Last time on Real World: Editors, Split Lip editors answered questions about the submission process for their particular genres. This week, editors from a few other journals weigh in on the following question:
What's the submission process like for your journal? Are Submittable statuses an accurate reflection of where the piece is? How many readers does a piece go through? How far in advance do you accept stories? How do you approach editorial work with accepted writers? Do you read blind?
We have three editors – myself, Annabelle and Caroline.* We split submissions between the three of us, and all our maybes and omg read thisses get read by each of us, which means we're often reading 250+ submissions each.
As soon as a submission is delegated it goes into 'in progress', but we may still have 100 or so submissions to read through before we get a chance to look at a specific piece, so status is not always a true reflection of where a piece is. This frustrates us sometimes as we feel so bad on the writers who are waiting, waiting, but delegating early helps us in the long-run. It helps us schedule reading days and organise submissions between the three of us. We're all balancing full-time jobs or novel writing or freelancing, so it really does help. We try not to leave response time longer than 2 months, but it can be difficult to balance life and families and full-time work.
We don't read blind; we try to ensure we have a good balance of new and diverse voices. We accept pieces as soon as we fall in love with them, so that can be anywhere from the day we read them to a few days or weeks after receiving them. We're happy to suggest edits once we've accepted work and often do. We LOVE working with writers to help polish a piece after we've accepted it, or before – especially if we believe in it. We're each other's editors as well, so mini workshops are our lifeblood; we know how important they can be for your writing. (Though, of course, we encourage writers to submit finished pieces ready for publication – it's only if we spot a potential for improvement or sparkles that we weigh in with our suggestions.)
*Ed. note - Synaesthesia just welcomed Bee Walsh as poetry editor!
As both an editor and a submitter, [editing] is the my favorite part of the entire process, the part of the process where I learn the most, the part of the process where I feel the most engaged with a community of writers and readers. There's a queasiness I feel (on either side, editor or writer) with a piece being copied from its submission document and pasted directly into the InDesign file or web page. At the veryyyyy least, copy editing is necessary. At the best, the editor gets their hands dirty in a fckn google doc and makes suggestions, cuts, asks questions, and gives praise when/where it is due. At the best, the writer responds to these suggestions, weighing the pros and cons of changes, agrees with some, disagrees with some, and ultimately sees their work in a new light. A good editor can show an author something about the piece they didn't know. A good writer will view work as ever-changing, imperfectible, and exciting. Now, this best case scenario doesn't happen all the time. It's probably happened five times with me as the writer, five times with me as the editor. And I've put probably thirty stories into the world as an editor, and as many as a writer. So, when you happen upon that kind of relationship, hold on to it. And if you don't have time, energy, or enthusiasm for this part of the process, you probably shouldn't be an editor. Same goes for the writer side.
We have two consistent submission periods per year (therefore two publication seasons):
Open the month of June Only (to be published August and September that same year)
Open October and November (to run starting in January of the next year)
Season 1: Pieces run mid-January to end of March/into April
Season 2: Pieces run August and September
We accept submissions via email only. You’ll receive a confirmation email within a week of submitting, so if you haven’t heard from us, please do send us a (polite) follow-up!
Each piece is read by a team of editors, and we decide together if the piece is accepted/declined. This is why submissions can sometimes take a little while – we have a submission cycle that lasts a month or two, then once the submission cycle closes, we’ll read and decide on the stories.
As soon as decisions have been made about all of the pieces received, only then will we send responses.
Most of the time, our edits are light. However, if large edits need to be made, we'll always double check with the author that these changes are okay.
We are on Submittable! And we are open all year-round! I first want to say that one pivotal thing that happened when Alex Quinlan and I started working together (about 2+ years ago) is our move from the free submissions manager over to Submittable. And I have to say that Submittable REALLY makes our process much much smoother. The Southeast Review accepts work from both established and emerging writers -- we want both -- we want what I call that "beautiful balance." So one luxury of being part of a larger creative writing program (Florida State University) is that we have more people on staff and more readers. Because I'm a poet, I'm more involved with the poetry side of things (shoutout to our wonderful Poetry Editor, Jayme Ringleb and Assistant Poetry Editor, Dorsey Craft). At the beginning of each semester, our readers sign up for course credit. These readers help us with our Submittable queue. The poetry editors will then pair each of these readers up with another reader, and each set of readers will get a handful of submissions to go through on Submittable. So when a writer sees "In Progress" on their Submittable, it means that their batch has been assigned, and our readers have to respond in the comments and vote by the deadline. We've become more and more efficient, especially since transferring to Submittable. The readers are paired up so that they can see each others' notes and discuss pieces on Submittable. We have this general rule that we don't want to hit the "Maybe" button -- it's better to think whether a poem (or set of poems) is a clear-cut "yes" or "no." And if a poem is a "yes," it's important to specify which one(s) and why.
The poems that were voted "yes" make it to the poetry team's table read, where Jayme will lead the meeting and we'll go over these poems that made the next round. During the table reads, we end up discussing and voting. Also, any identifying information is completely excised from the packets when we discuss the work during table reads. We have about two table reads a semester, depending on what's necessary. We also have a general rule that once work is accepted, we try very hard for minimal edits out of respect for our poets and their craft. But of course, if it's a grammatical error or typo we do address it.
We open up submissions bi-annually, for two months at a time, using Submittable. We’re open during this window for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (we accept photography year round). We don’t send acceptances or rejections until the end of the submission cycle—our goal is to read every piece, even if it comes in at 11:59 PM on the last day of submissions. However, we do read as we go, and assign pieces weekly to our readers/staff, so statuses are generally an accurate reflection of where it is in the process. Once we read all pieces, we confer with notes and votes, and start building the table of contents. We are wary of length for issues—we have a specific word count we don’t like to go over, or the issue starts to become unwieldy. Each piece will get read by at least three assigned readers—MG co-founder Jeff Pfaller and I will then read back through submissions as well. I do wish we could send specific notes back to every person we don’t accept, but because of the sheer volume of submissions per cycle, it’s not always possible. Typically, pieces are accepted a few months before the issue launches; for our Winter 2018 issue, releasing on February 20, 2018, we accepted pieces in early December. Once a piece is accepted, we’ll make minor editorial changes during our copyedit phase—matching things up to our style guide, etc. Any substantial editorial changes are shared with the authors, and we work through those together. All contributors to an issue will get to check out a PDF proof well before the publish date, to make sure their happy with our edits. We do not read blind, but have a habit—discussed frequently with all readers—to not read cover letters until after we read the pieces. It’s important to us to have a mix of new and established authors in each issue.
M: We accept submissions by email, and we read them in the order they're received (unless you've used the fast track option). Lynsey and I both go through the slush pile, sometimes on our own, sometimes at the same time. If we like something, we forward it on to each other and to Jeremy, the creative director.
L: It goes on to a vote from there. Votes usually end up being unanimous, but there have been times when only one of us has liked a piece and then has fought for it hard enough to sway the other editors.
M: Our submission guidelines ask that they send a bio with it so it's not necessarily blind, but I try not to read it until after I read the piece and make a decision. If I recognize someone in the slush pile, I ask Lynsey to read it and vice versa. Then, if we get a consensus on the story or poem, we send very professional emails full of fangirling and confessions about how we cried when reading their work.
L: Oh, the fangirling is my favourite part! We are definitely guilty of a lot of exclamation marks and OHMYGODs. Yesterday I sent an acceptance in which I just pasted all the comments that we sent to each other about the piece because I thought the writer would appreciate being able to read our initial reactions. No two Hypertrophic acceptances are the same!
Next time on Real World: Editors: exposure and publicity!