More on Zoo

Here’s an update on Zoo Press‘ decision (mentioned here yesterday) to cancel its short fiction prize, keep the submission fees, and suggest that entrants send shipping fees to get two free poetry books instead. (By the way, Ed and Maud have picked up this issue and are receiving some reader mail well worth checking. The Reading Experience takes a broader view, and asks why writers should have to pay in the first place.)
Several entrants have e-mailed Zoo publisher Neil Azevedo to ask for a refund of their submission fees. So far, their requests have been met with silence. I emailed Azevedo yesterday morning and called him today (as has Ed.) I haven’t received a response or a call back. It’s worth pointing out that the outgoing phone message at Zoo still mentions the Zoo prize, but the website no longer lists the fiction section on the navigation bar.
I’m told entrants to both the 2003 and the 2004 prize received the email. Since the 2003 prize had, according to Zoo’s own website, “a large number of submissions” one wonders where the proceeds went. In the thirteen months since submissions closed for that earlier prize, there would have been plenty of time to figure out whether it was financially viable. Instead, Zoo announced the 2004 prize, collected the money and used it for “a full page ad in the Atlantic.” I dug out my last three copies of the Atlantic Monthly (March, April, May) and leafed through them, but didn’t see the ad. (On the other hand, the prize was announced in the January/February issue of Poets and Writers.)
Shanna Compton, quoted over at Maud, says that the contract clearly states that the fee is non-refundable and that Zoo can cancel at any time. Fair enough. But when entrants submit a fee, they are entering into a good faith agreement with the publisher. If the publisher realized that, this year, there weren’t enough entrants, then clearly he didn’t need to hire readers or judges, let alone incur any publication costs, so there’s no justification for keeping the fees. Of course one can continue to speculate, but the bottom line is that only Azevedo has an answer and so far he’s not giving it.