Wednesday, February 4, 2009

50.2% of You Are Reading Literature

What?!  People! This is news! The New York Times reports that the National Endowment of the Arts has found that reading is up? (Not quite to the level it was at in the literary 80s, but still....up.) This report is from mid-January.  Maybe it's the effect of the recession we're in?  Who knows, but let's hope it keeps creeping on up there.


Anonymous said...

In a way, these studies are kind of ridiculous because mainstream media no longer publish short stories or poetry. So it's hard to measure whether the reading of these things are "up," because most people will never be exposed to them in the normal course of their reading.

They should really track the percentage of short stories and poetry that are printed in popular commercial outlets. Is that number going up or down? Does it remain close to zero?

Anonymous said...

I've seen statistics that tell a completely different story. And what do you observe around you - avid readers of literature? Not in my world.
Maybe the NEA is plumping the figures to garner support for the arts - as if the arts (literature included) is soooo vital to Americans (who are actually watching American Idol, CSI and Three and a Half Men).
The comment above is right - where do you find literature today? Publishers notoriously avoid literary fiction - it doesn't sell. When they publish literary fiction it's a matter of prestige - people with Big Names.

Anonymous said...

the nea has a broader definition of "literary" reading than do some commenters. it includes essays collections, YA, science fiction, classics, and boring shit.

Anonymous said...

The data is self reported and people who respond to these surveys tend to think whatever they are reading is literary. So someone reading paperback mysteries or inspirational/self-help books will check yes. "Literary" as we think of it is a helluva lot narrower and the NEA reports never really capture that well. I think if we measured it from what is actually published we would hear a different story.

Anonymous said...

Not to change the subject W,R but if journals like AMERICAN SHORT FICTION (not an academic journal, as far as I know) are setting trends, soon we'll have a new statistic as no people like me will be submitting to journals at all.

You have to draw the line somewhere. Never, ever pay a journal for the "privilege" of submitting work.

According to their site, ASF just switched to pay-to-submit. Yes, following the path of NARRATIVE. I've seen at least 2 other journals do this now, so it's officially a trend. I think they claim that they have to pay off their "Submissions Manager" software, which is like $500. And of course they no longer accept paper submissions either.

But, but, but-- wait a minute here.

Am I publishing ASF? Nope. I'm just a nobody, hoping to contribute. Why do would-be contributors, not even the guaranteed contributors themselves, have to foot the bill? Why do we have to invest in their obscure journal, just to get a chance to contribute?

It's horrendous on so many levels. There's the obvious reason that they resent having to deal with slush. They don't want to comment and they never will. But they don't want to even deal with opening Doc files anymore, so they figure that they should at least make a few bucks on it. And it's rotten because Submissions Manager (the software) is just a little PHP thrown on top of a MySQL database. It's nice, mind you, but it's nothing that an able web programmer could come up with in a day's work. Yet every "journal" buys the same program. (All the software it runs on is free, so they don't have to buy it.) They buy it because they're copy-cats (just like the stories they print) and because they don't know web technology at all. How totally lame is that? They want to be web publishers or take online submissions but they can't program a web form? Can you imagine a print journal that does not know print technology, a magazine publisher who farms out the layout and production work? How would that fly? Man, this is inept. And now they're doing the pay-to-submit game. It's really dishonest, if you think about it. If you want to publish a journal, fine, then do it. If you want to go to online submissions, go for it. Just don't ask would-be contributors to pay for your upgrades. (And does every contributor from now on pay the fee before their acceptance is guaranteed? I sure think not. It's just going to be for the nobodies, you know it.)

Things are getting much, much worse.

Anonymous said...

$2 is about what it would cost to mail a manuscrpit and include a sase. it's less than the $3 charged by the missouri review, far less than the narrative $20 could they have done it for free? absolutely, but if $2 keeps them afloat, it's one more fiction market that won't fold overnight.

ted said...

Flawed logic. If they did not buy the $500 system, they would not need the $2 to be "kept afloat." Do we or do we not have to live within our means? Do we need to keep to our budgets or is it ok to let others foot the bills for our spending? Pay to submit was always considered unethical, so fiction writer guides won't even list them anymore. This is so wrong it's not funny/

Dave Clapper said...

I'll happily contribute the online submission system I built to any journal who wants it if it'll keep them from charging reading fees. I loathe the entire idea of submitting writers subsidizing published writers.

Anonymous said...

i like you, dave clapper.

Anonymous said...

ASF can charge $2 or $20. The desperate, the optimistic, and the established will pay it. If ASF is like other small presses, then their subscription and newsstand sales are down and their printing costs are up, thus, they probably do need more $$$ to stay "afloat". Unfortunately, they've decided to tax hapless submitters.

Some one said Anon 11:14 used flawed logic, but I don't see how. If ASF needs the money, they need the money. It's a statement of reality. They bought an outrageously expensive submission system and now someone has to foot the bill. It should be the moron who made the decision to buy the Sub-Man license (ever heard of email submissions??? free!), but alas it's not.

