also] maintains your integrity.”
The result, unfortunately, was a little underwhelming. Both inquirers got back the same form email acknowledging that submission fees were questionable but defending the choice to use them. Both my male and female selves replied again, thanking the organization for the response and trying to get a little more info, but no further reply was received by either.
So, a win for fairness (each writer was treated the same regardless of gender) but a loss for playwrights at large, as another opportunity goes the way of the fee and essentially makes itself irrelevant. Perhaps they’ll feel so moved by the heartfelt emails they got from my pseudonymous female and male playwrights that next year they’ll remove the fee. Here’s to hoping.