Saturday, March 14, 2020

Tobi Alfier - What Would You Do With $99 Per Month?

In the classifieds at the back of Poets & Writers are ads for people and companies who will submit your writing for you. My questions for you are: 1 – Why do you write? And 2 – Why do you submit your writing?

I have said this a hundred times—if you write, you are a writer. You may write just for yourself. You may write an annual Christmas letter to include with your cards (I have a note about that which follows). You may fill up journals that you buy from Cholla Needles for $3.75, stick them in your pocket and go (I have a note about that too). No one should be keeping score, and shame on them if they are.

Note #1 – Do you know about “The USPS Store”? It’s the Postal Store, where you can buy stamps online. What’s cool about this website is they have wonderful stamps of all denominations, so you don’t just have to buy the one or two varieties they have at the local post office or market. And they currently have lots of “Love” stamps, “Christmas” stamps, and many other holiday and special stamps. What you can do is take ONE of your letters, cards, books, etc. to the post office and get it weighed. Then buy the appropriate stamps online for mailing at your convenience. You won’t have to wait in line at the post office again. Even if you just get regular stamps for bills and such, you can get nice ones. I bought some Mississippi Blues stamps that reminded us of our fabulous trip on the Blues Trail. They charge only $1.00 for sending your entire order, and come within five to seven days. This may seem silly, but it makes me happy to use pretty or memorable stamps. I wanted to share this with you.

If you’re mailing overseas, postage has gone up immensely over the last few years, and you’ll probably need customs forms. Grab a handful of forms when you get that one overseas letter weighed, then keep them at home. Again, you won’t have to wait in line at the post office. Do everything at home and drive through a mailbox, then go to the Farmer’s Market or do something else fun instead. Bake cookies 😊. (Postage is different for different countries, FYI).

Note #2 – My husband is a journal writer. He never goes anywhere without a notebook in his back pocket, and probably has fifty he’s completed over the years. He refers to the old ones often, and plans to put them in order on a special shelf in his office. He’s one of those lucky people who can find an entry and remember exactly when it was written. I can’t. My advice to you is when you start a new notebook or journal, date the first page. Don’t date the cover in case it comes off. The pages never tear out, unless you tear them out on purpose.

If you love Cholla Needles journals, buy a few and always use them, just date them! You will thank me five years from now!

Back to the $99 per month:

As I mentioned above, some people or businesses will submit your writing for you for $99 per month. I don’t know if you pay by the month or if you sign up for a year or more. I don’t know if they edit (I don’t think they do), keep track of themes, window openings and closures, or aesthetics. I don’t know what a writer gets out of this except they don’t have to do the submissions, and maybe they’re only told about acceptances, not rejections.

As a submitting writer I will admit that sometimes submissions can be a pain, particularly if they’re not done electronically, It takes time to look up a journal, see if their aesthetics match with your style, see if they have a theme, if they’re a blind reading, and if they’re even open.

Then there’s the cover letter. Who do you address it to? Did you spell the name of the editor correctly? Did you spell the name of the journal right? Did you attach the correct number of poems or fiction pieces? Is your bio no longer than 50 words? And so on and so on.

I can tell you that as a co-editor, we do forgive errors in our submission guidelines, as long as the submissions are during the window periods. We all make mistakes.

When I was working, I was the Director of our consulting practice. My arms were also wrapped around sales and marketing. I had the privilege of working with Doug Quackenbush, a wonderful business coach, who taught me that companies don’t sell services to people, people buy them. So just because I don’t understand why a writer would use a company to do submissions on their behalf, if the companies exist, there must be a reason. I don’t know everything and I’ll be the first to admit it.
reading The Shadow Field

Just for fun, I asked Jeff and my son what they would do if they had a discretionary $99/month.

Jeff said “buy books”. My feeling is that he served our country for 28 years. He deserves to buy all the books, hats, t-shirts, photography equipment, programs, and writing trips he wants. He earned it. (soos insert: I highly recommend buying Jeff's new book, The Shadow Field). 

My son said “Eat breakfast more often, tip an extra dollar, and chip away at my book wishlist.”

What would I do? No, I would not buy candy!!! I would make a lot more donations than I currently do. I have plenty of books from the ones Jeff buys, so I would donate to journals I respect. I would donate to writers I respect. Cholla Needles Press is never going to charge submission fees. Neither is Blue Horse Press, publisher of San Pedro River Review. But there are 23,000 other journals out there. Some charge not only $3-$10 for journal submissions, but $20-$30 for chapbook and full-length manuscript submissions. I love and appreciate lots of writers who can’t pay those fees. It’s not my business to ask why, but if I can help, that’s what I would do (thank you PayPal). Then I would buy candy with the leftovers!!!

What would you do? This is only a rhetorical question if you want it to be. Otherwise I’d love to read your comments below.

Stay tuned next week, when I introduce you to a man who writes mostly fiction, but just came out with his first book of poetry in years, is a voracious reader, and a huge inspiration to both Jeff and I. Be safe, write well. Mix beautiful colors, enjoy the rain if it comes your way. xo.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much. I thought I'd better pay bills this morning before I give everything away xoxo


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