Comment of the Day: Andy Hunter on Tin House-gate
Well, Matthew Simmons’s two-line post from Friday, about a new temporary Tin House submission policy, has now drawn 212 comments, with more still coming in. The discussion has been protracted and bizarre, as well as occasionally quite ugly–some of which was my fault; but also, it’s important to note, some of which wasn’t–but there have been some moments of real insight and/or useful dialogue, and I’d like to share my favorite one here. It appeared in the comment thread on Matthew’s post yesterday evening, but I’m just noticing it now. Its virtue is not merely in what Andy says–though he says a lot of insightful and useful things, which are the categories of merit on which the award is based–but also in the calm and open manner in which he says them. Unsurprisingly, the position he takes is more or less exactly the same as my own, minus the rancor, which is probably the direct result of his not directly engaging with anyone. He just says what he thinks. As Commenter of the Day, an office which I just made up and which it may well never occur to me to think to award again, his duty is simply to do what he already did–post the comment which got my attention in the first place, and so he (and everyone else) can rest secure in the knowledge that his being awarded the office coincides exactly with his fulfillment of its duties and therefore, at midnight tonight, the completion of his term. Here is his comment, reproduced in full:
My first reaction to the Tin House policy was, “Ha Ha. Good for them.”
The economic arguments against it are a joke, as are the ‘local bookstore’ arguments. Most people can afford to buy a couple books a year. Most people live near bookstores. And if you don’t? Write a note explaining that. Not much to get outraged about.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how quickly commenters get outraged around here, but then I realize: being outraged is fun.
Anyway, the condescension complaint is valid, although I think TH meant it in good humor – which apparently didn’t come off.
The thing that I think many here are missing is the incredible volume of submissions Tin House must get. EL is not half as well known, but we get thousands of submissions every issue, and even with 35 readers, it’s very hard to keep up. Especially because everything is read twice. Sometimes we regret our open policy, but it was the policy we wanted to see when we were on the other side, as writers. Now that we’re on the publisher side, it gets a little rough. There are many, many writers who are scanning duotrope and submitting to magazines they’d never fit in. The majority of these writers don’t seem to read enough, to be honest. They really ought to buy and read more books. Collectively, EL spends thousands of hours reading submissions, which is exponentially more time than we spend on anything else. The temptation to put up a small hurdle for submitters is understandable. Especially one that is directed at helping your industry, and supporting what you love.
For about 4 months, EL offered $6 off subscriptions to writers who submitted work to us, via a coupon code. It brought the cost of a digital subscription down to $3 an issue. Out of over 3,000 submitters during that time, less than a dozen used that code. I’m sure Tin House has similar stories.
There has been a lot of wondering, here and elsewhere, if emerging writers do enough to support the institutions which they wish to support them (i.e. ever buy a literary magazine). Tin House decided to playfully push the issue, and lighten the slush pile for themselves at the same time. It’s not so horrible.
PS- As a special and counter-intuitive reward for having achieved distinction in the comment thread, I have disabled comments on this post, granting Andy–and everyone else–relief from any perceived obligation to respond, nitpick, attack, or praise. You can still do those things, but you’ll have to (and you should) do them over in the already-existing-thread on the post from which these words were drawn.