Third Point Press, having now completed its first year of existence, has given me quite a bit to learn from. I guess I had an idea before starting out what the experience was going to be like, having held the position of eic at a college lit mag and then, later, as fiction editor of MARATHON–but honestly that wasn’t quite the case. Starting something up from scratch and having the team we have now (and getting the submissions we get), led to a whole new sort of experience, and one that I wanted to share simply because I don’t often see new pubs taking the time to do so.
So here goes: what I’ve learned in the last year or so.
Submitting shouldn’t be scary. I think writers naturally come to this conclusion on their own, but it became very clear after only a few months of getting submissions for Third Point: there simply isn’t a reason to be scared to submit work: whether or not we accept it is often (like, 97% of the time) a matter of our own personal tastes, what works in the issue, and what we’ve accepted already.
Getting a rejection is rarely based solely off of wether we think you’re good or not–because that’s a given. You should know you’re good. We believe you’re submitting to us because you know you’re good. We judge off of the criteria I listed above, and how interesting your work is/what it’s saying/how it makes us feel.
We don’t really care about your pedigree.
Won a bunch of awards? A name we’d recognize? Have a list of pubs a mile long? Great. Good for you. I don’t really care. And it’s not that I don’t care because I’m above it or because I think Third Point Press is above it, but because none of us have time to read through your cover letter or bio before we read your work. The cover letter/bio is something we look at after we decide how we feel about your work. I don’t know how it works for other publications out there, but since most of what we publish comes from unsolicited submissions (for our first 3 issues, all of what we’ve published came from unsolicited submissions), we aren’t exactly looking out for certain people.
Oh, and for the love of God, please don’t list every publication you’ve ever been in. Or say you’ve been in thousands of publications. Both of those are the opposite of impressive.
Diversity isn’t passive. When we first started, we were ultra-concerned about making sure we were publishing diverse voices. We wanted to create a passive sort of way to make sure we weren’t just accepting work from people who grew up like we did/looked like we do/have the same background educationally or culturally or whatever.
In order to do that, we decided to read blind. We thought this would mean that we’d accept work based off of how good it was, and not based off of the name or bio of the person submitting. But, as I said before, we really don’t look at those things anyway until after we’ve read the work, typically.
As it turns out, I learned that creating a safe, diverse, and open space isn’t a passive effort. It’s not something that you can make happen simply because you think you’re cutting out your bias (you’re not. You can’t). It’s something you (as a lit mag) need to enforce and emphasize and put yourself out as. We’re fortunate in that we’ve had a pretty good mix of people from all sorts of backgrounds in our issues, and a large part of that is by making sure we’re advertising and promoting our pub intelligently.
There is still so much to work that needs to happen, and we’re trying to figure out just what it means and just how to manage it. But one thing I understand now is the importance of being active in this work.
Editors want you to be successful. I’ve probably enjoyed rejecting someone’s work only once or twice. Both times because that work was so mysognynistic or racist it was a no brainier. Most times it’s an unenjoyable step in the running of a publication.
To that same end, I’ve never put anyone on a black list because they withdrew their work (because it was picked up somewhere else or because the submitter simply didn’t like the piece/thought it needed more work). Getting published anywhere is great, and I am very happy for submitters who get to send me that email! And if you think your piece isn’t quite ready, you’re saving our readers and editors time, and I appreciate that, too.
Lit mags are run by people. Let’s all treat each other like people.
Editor in Chief is a helper role. My readers decide what makes it to the next round of reading. My editors decide what makes it into the magazine. My team as a whole decides when we’re publishing and what we’re going to do for the year(s) to come.
My role is to facilitate and to support. My role as eic is to field problems and opportunities as they come. It’s different than what I was used to with other roles in other mags, and it took some getting used to. I don’t know if I just lucked out with the masthead we assembled or what, but it almost seems like we were up and running immediately, leaving me to explore other, new opportunities for the publication. Sometimes it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough (okay, all the time), but it also lets me keep my head above water and figure out how we can be doing more.
So that’s what I’ve learned–or at least some of it. I’m very excited to see where we’re going to go from here, and how we get there. At any rate, it’s been a blast and I’ve found myself amazed at just how much great work we’ve had the opportunity to publish. It seems like we get more and more great work with each issue, and that makes me feel so excited for our future.