Writers with a shred a self respect can boycott ASF, but it won't make a difference because there are many more who will suck it up and pay. MFA students and faculty are often reimbursed for this sort of thing, so it makes little difference to them. The great unwashed will justify that it's cheaper than mail. And in the end, ASF will publish the same established types they already publish. It's lose-lose all around and it's very sad.

Hyphenated said...

"MFA students and faculty are often reimbursed for this sort of thing, so it makes little difference to them."

Your ignorance is astounding. No MFA student or faculty would ever be reimbursed. At best they could claim a tax exemption.

But yes, it's shameful that journals are charging when they could read for free. Shameful, shameful, and writers should boycott. ASF JUST changed it - I submitted two weeks ago for free.

As far as the Literary Reading Rates, this was only news three weeks ago. BTW, the only reason that they're up is because they started counting online reading as reading, which they had never done before.

kixy said...


My MFA program (as do many) gave us a $50 bursar per semester to cover contest fees and the cost of postage for submitting to lit mags. It was expected of us to be submitting our work to journals, and the $50 was to defray the cost of that.

Your ignorance is what is quite astounding. What on Earth did you think that Anonymous 2:37 meant? Did you think he/she was talking about the journal reimbursing? Oh lord, you need do some research before you go mouthing off...Well, it's obvious that you don't hold an MFA from one of 20 schools that I can name off the top of my head, or else you would have known about this very very commonplace policy.

Btw, $50 was enough to cover my needs, since I wasn't (and still am not) very much into contests. But for some of my contest-junkie collegues (God bless the optimists), the $50 was a drop in the bucket. So I agree that ASF charging $2 is shameful, even though it would not have affected me as much as others.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to get off subject, but Hyphenated says "No MFA or faculty would ever be reimbursed. At best they could claim a tax exemption."

Schools reimburse faculty for submissions fees just as they reimburse the cost of attending conferences, and conferences are a lot more expensive than postage! (Plenty of academics in my family, all of them travel several times a year, all of the expenses are paid by the uni. Thanks to kixy I now know that some MFA students also get reimbursed for postage. This does not shock me.)

Not that it matters who gets $2 from whom. there's still no reason for any journal to pay so much for the Submissions Manager licence when there are free options like Dave Clapper's form, and of course email.

About the NEA report, which was the original topic of the thread, I must be naive, because I would have expected 60%-70% for all those years. 47% in 2002? Wow.

Submissions Manager said...

The website for CLMP shows how much they charge presses for the Submissions Manager based on the size of the press's operating budget. If ASF is being charged $500, then they have an operating budget in the tens of thousands. Never having run a press or magazine, I can't say if this justifies a $2 fee or not. It is interesting though, good discussion.

rmellis said...

I think your link is wrong, WR. That's not the NYTimes....

gimme said...

From a business point of view it makes perfect sense for a journal to charge for submissions, for the same reason it makes perfect sense to NOT pay for acceptances - because they CAN.

They have correctly deduced that there is no incentive whatsoever to embrace the antiquated practice of PAYING writers for their work, when so many are obviously perfectly willing to work for free, or even pay to be read.

It's not their fault for making money. It's OUR fault that we're such desperate suckers.

Anonymous said...

American Short Fiction is definitely status quo, and part of the problem. Thankfully anybody Googling them will find this discussion at the top. And no one outside of MFA programs will buy their magazine or read them or support them in any way.

jaded said...

Wonder if the spike between 2002 and 2008 is courtesy of Twilight readers, LOL.

Anonymous said...

i just tried to check submission stats on ASF on duotrope, but now its listing is gone because by charging a reading fee, it no longer meets the requirements to have a listing. ha!

not that getting bashed here or having its duotrope page removed is going to make American Short Fiction change its ways. but the backlash is satisfying.

according to submissions manager page in the link above, it seems that journals are charged by what they can afford. so why would ASF need to charge a reading fee on top of that? unless it knows, as gimme suggested, that it can charge a reading fee and writers will pay it.

nate said...

Anon at 10:14 above, I think you're right. I used to like ASF but now I despise it.

As someone else suggested, it's easy to take email submissions. No cost at all. Easy. Easy to paste a lame form reply. However, they can't track and charge a reading fee, which is what the future holds for these lousy journals. I say boycott 'em all. Not only should we not submit to them and not buy them, but if we see our local library stock them we should recommend that they carry a different magazine instead. I'm going to do that with ASF tonight.

nate said...

People, the trend is quickening.

The Southwest Review is the latest to add a reading fee for online submissions.

This one isn't using Submissions Manager though. They have their own web form based system.

Clearly the reason they charge a fee is this: they don't want your stuff. They still accept paper subs (for now), but will probably treat them in the same way they treat the online stuff.

I predict that by 2012 all "tiered" journals will be online-sub only, pay to play. For academic outiders, the only thing to do will be to be like John and submit to zines.