Kaitlyn Andrews-Rice, Editor-in-Chief
In elementary school I wrote a short story about alien gymnasts. The story, self-illustrated, won first place in the town library’s writing contest. My prize was a custom-made writing desk and my picture on the front page of the town paper. I thought I had made it big. A desk and a tiny amount of fame? Writing sounded like the glamorous career I'd always imagined. Sign me up.
But the reality of writing as a career is different. While glamour can still be found, writing is often a struggle, plagued by self-doubt and financial strain.
A year ago Amanda Miska handed me the reins to Split Lip Magazine. I had big (fashionable) shoes to fill. Amanda built Split Lip into the warm home you've come to love, and I was nervous about how to keep the love alive. I brought on new editors and readers. We transitioned to our less-is-more approach, publishing one piece per genre each month. We released our first ever print issue and threw a huge rooftop reading at AWP18 in Tampa. We made mistakes and new friends. We built a community (#SplitLipFAM), and we are beyond grateful for our readers, our submitters, and our contributors. Without you, what would we be?
As we approached the year anniversary of my time as editor-in-chief of Split Lip, something nagged at me. The feeling started during AWP. I wondered about sustainability. Given the sheer amount of content published in literary magazines, how many of us could really survive? If writers are the primary consumers of literary magazines, what happens when writers can't afford to subscribe or otherwise support the magazine in which they hope to publish? When many MFA programs leave writers straddled with debt and minimal career prospects, what do we think will happen? How can we expect writers to support the community if they can hardly support themselves?
As a result, writers have loud feelings about submission fees. Many of these feelings are justified. We should be asking more questions of our community. We should demand transparency. If you're an aspiring writer, it's not out of bounds to wonder where your $3 submission fee goes. Let’s break it down.
While editors are often volunteers, taking time away from their own work to spend time with other's work, certain costs can’t be avoided for an independently-run literary magazine. For online submissions, you have Submittable (monthly fee + portion of payments). For a web issue, you have hosting fees. For a print issue, you have the cost of printing and shipping. And, if you want to compete in a crowded market, you have the cost of marketing and tables at conferences.
There is, of course, something missing from this list. Paying your contributors.
That's why, as of this very issue, Split Lip Magazine will pay contributors. For as long as we are able, we will pay $50 to each contributor published in our web issues (print issue payment will vary slightly).
Perhaps the cynical among us will say a small payment doesn't go a long way, but I say it does. It is our way of giving back to the community that we support and that supports us. If a small monetary payment encourages a writer to keep going and keep writing, if it says, hey, your work matters and your work has worth, then the money has gone a long way.
Writing may not always be glamorous, but it is always important. We thank you for your support and love over the last year. Working on Split Lip has been a great joy, and I am excited to see what's to come in the year ahead.
So remember: head down, keep writing, keep submitting…
Oh, and don't be an asshole.