Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Just for fun… the cost of paper submissions

I started this and got a little carried away. Where I can, I document the places I’m pulling some of the assumed averages from, but there are pieces, like the postal costs, which came from Twitter friends. This is far from a scientific study. (Our esub system restricts the number of submissions someone can send us in a month. This could have been much worse.)

Average number of Clarkesworld Magazine submissions per month for 2010: 700
Approximate average number of words per submission: 5000

Average number of words per page: 275
Number of pages in a ream of paper: 500
Approximate total of 1 page cover letters per year: 8400
Approximate total of 1 page acceptance or rejection letters per year: 8400
Envelopes would have been used: 16800
Case of 500 envelopes: 4 pounds
Approximate weight of envelopes: 137.75

If Clarkesworld took paper submissions:

We would have received 26.9 reams of paper per month, or 322.8 reams per year.
We would have sent 8400 letters.

According to this site (and using their assumptions/approximations):

Pounds per ream: 5
Pounds CO2 released per pound of paper: 6.1

Pounds of Clarkesworld submissions in a year: 1614
Pounds of CO2 released by above submissions: 9854.4
Pounds of CO2 released by response letters: 512.4
TOTAL Pounds of CO2 released by sheets of paper in the submissions process: 10366.8
Pounds of CO2 released by envelopes: 840.37
TOTAL Pounds of CO2 released by paper products in the submissions process: 11207.17

Production of 1 ton of copy paper produces 2,278 lb of solid waste.
Tons of paper products in submissions process for one year: 0.92
Pounds of solid waste in production of paper used for one year of submissions: 2095
Production of 1 ton of copy paper uses 11134 kWh (approx. energy used by avg. household in 10 months)
kWh used in production of paper for one year of submissions: 10243.28 (avg. household 9 months, 6 days)


Assuming weekly trips to the PO box:
52 trips to the post office, 4 miles round trip, 208 miles
1 gallon of gas produces 19.4 pounds of CO2.
My car gets approximately 20 miles per gallon.
TOTAL Pounds of CO2 released by picking up paper submissions: 201.76
Postal Expenses:
Postage to send a submission within US (with return postage for letter): $1.73+0.44, $2.17
Postage to send a submission outside the US: $6.30
Approximate percentage of submissions from outside the US: 30
Approximate postal cost of US submissions: $12759.60
Approximate postal cost of international submissions: $15876
Total postal cost: $28635.60
USPS shipping 16800 letters.
I have no idea what it takes to ship all that, but I know that some people will argue that the computer I use and the internet have significant CO2 impact even though they would be on anyway… so I’ll cut them so slack and assume the USPS would be shipping things anyway. Let’s call it even. Your planes. My computer. (Some interesting information about the impact of the internet and computers can be found here.)

And yes, I know that we probably get a lot more submissions than we would if we only took paper subs… Like the title says, this was all for fun.


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  1. Holy cow! And that doesn’t even take into consideration what it might cost if you were shipping batches of submissions out to slush readers and we were shipping some or all of them back to you, which is, as I understand it, the way some publications handle their submissions. I suppose you could find local slush readers though, maybe?

    (Is it really only 700 a month? Goodness, it feels like more than that. I would have guessed a higher number.)

    • The system-enforced “cooling period” between submissions causes the number of submissions to fluctuate based on our response time. When we are running on all cylinders, it closes in on 800. I rounded the average down to 700 for a more conservative interpretation.

      The other thing I left out was the impact of printers, toner and ink. I started looking into that and it felt like my head was going to explode.

  2. WOW. Fascinating. My writing friends and I were just discussing paper v. electronic submissions because I’d sent in something to a magazine that only accepts paper.

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