In this series, The Art of Landing talks to literary magazine editors from around the world, picking their brains to see what they like and don’t like in submissions, how/if they work with authors, and their advice for publishing in literary journals. If you edit a lit mag, and would like to be a part of this series, please be in touch!
Name: Aaron Burch
Title: Founding Editor
Lit Mag: Hobart
(Before we begin…)
(I will say, up top, that with Hobart, we have a whole team of editors (3 fiction, 3 poetry, 3 nonfiction), and I myself do a LOT less than I used to. I jump in here and there, when I’m itching to read submissions, or with our annual baseball issue, but primarily the different editors rotate through turns, every three months, and when it’s their turn for the month, they basically have autonomy to accept/decline/etc. as they wish, and everyone is probably looking for something a little different, feels a little different offering edits, and everything else.)
What makes a submission pop out for you?
Just falling in love with it as a reader. It’s super hard to describe, and this is probably unhelpful, but it really does feel a little like a “you know it when you read it.” I want it to make me feel like I want to read it again and/or like I wish I’d written it myself and/or like I could probably myself never write it and/or like I already can’t wait to help it get to readers.
Do you work with writers to edit pieces you love or do you generally take pieces “as is”?
Both. I would say, when we were doing print and there was a longer turnaround between acceptance and publication, I worked on pieces more. I mostly accept pieces as-is now, but if I feel like I could, with the help of some suggestions or questions or cuts, make the piece better, I’ll definitely offer those.
Really just if I love it.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to submissions?
I think really only when it is obvious the writer has no idea who they’re submitting to. When they submit 8k word stories when we’re online only and our guidelines say our limit is 1500. When they submit something that just obviously feels in tone or nature like they’ve maybe never even looked at the site. This seems a little less common these days, with the ease of looking at sites over having to track down and find and read print journals, but it still happens. I feel like we have a pretty strong tone and presence, or however you want to describe it, so it’s a real plus in your favor if you know and recognize that before submitting.
What advice do you have for writers just beginning the process of getting their work out there?
This is the most common, unhelpful advice, but just keep writing, keep submitting. Not only don’t get discouraged by rejections, but maybe try and use them as fuel. Collect them as proof of the work you’re doing finishing pieces and sending them out. Use them to try and write something better to make that journal accept you next time, or to get accepted by a better journal. Ha.