Fiction Editor from Identity Theory Writes Back

Hi Jackson,

Matt Borondy came upon your Blue Mosaic Me post about Identity Theory not responding particularly fast (or at all) to some submissions, and first, my apologies. I went back through our Gmail account and for whatever reason we've been especially bad getting back to you.

I've been the fiction editor for a few years now, and in that time our system for reading submissions has changed quite a bit. It started off with me and one other editor--I would do the first read, he would look at ones I liked, and I'd handle all the correspondence. Then, while I was having a grand old time with Hodgkin's in 2007/8, our submission rate mysteriously doubled (you weren't the only one at that point to not receive prompt replies, for sure). So last year we brought on more assistant editors, which has been great for staying on top of submissions but not ideal for consistency. So, yes, at this point we do resort to form emails in many cases, and I've reminded my colleagues that at the very least, during those busier weeks, we have to acknowledge every writer by name and the title of their piece.

It's not ideal. Three years ago, when we got far fewer pieces, I used to write detailed feedback on every single one. But with more submissions and a much worse signal-to-noise ratio, we have to use a more traditional, slightly less personal system. It shouldn't result in pieces getting ignored or our responses sounding completely copy-and-pasted, of course. But it just reminds me of when I had a temp job for a few months at Harvard's rare books library, sorting through twenty years (~1928-1948) of correspondence between The Nation and prospective writers. The same writer would get the same hand-typed, one-line rejection dozens of times. No greeting, just "Thank you for thinking of The Nation but we cannot use your submission."


Andrew Whitacre


And my response:


I appreciate you taking the time to respond, especially to my sad literary blog that's basically a catharsis pretending to be a literary fiction blog. When I was reading for the Notre Dame Review, and interning at Hachette Books USA, I saw the avalanche of submissions arriving in little storms. Everything was always behind schedule, no matter how on top of it editors were or what venue it was. And I know that editors at IT get paid nothing or almost nothing, so I'm sympathetic to your situation. It's ironic in a way, the more successful you become as a journal, the more work you have to do. I guess that's the price of publishing something that matters to people.

Anyway, gambatte with the Hodgkin's. And thanks again for writing. It was gracious of you, and totally unexpected.

Peace, Blessings,

--Jackson Bliss

Why I Won't Submit to Identity Theory Anymore

Not right for us, sorry -- but thanks for thinking of us, and apologies for the delayed response, James Warner

I waited almost 8 months for this? You've got to be joking.

My problem with Identity Theory, even though I think it's a good journal, is that:

1. It always takes them 7-12 months before I hear from the fiction department, and only after I send them an email pestering them, which means they're not making a habit of responding to submissions, which is absolutely lame

2. The stories I read in their magazine are never better than the ones I submit, just different. Often, they seem to value hipness over literary merit

3. Really, I could forgive all the above two points if James Warner had just written my name in the email. My name is not not right for us

So, as Howard Junker says in his rejection letters, onward!