Friday, March 25, 2011

Submission Guidelines to Beware of: Midwest Literary Magazine

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Midwest Literary Magazine (MLM) bills itself as "the quiet press." Its online magazine publishes poetry, articles, and short fiction. Its mission: to "find and publish excellent authors of poetry, fiction and non-fiction."

So far so good. However,
Our vision does not include any self-promotion. We strive toward one simple integrity, “keep the focus on the writers and their work.” We do not list the real names of our staff members. This has been our tradition for years.
So writers who are interested in submitting to MLM must do so with no knowledge of who is actually running the publication. This is problematic in two respects: first, authors must take it on faith that the people involved are qualified to acquire, edit, and publish--not, in these days of easy electronic media, a safe assumption; and second, with anonymous staff there's no accountability. Of course, there may be no accountability with known staff either--Writer Beware's files are full of such complaints--but at least if you know the names of the people you're dealing with, you have a place to start.

So already, there are questions here that should make a savvy writer cautious. The real problem, though, is MLM's submission guidelines.
By submitting to MLM, you grant permission for MLM to publish your submission electronically, in print or through affiliated anthologies; now and in the future.

You may reprint your work, sell it, or otherwise continue to benefit from your work however, you must include an acknowledgement.
Submission, in other words, constitutes a grant of rights--kind of like those computer licenses where merely opening the package constitutes agreement to the licensing terms.

Just as bad: neither the rights you must surrender, nor the term for which you must surrender them, are precisely defined. "Now and in the future" implies that the grant is life-of-copyright, and "you may reprint your work" implies that the grant is nonexclusive, but that's far from an adequate explanation and it's open to a variety of interpretations. Also, MLM isn't a paying market--not uncommon with online magazines--but if your work is anthologized, you not only get no compensation, you don't even get a contributor's copy (though if you want to buy one, MLM will generously give you a coupon).

So, to recap: Merely by submitting to MLM--an anonymous publisher with no staff accountability--authors grant it the right to publish their work in multiple formats, presumably for the life of copyright, without further permission, notification, or payment. This actually is what happened to the writer who alerted me about MLM--they submitted (I suspect without carefully reading the guidelines), then decided to withdraw their submission because they hadn't heard from MLM, only to discover that their story had been published months earlier.

Writer beware, indeed.

MLM is just one example of this kind of submission guideline "gotcha"--I've seen others. Yet another reason to always read the fine print.

(MLM also has a book publishing program. It's free, though apparently if you want editing and other "extras" you have to pay.)

28 comments:

Mary Witzl said...

Too late do I find this out, but thank you anyway. I submitted something to them, was rejected -- then they decided to accept it after all. I'll read that fine print more carefully in the future.

From now on, I'll go for paying markets. God bless 'em.

BuffySquirrel said...

What constitutes consideration in this situation?

S.M. Carrière said...

Oh my! I'm definitely reposting this. Thank-you for the alert!

KarenG said...

I RT'd this. Very interesting. What a strange set up. Thank you for this report.

Ann Best said...

Wow. I've retweeted this, too.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I'm re-posting this right away.

Anonymous said...

And what's that crap about no self promotion? So they grab all your rights for nothing, forever, and they don't even make an effort to bring attention to your career in return? Yeek.

How do people even find out about these piddly no-name markets?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for the heads up....

Thomas M. Sipos said...

I went to their Books page: http://midwestliterarymagazine.com/books/

Their book covers look EXACTLY like the free templates provided by Amazon.com's CreateSpace self-publishing arm.

CreateSpace even allows self-publishers to use their own ISBNs and publishing company names.

I wonder if Midwest is publishing books through CreateSpace?

In which case, this is something any author could do on their own at CreateSpace -- FREE slick covers included -- while keeping all rights.

M.R. said...

As you now, I was burned by them.
You just said everything I wanted to say, in a much better way and put things into perspective. Thank you very much.

Diana Stevan said...

Just found your blog through a friend. A worthy site. I'll visit it a lot. Thanks for the info.

Ezra said...

I had a piece accepted by them. Just got an email saying they had changed their guidelines:
-------------------------------------
One of our readers called it to our attention that our submission guidelines seem too broad. We agree, so we made these changes today.

