A note to aspiring editors and/or publishers: just because you happen to publish professional writers, it doesn’t automatically make you a professional publication. Let me repeat that.
Just because you happen to publish professional writers, it doesn’t automatically make you a professional publication.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, and you are an editor and/or publisher, save yourself and everybody else time and just close up shop now and go away. We don’t need you wasting our time.
Now because of this post, everyone thinks I hate Narrative Magazine. That’s far from the truth. If anything, I’m in awe of Narrative Magazine. I mean, for a publication to so gratuitously rip off writers and still get grants from the National Endowment of the Arts is just … impressive. What’s even better, there are people stupid enough to actually want to work for them—for free!
Think about it: Narrative charges writers $20 to submit their stories. Narrative hires interns who will then in turn read those stories without being compensated whatsoever. (It's like the invention of some new pyramid scheme.)
Sure, some will argue, the fact they worked for Narrative will look great on their CVs.
To which I say: Gag me.
Honestly, I try not to think about Narrative. They are off in their own little world. There are writers who will defend them tooth and nail, and why? Because those writers think they have a chance to actually have a story accepted by them one day. And who knows, maybe they will. And you know what? Good for them. Let them spend as much money as they want submitting; I’m surprised Narrative hasn’t yet set up one of those frequent submitter programs: submit ten stories at $20 each, submit one story then for free.
A few weeks back it was brought to my attention that Narrative put out a call for interns. Here is what they posted:
PURPOSE: Narrative is a premier online literary magazine with the mission of transitioning great literature into the digital age and uniting readers and writers around the world and across generations. In its seventh year, Narrative operates under an original model, combining the values and standards of a nonprofit institution with the ethos and sensibility of a start-up: a fast pace, a tireless staff, and ceaseless determination to stretch every dollar to its fullest in support of the mission.
INTERNSHIP QUALIFICATIONS: You have a passion for literature, strive for excellence in everything you do, thrive in a fast-paced and dynamic workplace, and are eager to envision, collaborate on, and execute ideas and tasks. You are a high-energy, low-maintenance, well-rounded person with the ability to ensure that projects, people, paperwork, schedules, and other responsibilities are timely, exceptional, and on target. For this position, we need someone who is friendly, professional, reliable, diplomatic, extremely organized, a good conversationalist, a solid writer, computer savvy, and conversant with traditional publishing, social media, electronic publishing, iPhone applications, public relations, and marketing.
Now, understand I really don't have that much free time. But this ... this was an opportunity way too good to pass up. Only I couldn't apply as myself. Not that I worried about my previous post about the magazine, but because I personally have no desire whatsoever to be associated with them. And if I were to send a serious resume and then be rejected? Why, I'd be utterly crushed. (Plus, I couldn't live with the fact I would have become a complete douche.)
So I did what any self-respecting jokester would do: I lit up the Spam Signal and called forth the one and only Holden McGroin. I even set Holden up with his own Gmail account, which took only a few minutes, and then we were off and running.
Note: the e-mails below are completely true. Nothing has been changed or modified. For some reason, Holden decided to sign all his e-mails HG and not HM, which would have made more sense. Please forgive him. He is a shy and timid individual.
from Holden McGroin <email@example.com> to firstname.lastname@example.org date Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 9:19 PM subject Question mailed-by gmail.com
My name is Holden and I am humongous fan of Narrative. Every story you publish is amazing! I would very much like to apply to be an intern but am afraid the listing I saw was incomplete. What is the application fee and to what address should I send it? Thanks so much.
from Narrative Staff <email@example.com> to Holden McGroin <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 1:56 PM subject Re: Question
Thanks for your message. All internship applications may be forwarded to the following email account:
We look forward to receiving your application.
from Holden McGroin <email@example.com> to Narrative Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 3:48 PM subject Re: Question mailed-by gmail.com
Great! But I'm afraid I'm still confused. How much is the application fee?
from Narrative Staff <email@example.com> to Holden McGroin <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 4:45 PM subject Re: Question
Hello again Holden,
There is no fee to submit your application for our open internship position. Simply attach your cover letter and CV in an email to the aforementioned email address and our editors will be in contact with you shortly. Thanks again for your interest!
