Fuck Narrative Magazine

Narrative Magazine has gotten a write up in the San Francisco Chronicle recently which seems to make a game of how completely it can crawl up the Magazine's asshole. The editors, Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarton, are revolutionaries, the article tells us, because they've put fiction on the Internet and gotten "40,000" subscribers instead of the "5,000" subscribers "most 'small magazines,' on- or offline" have. (Try 500 and you might be closer to the truth, but I digress.) Yes, Jenks and Edgarton, a loving couple, a "symbiotic" match made in yuppieville, took time off from writing their own, "acclaimed" novels and went to Martha's Vineyard to put together their revolutionary website. How revolutionary?

Narrative is also atypical in terms of quality. There is no whiff of literary hipsterism here, no veil of coolness to cover up the mediocre writing that is often found in new publications by editors who have spent their college years boning up on David Foster Wallace.

Fuck you.

Instead, Jenks and Edgarian offer a wide, well-edited and stimulating selection of narrative forms.

If by "stimulating selection of narrative forms" you mean countless interchangeable, meandering, pointless slice-of-life vignettes that go nowhere, then yes, I see exactly what you mean.

But there is one major, overriding reason to hate Narrative Magazine, which can be seen in their submission guidelines:

Except during our open-submission periods, we require a reading fee for submission, as follows:

—a $20 reading fee for short short stories of 750 to 2,000 words.

—a $10 reading fee for up to five poems in a single submission.

—a $10 reading fee for short audio (MP3) submissions of poetry. Audio poetry submissions may be up to five minutes in length.

—a $10 reading fee for short audio (MP3) submissions of prose, for our TELL ME A STORY category (see description below). Audio prose submissions may be up to five minutes in length.

—a $20 reading fee for a single manuscript (fiction or nonfiction) of 2,000 to 10,000 words in length.

—a $20 reading fee for novellas and book-length works.

And when is their open submissions period?

Narrative is not currently accepting open submissions.

This is a magazine that asks its potential writers to pay them for the privilege of submitting work. I can't imagine a bigger middle finger to the working fiction writer, a way a magazine could treat the already struggling and unpaid short fiction writer more poorly. I mean, fuck you Narrative Magazine.

As for their supposed "40,000" member subscriber list: we linked to Narrative Magazine once in our original mission statement, and the magazine promptly started sending us regular emails about the crappy writing they were publishing, which makes me think their business ethics fall somewhere between porn spammers and casino spammers, and calls into question any numbers that come out of them. But even at face value the number is incredibly weaselly. A "subscriber" to Narrative Magazine is merely someone who has registered (for free) at their site, which you need to do to read anything on it. So someone who signed up on the site once, read a few stories and never went back is still considered a "subscriber", which is nothing like someone who plunks down money to get every issue of a magazine mailed to them. Calling registered users "subscribers" is not only misleading, it's just plain dishonest. Besides the fact that forcing people to register to look at work on your site is kind of a dick move to begin with, especially since it seems to be done with the express purpose of boosting these fraudulent "subscriber" numbers.

In short, fuck Narrative Magazine. If they're "the future of reading" then reading is not something I want to be a part of.

EDIT 3/28/2008: See my follow up for information about Narrative Magazine selling your information to spammers and junk mailers.


How do you know the fee is $20?

I read somewhere tonight that Narrative has the largest number of readers and that they pay, so I went to check them out.

I read a few stories, then I clicked on the submit buttons. I kept drilling down until I got the Submission Guidelines. (See, I have this amazing story that would probably be accepted by the New Yorker but I think they require snail mail subs and someone keeps stealing mail out of my mailbox so I don't mail anything anymore...)

I read that line in the guidelines that said they charge a NOMINAL fee. I read on to the end and never found what the nominal fee was, so I went back and looked for a link to the nominal fee. No link.

So I clicked on Submit button, figuring they would tell me what I would need to pay AND what kind of payment they require (Visa? PayPal? A direct link to my bank account?) because only a very stupid person would sign up to submit and THEN find out all that information.

The Submit button took me to the page where I needed to put in who I was, where I lived, what my phone number was and so forth. I never give out my phone number online. I paid $35 to make it a secret, you see.

Nowhere on that page did it tell me how much money, nor how to pay it.

I thought I'd get sneaky and I pulled up Google and typed in "How much does it cost to submit to Narrative magazine?"

I do that kind of thing all the time. Google knows EVERYTHING. I think they're God.

And of course, they did know because they brought me here.

How did you guys find out it was $20?

@#% narrative magazine

If it sounds to good to be true, then it's a scam. Pay, are you kidding me? For those who think they are writers, join a writing club in your area. There are some great writing clubs that won't charge a dime. And you get critiqued like you wouldn't believe and also can find out where to send your writing for legal publication.

I agree. This is a very

I agree. This is a very stupid organization. Everything is handled under the dark! Do not submit or subscribe!


