Be the change you want to see in the lit world. That might be volunteering for a literary journal or press to ensure that your underrepresented identity has a champion in the queue, or it might be requesting recent small press releases for acquisition at your local public library—many libraries have an online form for requests, and most are delighted to acquire the books their community wants to read!
And if you have the opportunity to snip off the thorns for other writers, grab your shears. As a nonfiction writer, I was frustrated by the combined fiction-and-nonfiction submissions periods for presses because the publication preferences always seemed to tilt toward fiction. As a nonfiction editor at a literary journal and later at a small press, I was committed to making nonfiction writers feel as welcome as fiction writers. When I assumed the role of publisher, I gave nonfiction writers the opportunity I had long sought: their very own submissions window. No more competing with fiction for a seat at the prose table.
I also want to talk about money: Nobody’s favorite part about the lit world is all the underpaid labor. As authors, we spend hours writing, editing, and submitting pieces that, if we’re lucky, might be accepted and receive a token payment equivalent to $0.10/hour. As editorial staff, we spend hours reading, assessing, and commenting on pieces or books that, if we’re lucky, might be accepted and make it into the journals/presses we’re working for. It can be frustrating to feel like our compensation never matches our workloads.
Having personally worked for free for most of my literary career, I wanted to do better by my staff. I developed a submission fee structure that allows our press reading teams to receive 25 percent of the proceeds from each period—the more submissions our press receives, the more work our teams do, but the more compensation they receive as well. It’s not perfect—and I wish the money could be more commensurate with our readers’ time and effort—but it’s a start. Valuing the work of a literary team is critical.
—Kristine Langley Mahler, publisher and editor in chief, Split/Lip Press