Literary Journal Demands Evidence That America is Actually Literary!

| 7/4/2010 2:02:13 PM


Last week, the literary journal Tin House put an intriguing wrinkle in its submissions policy for the coming fall. Along with their submissions, writers will have to include a receipt proving they’ve recently purchased a book from a bookstore. The change affects submissions to the magazine and to Tin House’s books division. In a press release the editors added: “Writers who cannot afford to buy a book or cannot get to an actual bookstore are encouraged to explain why in haiku or one sentence (100 words or fewer).”

Here at Utne, we wanted to find out a little more about the thinking behind this new (and awesome) policy. Tin House managing editor Cheston Knapp was kind enough to play along and supply some answers.Though Knapp noted that there is some “apprehension” that writers will be angry about the shift, he says, “We're just asking people to be accountable for the fact that they're participating in an ailing industry when they submit to literary journals or book publishers.” The goal, then, might be to reinforce—concretely—the reading spirit of the creative writing community. After all, to support literary writing, there’s no way other than by reading books, journals, and magazines. “People are trying to figure out what the [publishing] landscape's going to look like but we want to do our part to ensure physical books remain a part of it,” says Knapp.

As for how long this policy might last, the current plan applies only for this fall’s reading period. Knapp adds that “there are many other literary magazines that charge you to submit to them and that seems to work… folks don't raise a stink about that. We'll see how people react to this.” It’s an uncertain time literature in print, and as Knapp suggests, the future is up for grabs: “What we hope is that writers can continue to write and booksellers continue to sell their books long into the future, as the building morphs around us like something out of Proteus's wet dream.” And you thought there wouldn’t be any literary references in this post.

(Thanks, GalleyCat.)

Elizabeth Burns
7/9/2010 10:06:12 AM

There are so many talented individuals who have to make a choice between food and bills, rent and medicine, daycare and work; under those circumstances a new book is an absolute luxury, unless it's found at a yard sale or taken out from the local public library. I personally understand the need to keep a publishing business running, but this tactic is mean-spirited at best. There are better ways to generate revenue. What a shame! I liked Tin House.

Tim Gieseke
7/7/2010 12:08:36 PM

It sounds like a cute policy and an educational moment, but its positive effect will be diminished by the widening chasm between aspiring writers and those holding the keys to the literary houses. It would be like passing legislation that required publishers to have a positive attitude - a cute policy and an education moment, but it would pass quickly...zing.

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