Update and a response from Rattle at the bottom.
Poetry isn’t the big money game it once was, but there are still a few magazines that command a bit of respect, paying their contributors for poems and running contests that could help fund the lifestyle of a writer alongside adjunct teaching gigs or copywriting. Rattle is one of the more contemporary journals that has gotten the attention of both old school and up-and-coming poets, and while its annual prize has previously awarded a mere $5,000 for a single poem, this year they have doubled down in celebration of the magazine’s 10th anniversary, offering $10,000 to for a single poem.
Despite offering such a significant cash prize for a single poem, Rattle has just put out the call for artists for their summer issue. Here is their official announcement:
Every contributor to the magazine—art or poetry—receives $50 for their contribution, and cover artists are given a box of copies for their trouble. Of course, the Submittable page for Rattle‘s art submissions all but states that they are intended for the cover and the cover alone.
This is the definition of speculative work.
Speculative (or “spec”) work is one of the most unethical practices going on in the business world, and it is appalling that a magazine as well-regarded as Rattle is engaging in it. Rattle has a print run of over 6,000 issues with 4,400 paid subscribers—on the digital side they have 20,000 page views and 2,400 unique visitors per day—yet they are soliciting spec work for the cover of their magazine.
If you agree that a magazine with such impressive circulation numbers should be doing a better job of respecting their cover artists, I encourage you to contact Rattle directly you can also find them on Facebook or on Twitter. And if you’re someone from Rattle reading this, I encourage you to read NO!SPEC, particularly their FAQ, to learn why you shouldn’t be running a contest to find cover art for your poetry collections.
Update: Rattle responds over Twitter, collected here in Storify.
DAVID FAIRBANKS is Loser City’s resident poet and Creative Writing Editor. He doesn’t get many things right the first time but insists that this is why editors exist and why the English language features the prefix “re-.” You can find David twittering with alarming frequency at @bairfanx.