Howard Junker brought up the interesting subject of self-publishing–literary magazine editors who choose to publish their own work. He names a few examples: The New Yorker’s David Remnick, and Brett Lott, editor of The Southern Review, who published a novel excerpt in a recent issue…and commenters also pointed out others like David Eggers. He leads out the post with his opinion on the matter:

“Fledgling writers ought to produce their own chapbooks & litmags & books, publishing their own work (and the work of their friends).

Established writers who are the editors of esteemed magazines ought to have the common decency not to publish their own work.”

Sort of an interesting intersection with my own writing life.

Recently, I was invited to become the fiction editor of a literary magazine (yay!)–one of the questions that came up in the process was what to do with the short story I’d submitted to the litmag. (I’d submitted it prior to being offered an editor position). Should I withdraw it, or should they go ahead with considering the story?

The literary journal clearly had a precedent to date of NOT publishing the work of any editors, but recently had become more flexible because a Famous Writer suggested that they put the kabosh on that policy. He’d urged to go ahead and publish their own work! So it became a topic of discussion with my unique situation.

I took the path of least resistance and controversy (my usual path when it comes to things when I don’t have a strong opinion) and said I was willing to forego publication to be the fiction editor. Also, with the exception of the names above, it sure feels like the industry standard to NOT publish the work of staff editors.

But I’m sure there are others who might be disagree or go a different route. Any opinions out there?



Filed under Publishing

10 responses to “self-publishing

  1. I am and have been an editor and my personal policy is to only publish my own work if there are other co-editors who would choose my work IF it came in independently (ie blind) AND if there were senior editors (higher ups) who also approved it. I would not feel comfortable singly publishing my own work.

  2. btw CONGRATS on the editing position!

    Now you’ll see how sticky it can get when friends or people you know submit to you.

  3. Susan: those are some good guidelines! I’m already starting to see challenges to my objectivity.

    In a weird way my non-writing career (my job in HR management) is helping me out on that front. In HR you spend a lot of time trying to stay objective and compartmentalizing the personal in certain situations. I’m using those muscles now.

  4. anonwupfan

    Wow, congrats–that’s awesome news!

    Karma-wise, it’s got to be infinitely better to give someone else a shot rather than submit to your own mag (or a good friend’s mag for that matter.)

    It just seems to me that in either situation it wouldn’t mean as much–you’d always have a little smudge of doubt on the corner of that piece.

    –my (unsolicited and quite possibly unwelcome) two cents

  5. Congratulations on the editorial position!

    I agree with Junker, though I have to admit that the part about fledgling writers should self-publish trips me up a bit. My MFA program told me that this was the surest route to literary blackballing, but I’d be pleased to see the tide turning on that notion.

  6. even if you don’t publish your own work, i wouldn’t think it’s going to be a problem if you use your position as an editor to get your work noticed in other publications. the problem with publishing in your own magazine is somebody is bound to come along and say, you abused your position because according to them, your work is not up to par.

    good luck!

  7. anonwupfan and no milk: I like your logic. I’m feeling even better about having withdrawn my piece. It’s good see the back and forth out there on this.

    Chicklit: thanks! I too was surprised by Howard’s mention of self-publishing fledgling writers. But maybe he meant something different.

  8. Jade, I think you’re right to do so. It strikes me as a conflict of interest for an editor to allow her work to show up in the journal she works for. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t look right from the outside, and so something to be avoided for that reason alone.

    But the real news here is this wonderful-sounding job! Congrats! I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

  9. I agree that editors shouldn’t publish their own work. That’s like mixing the advertising and editorial departments of a newspaper – a huge conflict of interest. And congrats on the editorial job!

  10. Hey, what’s up with that funky design that replaced my picture?

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