The old guideline read: “By submitting to MLM, you grant permission for MLM to publish your submission electronically, in print or through affiliated anthologies; now and in the future.”

We changed that to read: “By submitting to MLM you are granting permission for MLM to publish your submission electronically and in an anthology.”

http://midwestliterarymagazine.com/2011/03/31/submission-guideline-change/

Victoria Strauss said...

Still a "beware."

Writers still are granting permission to publish merely by submitting. So that problem hasn't been addressed.

And while they've removed "now or in the future," they still don't say precisely what rights writers are granting, or for how long.

Anonymous said...

You can find out about publisher scams by Googling for "publisher scam." Many web sites dedicated to writing have entire lists or discussion sections dedicated to the topic.

Anonymous said...

This blog obviously made a difference. One week after it was posted the magazine changed its guidelines. I found this blog actually by googling the magazine itself. It's near the top of the listings. And the person who noticed the createspace connection is right on. They're selling their "magazines" through Amazon. Seems like a novel angle: Harvest a bunch of copy, get all the rights, and sell it for your own pocket. Reeks of exploitation, or, worse, vanity publishing. Did YOU buy that magazine in which YOUR story appeared?

Pam Griffin said...

I'd have more confidence in their publishing service if the books they show hadn't so obviously got covers made with CreateSpace's cover creator. So they don't even publish the books, they just upload them to CS for you and then take your profits!

Rolli said...

Sounds like an enormous SCAM. Yikes!

Art Durkee said...

This is good information to put out there, so that people know about it. But it's also hard not to view it perhaps overly cynical, and contributing to the general climate of cynicism surrounding all of this right now. As if there weren't enough reasons already to despair.

By all means be cautious. Protect your own interests, and your rights as a writer. By all means!

But while doing that, try to avoid turning into a professional victim about it. . . .

Also, speaking as a former professional book designer and typographer, graphic designer, artist, etc., my real problem with a lot of these outfits is that the level of quality they offer is really not up to my standards. LOL I'd rather self-publish (with the help of a good editor) because I know that I can produce a more attractive, readable, and nicely-designed product—and I know my own work well enough to know how to illustrate it appropriately, too.

I've been thinking about getting back into design if only because there's so much bad design out there, and writers in particular could use some help. LOL

Beulah said...

Just had a piece accepted there and then I found this blog post. Even though accepted, I did withdraw it. The online pub is very poor quality by the way. Thank you. Wish I had found this sooner.

It is listed on Duotrope. Just notified them.

Bo B. said...

I was recently published in the May issue of MLM, I really thought they were legitimate but based on what I've read here and in other forums they are very dishonest and preys on newbie writers like myself. This goes to show that due diligence is important before sending stuff out for publication.

Would this still count as a publication credit despite their dishonesty?

Victoria Strauss said...

Bo asked,

Would this still count as a publication credit despite their dishonesty?

In my opinion, probably not. Not so much because they're dishonest, but because they are so very obscure.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was something sketch about all the talk on the site about revised guidelines and complaining authors. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Duotrope just de-listed MLM. I had just received an acceptance, but I have quickly written to them to withdraw my piece. I don't know if it's too late, but I am going to continue to submit my piece to new markets, anyway.

Liz said...

I had something accepted by MLM in a fashion similar to others on here: I'd forgotten about it, then happened to check the status of it on their online submission manager and saw it was accepted. It was published a couple days later (not proofed by me or anything first, and I had to email them to say "hey, so, you're publishing me, huh?").

I've been unsettled to think of them as a publishing credit ever since my story was accepted, and since I saw the zillions of other stories and poems published in the same issue as mine. So I'm thinking now, after realizing they aren't on Duotrope anymore and after reading about others' experiences, this is not a credit I need to claim.

Here's my question: I was really proud of that particular story. It seems so wasted. Does anyone have any advice on what I could do with it?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warning. I went to their submissions manager, and was able to successfully delete my submission. I have saved a screen capture confirming that.
Zharmae also asks for future, all-encompassing rights.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known about this sooner. I just had two pieces accepted, and I said, "go ahead and print it," thinking I would receive a follow-up "real" acceptance e-mail. Nope. I opened a "ticket" to address this, plus I sent an e-mail as well requesting to withdraw. I hope it's not too late!

Anonymous said...

They have been good to me. Maybe I'm special. :)