It has been a week since we started using readers to help manage our submission queue. Making the decision to work with readers was not easy. Matt and I both have control freakish tendencies because we’re really invested in PANK and our primary concern is always making choices that serve the magazine’s best interests. As PANK has grown, however, we have had to accept we are only two people who cannot do it all ourselves and nowhere have our limitations made themselves more glaring than with the submission queue. Every single month, the number submissions increases in ways that feel exponential. The volume of submissions is complicated by our desire to respond quickly and provide feedback when we can. This month, we had to face reality. We could read submissions and maintain those ideals or we could have lives and well, having lives won out.
Initially, we’ve brought on four readers, and so far, the experience has been excellent. Having worked with readers in other editorial capacities, I know things always start out well, but still, I am happy, I feel more relaxed, I’ve been able to enjoy these early days of summer. Â I send the readers a list of work, they read them, send me their feedback. I’m still reading everything but I have a good sense of what I’m walking in to and that helps immeasurably. The most interesting aspect of using readers has not been the lightening of the workload (which is awesome) but rather, just how stringently the readers assess each submission. They make me look like a kind, gentle pussycat. I don’t think anyone is harder on a writer than another writer. The readers are incisive in their commentary. They absolutely make the effort to focus on both the positive and negative elements of a given piece but there’s no ambiguity to their opinions.
The readers’ insights have been really beneficial for me because despite what many rejected writers think, I have a real soft spot for almost every submission. I can complain or see the weaknesses in a submission but I’m still humbled by the knowledge that a writer has sent writing to PANK that is often personal and in which they are really invested. My respect for that never wanes, not even when I’m reading something that’s just terrible or from a writer who clearly hasn’t done their proverbial homework. As such, I am finding I’m far more open to good but flawed writing than our readers. This is not to say they are cruel in their assessment but rather, that they are not emotional. If these early days of using readers has taught me anything, it’s that I do tend to read emotionally. If I am moved in some way by a given submission, I am far more willing to consider it for publication. Perhaps the best part about letting go is that I’m free to continue reading emotionally because I can balance that perspective with the more rational observations the readers share.
Onward, we read!