When your critique of something is basically just, "FUCK THIS!" you lose about 70% of your validity. Sure, there's some shit going down with that subscribers being people that are registered, but in the current 2015 I registered to Narrative without giving any really personal information, haven't gotten any spam mail (of course I know how to use a bloody spam blocker). The content of the site is going to be subjective from person to person, but let's be serious for a moment. Most of the people on there have got publication, degrees, and awards from powerful sources. wetasphalt.com I can't even find on Wikipedia. It sounds a lot more like someone doesn't understand the concept of literary works (a genre that is defined by having a real world setting, slice of life, that looks in depth into an experience that makes the reader think about part of the human condition) and was expecting there to be more knights in armor or genre works.

Fuck Narrative Mag & Then Some

Interesting I ran across this today, as I'm still a Narrative subscriber, and will likely take to Twitter (@MKClarkeWrites) wuth my complaint of a recent practice they're contributing to the publishing industry: outrageous prices for a writing workshop.

Isn't it enough the industry pays writers LAST for their content? Those who can't make said living at this via content, then move to the fringe of this industry--conferences, editorial services, agencies, book doctors, webinars, How-To authors, workshops, open 'zines promising to pay for content, but want to "in kind" via 'zine copies, writing-related subscriptions, writing orgs, fees for said services unturned and undiscovered, newsletters for said fees (Mike's Writing Newsletter, Funds for Writers)... You get the idea.

We're not rich, and Tom Jenks knows this. So how come he has the GALL to look for "twelve students for a 2016 three-day extensive workshop" (offered in San Fran and NYC) for--are you sitting down?--$2,800?!? This doesn't including getting yourself there, lodging, meals, and other incidentals. Jesus H, dude!

I gave him the business, at first politely, asking for the breakdown to justify this cost. Twice I was rebuffed. Then I lowered the boom when he said to me: "This doesn't seem like a good fit for you; you don’t want to take a class that presents itself to you as wrong from the beginning" with this reply: "I didn't say it was wrong. But from asking for a breakdown to bring to my support system and to fit my budget accordingly twice now--and seemingly likely I won't get it--does raise my Spidey senses of suspicion greatly. As a former New Yorker, this reeks of a good old-fashioned game of Three Card Monte...and one I won't play. Thanks for your time."

Um, DUH!!! If you don't justify said breakdown of thee costs so a family can show their skeptical support system and quell their (reasonable) doubts of being rooked, tooked, crooked, and otherwise bamboozled in this industry that is RIFE with shit like this, what the f**k AM I supposed to think? Even had the nerve to tell me, well his name alone justifies this cost, that his work speaks for itself. I've never heard of him before Googling him today, and told ol' Tommy well, James Patterson's got a 22-week Master Class going for $90 via webinars, dude's made his coin on his content alone, and? (I just might take that one. Least I know it's my frugal, hard-earned coin worth spending.)

Oh, and ol' Tommy forgot something else: customer service is TANTAMOUNT in writing as it is in retail. Screw over a customer, a patron, a consumer, bad juju follows. Aaaaaaand ... he forgot being bad-mouthed on social media, too, as I'll warn my fellow writer and associated creative follows about this latest fake, phony, fraud. Totally worth being blocked for, IMO. Guess he's getting some long-overdue, but reality-chech-needed, bad juju. Avoid this magazine ANY which way you can.

With his "phone call/interview before enrolling a potential student"--and an $800 deposit BEFORE said phone call, with no hopes of it being returned, mind you, it appears--it seems like he'll blow smoke up a naive writer's ass before they're hip to the P.T. Barnum jive this guy's after with his sweet words and alleged accolades of editing for George Plimpton, E.L. Doctorow, "et al," to guarantee this novelist/short story hopeful otherwise might be published, salable, readable, and the like. This makes me so angry this shit happens without checks and balances, and I'm a writer Diogenes in the wilderness warning writer hopefuls to not be taken in by such bullshit this industry turns a blind eye to. It's sick.

The length of short stories.

Hello. I am responding to the writer who has submitted to Narrative in the past. This writer said his last short story was 25-pages. That is way too long.

Unless it is microfiction or a short short, a short story should be between 13-15 pages. That is the length that editors at "slicks" (i.e. The New Yorker) and respected literary journals (print and electronic) most often publish. A writer has a greater chance of publication with a short story or creative non-fiction essay that length.

I am a nationally published writer and editor.


Looks as though I'm late in the game on comments, but I do want to voice my opinion on the "work" I found at Narrative Magazine. I'll put it succinctly as I'm able: Everything I've read at Narrative could have been written by the same person - a narcissistic, let-me-try-to-sound-like-everyone-else-so-I'll-Fit-In writer. Style? Hipster-Esoteric-Wallowing-In-Despair Full of Angst First Person.

No, thank you. Thank you, but no.