From The Editor’s Piled-High Desk: What We Do When Submissions Are Closed

I’ve been silent here for a bit longer than usual, but it’s not that I’ve been anywhere too thrilling. I’ve just been off the blog grid while I finish work on LAR 8. Earlier this month, we closed submissions for the magazine until August 1. I’m sure most writers who actively submit work have seen on or on magazine websites that magazines are “temporarily closed to submissions,” and they may hold the impression (I did, before jumping into the litmag world) that we editors are taking a much-needed break. No, the “off” season is really just about as busy as, if not busier than, the reading season. I’ve written before about ordering a manuscript, which is a great deal of work, though fun. Here are some other things that go on behind the scenes after a magazine (or, at least ours!) closes:

* Reading the influx of just-before-the-deadline submissions (authors: avoid sending work just under the wire. Editors are likely to have less space available for even the best work. You’d be well served, at least at LAR, to get your work in early-ish) ;

* Notifying authors of final decisions;

* Sorting out the millions of emails received in response to rejection notes I’ve sent (some are quite nice: “thanks for reading my work,” etc. Others are surly indeed: “You’re so closed-minded…” and so forth) and feeling alternately appreciated and wounded;

* Badgering contributors for contact info and bios (writers: include this info in your submission. You will save an editor a huge amount of trouble if your work’s accepted!);

* Cross-referencing contributors, contributions, bios, table of contents entries, approved galleys, contracts and contact information for somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 people, and invariably missing something important;

* Running out of paper for my ink-jet printer;

* Running out of jet-ink for my paper;

* Getting the last of the galleys out to writers;

* Dealing with the writer who insists that using a series of many en-dashes rather than an em-dash is important to his story, and should not be edited according to the style guide, though he can’t quite say why;

* Shouting oaths at the contributor document that automatically updates all text to bold whenever I so much as look at it (seriously–what is that about? I don’t even understand how a person gets Word to behave this way, much less why he or she would want to do so) ;

* Discovering I need postscript files for Cyrillic and Mandarin fonts whose names I have difficulty translating into romanized characters, spending 4 or more hours trying to find said files online, and finally calling my Translations Editor while close to tears;

* Discovering that my very cheap PDF converter is trying to make the entire manuscript appear in a scrolling, jaunty font that looks like a pirate’s handwriting;

* Explaining to our wonderful press’s perplexed book designer that, no, it’s not really Type Like A Pirate Day at LAR, and I, much to my chagrin, don’t know how on earth I created that fun problem.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you; you get the idea. When my friend asked me a while back whether it would be a good idea for her writers’ group to begin a literary magazine, I told her the truth: a litmag may never fall under the category of a “good” idea, but it may just be a “great” one. It’s not good insofar as it’s a heap of work, some of it frustrating and a little bit of it thankless. It’s not going to pay anyone’s bills or make him or her suddenly notable. It doesn’t make a lot of sense from an intuitive point of view.

But it may well be a great idea. Because even with the many hours of work, the steep learning curve, the embarrassing mistakes that are bound to happen, and getting to compile lists like the one I made above, small press magazines are able to do something amazing. We’re able to give voice to people who still believe in the written word. We get to publish literature that takes people from where they are and moves them someplace unexpected. We get to be part of the ridiculously exciting landscape of contemporary literature.

And however ready I am to put Issue 8 in the can, I’m even more eager to get it into readers’ hands, because our contributors have some important things to say. And I’m ready to do it all again with Issue 9.

5 Replies to “From The Editor’s Piled-High Desk: What We Do When Submissions Are Closed”

  1. Yikes! Got a headache just reading about what goes behind the scenes of a lit mag. But your mission is so important, so thank you for helping important voices be heard.

  2. Claire, thanks! I’m currently operating under the “no pain, no gain” motto (though I hate the implied comma splice!).

    Kathy, thanks for visiting my blog! Much appreciated. Sharing important voices–and voices that might otherwise not be heard–is something I hope never to lose sight of.

    Stephanie, send those early birds, girl. I certainly can’t speak for all journals, but we love to get a solid base under us early on. I suspect many editors feel the same way.

    Gordon, I’m getting so used to revising that novel at this point. I’ve lost count of revisions. Pile on another three to five passes; I’m game. 😉

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