Since the question of reading and award fees has been a much-discussed topic in our creative community, we thought we would address the issue here. We do charge readings fees for our award programs. We also charge a small processing fee ($3 usually) for non-contest submissions to our site.
First, I want to say that, if you don’t feel 100% safe and certain in the organization you are considering submitting your work to, do not submit. Your work and your money are valuable, and you should be certain that both are being received and treated with the utmost respect. Hidden River was founded over 20 years ago, and some of our programs are that old. Others are more recent. If you have any questions about a certain program – whether it is a literary or arts award, or any of our other upcoming activities – then you should wait and watch, become more familiar with who we are and what we do, and only then, submit to us.
To address the fees more specifically: These fees help us to continue doing what we are doing. Hidden River is a labor of love, we make no profit. So, operating fees and costs are, by necessity, kept to a minimum. We are an all-volunteer organization. No one receives a salary from Hidden River. (We do, of course, at times have to pay for tech assistance or repair, and for the designers and editors who help us to bring our books out into the world.)
From the very beginning, we made a decision with Hidden River NOT to chase after grants and awards, or depend on fundraisers. All of these activities take an enormous amount of time and effort, and sometimes require the hiring of grant-writers and other professionals. Instead, we have chosen to operate on a small budget, and devote all of our time and energy to the literary and arts activities, the awards, the publications.
The processing and award fees assist us in doing just that – off-setting some of the expense of keeping our offices, tech equipment, internship and readers programs, the online submission program and other miscellaneous needs covered. (In fact, using the online submission program saves our artists the costs of printing, and of mailing or transport. It also provides us with greater ease regarding sharing the work with our readers, including the ability to expand our staff of readers and volunteers internationally. But it adds some monthly cost to our budget.)
The fees also serve to narrow the number of submissions to any one of our competitions. This is important for several reasons. First, it reduces the number of submissions, making it more manageable for our readers. Second, it allows those readers to devote more time and attention to the manuscripts that have been submitted, giving each one at least three readings from three separate readers – and often through the entire process of evaluation, many more reads. It assures that each manuscript gets a great amount of consideration.
Obviously, as writers and artists, we all want to treat our own work with care, and we want to be careful where we put our financial resources. So, we have to choose with discernment regarding where we submit, and which organizations we offer our fee budget to. Those choices reflect that you are investing in your own work, and in the organizations you choose. When we receive your submissions, we understand fully the consideration that went into it; we see it as an investment not only in your own creative career, but in Hidden River itself. It means that you have decided that an award — or even a semi-finalist or finalist acknowledgement – from Hidden River offers worth. We know that each submission is an act of faith in what we do, and in who we are. We deeply appreciate that, since we see it as an important indication that you value what we offer as much as we value your creative work.