Do Your Research Before Submitting

Today I had another valuable reminder of the necessity of doing diligent research before submigging your writing, and of trusting your instincts. Becky Tuch, in her invaluable Lit Mag News newsletter and Substack, wrote about her research into C&R Press, which appears to have some shady business practices, along with Steel Toe Books, Fjords Review, PANK Magazine, American Poetry Journal, who all seem to be run by the same three people under a few different names. These publishers charge fees for submissions (not unheard of and not always a bad sign), take years to respond, and have been accused of offering dubious editing or other services.

I’ll admit that I’ve sent a manuscript to a C&R Press contest, though I’m glad to see that even Becky Tuch is only now finding out about some of their practices. When I submitted, back in 2020, I doubt I could have found out that they weren’t legit, but now that seems to be the consensus that is building. My first clue was that it took them over a year to respond to my submission and in the meantime, they kept sending me announcements of their next prize. On its own, that’s not enough to say they are definitely a scam, but it did give me pause, and I decided not to send again. Now I’m glad that I trusted my instincts, and didn’t waste any more time or money on them.

Becky Tuch cites comments on the Writer Beware blog for helping her tease out who was who at these presses and magazines and trace how they the publishers changed hands or the names of the players shifted. I recommend Writer Beware as a great resource for those who want to research publishers. Another good resource that Tuch mentions is Authors Publish, which has published a list of publishers that charge contest fees (which again, is not that unusual).

Try to keep up with industry news and search on any publisher you want to submit to, looking for potential issues. Even some of the lists of good publishers, like what you can find at CLMP or Poets & Writers, New Pages, or Reedsy can be wrong (they can’t know about everything). Ultimately, you may pay a contest fee or two (or more) for one you later realize wasn’t legit, but trust your instincts. If something looks fishy, it probably is. And even if it isn’t, you’ll be happier if you go with someone you have confidence in than if you take a risk on a deal that sounds too good to be true or where there are unexpected fees.

Published by Kendall Dunkelberg

I am a poet, translator, and professor of literature and creative writing at Mississippi University for Women, where I direct the Low-Res MFA in Creative Writing, the undergraduate concentration in creative writing, and the Eudora Welty Writers' Symposium. I have published three books of poetry, Barrier Island Suite, Time Capsules, and Landscapes and Architectures, as well as a collection of translations of the Belgian poet Paul Snoek, Hercules, Richelieu, and Nostradamus. I live in Columbus with my wife, Kim Whitehead; son, Aidan; and dog, Aleida.

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