Luna Digest, 7/6

current_cover1Tin House-gate is how it has been described, the topic of conversation dominating lit mag chatter this past weekend (such as here, here, and here). Tin House announced last Friday that for the rest of 2010 all unsolicited submissions must be accompanied by a receipt of purchase for a book from a bookstore. This goes for submissions to both Tin House magazine and Tin House Books. Here’s their original press release:

In the spirit of discovering new talent as well as supporting established authors and the bookstores who support them, Tin House Books will accept unsolicited manuscripts dated between August 1 and November 30, 2010, as long as each submission is accompanied by a receipt for a book from a bookstore. Tin House magazine will require the same for unsolicited submissions sent between September 1 and December 30, 2010.

Writers who cannot afford to buy a book or cannot get to an actual bookstore are encouraged to explain why in haiku or one sentence (100 words or fewer). Tin House Books and Tin House magazine will consider the purchase of e-books as a substitute only if the writer explains: why he or she cannot go to his or her neighborhood bookstore, why he or she prefers digital reads, what device, and why.

Writers are invited to videotape, film, paint, photograph, animate, twitter, or memorialize in any way (that is logical and/or decipherable) the process of stepping into a bookstore and buying a book to send along for our possible amusement and/or use on our Web site.

Tin House Books will not accept electronic submissions. Tin House magazine will accept manuscripts by mail or digitally. The magazine will accept scans of bookstore receipts.

Tin House’s self-labeled “Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore” idea struck many as it did writer/editor Justin Taylor, as a well-intentioned policy instilling “a sense of happy pride in patronizing brick-and-mortar bookstores.” As most are aware, physical bookstores are an endangered species, and so Tin House’s policy would perhaps seem a positive, albeit small, reaction to the problem.

But the new policy also stirred up a lot of controversy. The publishers of Dzanc Books went so far as to offer up their own “alternative solution” to Tin House’s policy:

For the month of July, we at Dzanc will donate a book to a school/library for each proof of purchase provided to us of a book bought at an independent bookstore. The book bought should be a work of literary fiction, though does not have to be a book published by Dzanc Books or any of our imprints. Simply send a copy of your receipt to the address below and Dzanc will donate a new book to a library/school of your choosing.

And Missouri Review managing editor Michael Nye went so far as to deem the move “an awful lot like totalitarian democracy.” For more from both sides of the debate, check out the super-long thread of comments on the subject at HTMLGIANT.

Last Sunday, Tin House editor Rob Spillman offered up his own explanation of this new (and very temporary) policy. I won’t reprint his comments here, as they were posted on a private listserv—but if you want to read them, ZYZZYVA has reprinted Spillman’s comments in full. (It’s very mild & candid, so I feel there is no harm linking.)


Every Tuesday, Travis Kurowski presents Luna Digesta selection of news from the world of literary magazines. Travis is the editor of Luna Park, a magazine founded on the idea that journals are as deserving of critical attention as other artistic works.

  1. d_Taoist

    I am mixed on this decision by Tin House. I understand the need to help bookstores, but I’d be more sympathetic if they let me decide what I want to spend my money on. In a way, isn’t this really a push to help Tin House more than any independent bookseller?

    I hope I’m not being overly cynical here. But I think the publishers should come clean.

    Of course, maybe there’s another reason for the policy. Maybe this is a push to make sure that writers do their homework. I think I’d be less bothered by the move if they said that they wanted to make sure (as much as possible) that potential contributors were familiar with the magazine. Forcing us to buy a copy before we contribute is not a bad idea, and the magazine is important enough that I think they would get away with that.

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