On Editing

I don’t expect a single thing from the writers we publish, other than their words. In fact, I don’t even expect their words, and when talented artists send their work to us over all the other journals saturating the market–especially paying markets–I am both surprised and grateful.

I’ve noticed a shift in some instances toward the idea that writers ought to shoulder part of the heavy lifting literary journals do to keep afloat. This I suspect has largely to do with the fact that some of these journals make little to no profit and are run voluntarily by overworked editors who are themselves writers or have other jobs. I sympathize.

Still, I view each piece we publish in TROn as a great privilege and gift, and if we fail as a journal, it is our burden as the editors; it is in no way a fault of our writers.

That in mind, I’d like to discuss a few of my philosophies as an editor.

  • Writers should never be asked to donate the payment they receive. If possible, in any way, shape, or form, pay writers.

It is a noble thing when a writer donates time or money to a journal, but I would not point out that a writer might donate the little cash they receive for their writing to a journal I am editing, if that journal is one of the few that pays (which TROn is not). It isn’t as if the writer is likely in a better financial situation than the journal to which he or she is submitting. If the writer wants to donate, that’s great. But a note in the submission guidelines about the option of donating a paycheck of a few measly dollars is akin to panhandling. I deeply respect our writers at TROn, and my only purpose is to help showcase their work. They are not required in turn to showcase our journal, even though we always hope our journal is of a quality that they’re proud to show it off. Writers deserve to get paid, because without writers, journals wouldn’t exist. Without writers we’d have nothing to publish. Readers pay for the art, or else the journal finds some other way to pay for the art, but the art does not pay for its place in the journal.

  • I really, honestly wish we could pay you.

Are you getting this yet? This is what is known in “the biz” as Yog’s Law: Money flows toward the writer. Even if we literally can’t afford to pay you, you should in no way be required to pay us. Clear enough?

  • Journals aren’t telemarketers.

If you’re on an e-mail list for my journal, if I’m sending you updates and promoting myself, you’re already a reader, and you’re someone who asked to be e-mailed. I would not place you on a spam list regardless of whether or not I’ve accepted or rejected your work. To me, filling someone’s email inbox with promotional spam without asking, especially after rejecting their work, is tactless.

  • If you submit, I’m going to read your work.

Arguably, one of the most important and beautiful things a journal can do is acquire a new unsolicited talent. I don’t call our submissions the “slush pile.” Slush is the muddy, melting snow that adheres to the bottom of someone’s shoes. An editor who views writing that way should get out of the business immediately. If you took the time to submit and I am your editor, I will read your work. Granted, I don’t think it’s wrong for an editor to instinctually know in a page or two whether or not the work fits (though the editor aught at least read some from the beginning, middle and end). But blanket-bias against unknown writers versus those with a “safer” curriculum vitae is just plain wrong, and deadly to the potential of art’s novelty.

  • Give me no simultaneous submissions (but I won’t fault you if you ignore this).

Like many journals, TROn doesn’t take submissions that are submitted elsewhere at the same time. And there is a good reason behind this. That is, if we’ve taken the time to read all this work that gets accepted elsewhere, we’ll end up with nothing good to publish. But it isn’t your fault that our resources require us a certain amount of time to read through our submissions. While our journal is fairly quick at getting back to writers with a yay or nay, those with more cumbersome submission volumes can take up to a year or longer to get back to you, and on occasion submissions are misplaced and thus never read or responded to. Who the hell expects you to spend a year of your life waiting in stasis over a story you really love and want the world to see? So, no simultaneous submissions. (But go ahead and do it anyway, and if you get in somewhere else, that’s wonderful. Just don’t tell us that’s what happened when you quietly withdraw the piece.)

  • In conclusion:

Many journals aren’t able to support their writers the way they used to. If you can make a living as a short story writer like Hemingway and Fitzgerald did, you’re an anomaly worth celebrating. Most likely you can’t, and as an editor, I’m sorry for that. Good writers deserve the support of readers and journals, even if monetary payment doesn’t come close to repaying the change a good story, poem, or essay, can cause in someone’s life. But the least we can do is eat our humble pie and stop imposing our business goals on you, who has already donated your work, your life blood. No, we can’t pay you, but if we could, we should.  It is a great joy and opportunity to read your words, writers, and I want to thank you from the marrow of the bones in my fingers, for considering us.

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