Tin House Two

July 11, 2010 § 3 Comments


Last week, we blogged (as did many others) about Tin House‘s temporary policy of Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore, which is also known as Buy a Book, Before You Submit to Tin House.

Some have called it coercion, others appreciate the effort to help the indie bookstores, and a few commenters felt conflicted.

Yes, people who submit to lit mags often don’t support literary magazines, or indie bookstores, as much as we’d like them to, and that’s truly frustrating, but is it right to demand it of them?

In an effort to keep it fair, let’s take a minute to hear from Tin House editor Rob Spillman, who sounds quite reasonable, and clear-headed explaining his motivation in an e-mail to the folks at CLMP (the professional association of literary magazines and presses).

From Rob Spillman’s e-mail:

As the editor of Tin House, I thought I would weigh in with some comments of my own:

At the magazine, we receive, on average, 1,500 submissions every month. We actively encourage unsolicited submissions. In each issue we publish at least one unpublished fiction writer and one poet. We’ve been doing this since Issue #1, forty-five issues and eleven years ago.

At the book division, we have become overwhelmed with unsolicited submissions and had to stop reading them.

We believe that there are more people who want to be published in literary magazines and small presses than there are people buying these magazines and books.

This program is not meant as the solution. There is no one solution.

This is a temporary trial, which will expire January 1, 2011.

If we try this again, it might be with library cards. We love libraries and realize the assault they are under.

We are trying to start a dialogue.

When I dropped out of school and moved to New York with no money but with dreams of starting a literary magazine, I spent a lot of time at the Strand Bookstore weighing book purchases versus Top Ramen. The book almost always won.

Our haiku suggestion was tongue in cheek. It was not meant to be condescending.

If other publishers have other ideas, we’re all ears.

To those who question our tone, I understand. To those who question our intent, I can only reply that I’m sorry that you don’t know me or Tin House better.

Personally, I believe that the static publishing system needs to be shaken up, that we need some fresh ideas. Why not try something new? And approach it in the spirit of fun? As Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

… Happy Independence Day,

–Rob Spillman

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§ 3 Responses to Tin House Two

  • Karen says:

    I think Spillman is on the right side of the issue, and have no problem with his experiment. But then I buy books solely at independent bookstores as a rule and a regular practice, even though they’re hard to afford. I can’t buy a lot of lit magazines but I do purchase them when I can, especially if I’m going to submit something. And I check out books by the stack for my kids, who at age 10 and 11 have been voracious readers for years. Whatever we can do to support the publication of literature, and if we don’t want hard copy to go away forever (no offense to Brevity) as writers and readers we have an obligation. However, I’ll say to Spillman and other editors that because it is so hard for nameless writers (and others) to get published, it’s a numbers game. It’s not feasible or practical for most of us to buy every magazine.

    • justine says:

      I think it’s a great idea with the best of intentions and all that. Unfortunately, it will probably mean that I can’t afford to submit there–perhaps there is one goal accomplished then, thinning out the slosh pool. Sigh, it’s tough enough as it is. I made all of 1500 dollars for the entire year of 2010, and have a mouth to feed.

      Maybe I’ll just go the Emily Dick. route, but wearing white makes me nervous.

  • […] few days ago, the lovely folks over at Brevity blogged about a new policy instituted by the fine literary journal Tin House. In a bold and […]

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