Continuing this week’s theme of academic publication following two very different submission experiences, I thought that it would be nice to balance my perspective with that of an editor. The editor happens to have edited a literary magazine, but I think that there are several aspects that are applicable to academic publishing:
I will concede that there are some real asshole editors out there—rude, negligent, incompetent, narrow-minded, stupid narcissists who wouldn’t know a good story or poem if it slapped them on the face—but they’re a minority, I believe. I think most editors are dedicated, tireless, honorable people, and they’re woefully underappreciated. The vast majority of them, you see, are publishing their magazines as labors of love. The vast majority are volunteers. Not only don’t they get paid, they often dip into their own pockets to fund their publications. They have entirely separate full-time jobs. They have families. They fill out grant applications and read manuscripts and typeset issues and haggle with vendors and stick labels onto renewal letters in what little spare time they have. They forfeit their own ambitions as writers to accomplish this. They do it all for you.
What makes them dispirited is the us-versus-them mentality that has developed between writers and editors, linked to accusations that they aren’t open to new writers or that the system is somehow rigged. Granted, it gets difficult for editors not to become cynical. You would, too, if you saw some of the crap that comes in over the transom—submissions from rank amateurs and inmates and crazies and attorneys that are excruciatingly, laughably awful, not anywhere near the standards of the recipient journal, simultaneously submitted, of course, the writers never having taken a cursory look at a single issue of the magazines they’re encumbering, much less subscribed or bought a copy. So when editors find anything with a modicum of craft or originality, they are grateful—yes, grateful. However, they can’t publish everything, and not every piece is appropriate for a given magazine, regardless of its merits. And something else—a hard truth: a submission might be good, but not good enough. This is what writers have problems swallowing. After getting a rejection, instead of taking another look at the story or poem and perhaps revising it or spending a little more time thinking about the most suitable venue for it, it’s much easier to rail against these editors and magazines and believe [see all of the aforementioned]. I know this, because, as a writer myself, despite my past experience as an editor, I do exactly the same thing.