from Holden McGroin <email@example.com> to firstname.lastname@example.org date Sat, Mar 13, 2010 at 5:28 PM subject Intern Application mailed-by gmail.com
Dear The Editors:
My name is Holden and I am a humongous fan of Narrative. I love everything about your publication. I especially think your new iStory is great. It's like flash fiction but on the iPhone and you put an i before the Story. Brilliant. Unfortunately, I don't have an iPhone, so I can't enjoy the iStories. Are you planning on doing the same on Blackberry phones? Maybe they could be called BlackStory, though of course it would be nothing racial.
I would very much like to apply to be an intern. I have been writing for thirty-seven years. Alas, I have not published anything, but I have been a finalist seventeen times in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.
I have a passion for literature. I strive for excellence in everything I do. I thrive in a fast-paced and dynamic workplace. I am eagar to envision, collaborate on, and execute ideas and tasks (please see below). I am a high-energy, low-maintenance, well-rounded person with the ability to ensure that projects, people, paperwork, schedules, and other responsibilities are timely, exceptional, and on target. I am friendly and professional and reliable and diplomatic. I am extremely organized. I am a good conversationalist. I am a solid writer. I am computer savvy. I am conversant with traditional publishing, social media, electronic publishing, public relations, and marketing. Obviously, I don't know much about iPhone applications, but I'm willing to learn.
Basically, I like to read and I like to come up with ways to make money. I know you already run some great contests, but I have a lot of ideas for more contests. Here's just a taste:
Narrative's Penultimate Paragraph Contest, where writers submit their second-to-last paragraph of any given work in progress for a chance to win a big cash prize. $20 entry fee.
Like I said, I have a lot of ideas for more contests. I hope to hear from you soon.
from Narrative Staff <email@example.com> to Holden McGroin <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Sat, Mar 13, 2010 at 8:02 PM subject Re: Intern Application
Greetings from Narrative Magazine! We are thrilled to see that you are interested in our open internship position! The purpose of this message is simply that we wanted to send a quick note confirming that we did indeed receive your email and will be reviewing your application materials within the next couple of days. The response to our call for applicants was much larger than we ha’d originally anticipated, so our response may take a bit longer than we had hoped. Rest assured, you will hear from us once we have a chance to sit down and really review your work.
Please do not hesitate to contact us directly if you have any questions, either now or in the future. We would be more than happy to help in any way we can! Otherwise, we want to thank you again for your interest in interning for Narrative Magazine and hope you have a great week!
from Narrative Staff <email@example.com> to Holden McGroin <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 12:19 PM subject Re: Intern Application
Hello again Holden,
In beginning the formal review process on this end, we noticed that you did not attach a resume to your application email. When you have a moment, would you mind forwarding a resume listing your work/academic experience our way? Of course, a resume is not the end-all be-all of our consideration process, but it certainly helps our team get a better idea of the skills and abilities you would be able to bring to the table here at Narrative Magazine.
Thanks in advance, Holden, and have a wonderful week.
from Holden McGroin <email@example.com> to Narrative Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org> date Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 1:56 PM subject Re: Intern Application mailed-by gmail.com
Dear The Editors,
I am very sorry about that. I was not aware I had already started something. What would you like me to resume?
As you can see, that last e-mail was sent almost a week ago. And weirdly enough, there has been no response. Oh well. Holden's too good for them anyway. Guess he'll have to take his Penultimate Paragraph Contest elsewhere. Maybe Glimmer Train is looking for interns?
Yes, yes, yes, at the very start of this post I talked more or less about professionalism. Is what I did professional? Hmm. I guess the real question should be: Do I really give a shit? Until Narrative stops charging writers to submit regular submissions, they will never have my respect. Yeah, I'm sure they don't care about earning my respect anyway. But you know what? There are others who don't respect them either. A whole bunch. And one of these days, hopefully that will become apparent and more and more people will see Narrative for what it truly is.
Until then, Holden McGroin out.