I have been thinking about this topic for a few months now, as I have been awaiting four magazine publications to release. Are submission based magazine publications worth it?
Submission based magazines do have their benefits, but do the benefits outweigh the negatives? These magazines claim exposure is the benefit of publication in their magazines. Many of these types of magazines have little to no social media following and they are only sold on Magcloud. What actual exposure are you getting from submitting to these magazines? Some larger submission based magazines; Ellements, Rogue, Mod, and Lucy's to name a few, could actually be considered promotional value to your work, as most have over 100k followers.
Another benefit of these types of magazines is the ability to call yourself a published photographer or published model, etc. This is great for new artists just beginning their career and need to look professional on paper.
And finally, my favorite benefit of getting accepted for submission based magazines is creating a collection of printed work. Magazines you are featured in can be used in office space, home space, hung on walls, and it's rewarding seeing your work in print.
There are quite a few negative aspects to being featured in submission based magazines. So many, that I, and many other fashion photographers are opting out of submitting to many. The biggest negative for me is having to hold off on showcasing new work because of exclusivity to these magazines. Some publications have held my work for over five months before release. This just isn't good for business or marketing because it inhibits the amount of new work you can share on social media and your website. Anyone who knows the ins and outs of Instagram knows that if you don't post regularly, you lose followers and engagement. As a photographer it is so important to stay current and updated and when you are waiting until winter to share a summer editorial, it's not current.
Another issue with submission based magazines I've encountered recently is the fact that they don't respond to me after the initial acceptance. I've been given release dates and then that date comes and goes with no notice from the publication. I've had to research their magclouds to try to find my issue before, which, if some of you have used magcloud know, can be difficult, as they only show you the first few pages in a preview. I've also had way too many magazines take my images for acceptance and then never publish the issue they are supposed to be in. So I wait for months to be able to share the images, the magazine doesn't come out, and then I have dead images that could have been used four months ago when I shot them.
There is also the problem with too many of these magazines beginning to charge photographers to submit. NEVER pay to have your work put in a magazine. They are benefiting off YOU and without photographers, they wouldn't have a publication. So many of these magazines charge for a specific feature, such as a cover spot, a 12 page story, an interview, and the prioritize those who purchase these features. This allows sub par photographers to get their work into magazines and puts the good work on the back-burner. Now you are not only competing with other great photographers for publication spots, you're competing with those paying their advances.
THE BIG PICTURE
The takeaway from this is to be aware when submitting to magazines. Do your research first:
1. Does the publication have a large following?
2. Does the publication charge?
3. Does the publication have an active magcloud?
4. Is the publication in print, digital, or both?
5. Is the publication available in store?
Avoid magazine submissions that have a low following on social media (If you're not getting exposure from the submission, what ARE you getting?).
Avoid magazines that charge. Never waste your money to allow someone else to use your photos.
Avoid magazines that haven't posted an issue to magcloud in four months (unless they are a quarterly magazine). This is a red flag that the magazine may ghost you.
Look for magazines that are available in print and even better, available in store.
Ask yourself if you want to wait to release images or if your portfolio is in need of work now? If you haven't had any work to share in a month, think about what's more important, your marketing or a possibility of a feature in a magazine five months from now.