In Defense of Writers Who Don’t Read So Much; or Here’s to You Tin House

Tin House recently instituted a new policy for accepting submissions that requires writers to submit a copy of a receipt from a local bookstore purchase. While it is a laudable goal and I buy as much as I can from mine (Elliot Bay Books), the problem is when you write you don’t have time to read. It is one of those disappointing facts of authorship that you only have so much time and if you don’t live off your writing, in other words have a day job, what little time that could go into reading, goes into writing. I agree it is inexcusable for writers not to read. Writing is one long continuum of writers influencing each other and I’ve read more than enough bad writing to know a studying a few more authors would do some a world of good. But having to buy a book at the local bookstore just to submit is too much. I can’t buy any more, I’ve just got too many books already and at 20-30 a year (not counting technical tomes) I’m never going to finish. It also feels like a pay to play  or a literary contest with an entrance fee and I don’t like that. It is a fools bet and I prefer to make those bets with the state lottery: the pay off is so much better. Perhaps, when I read the two copies of Tin House that I bought in May and have been sitting on my coffee table ever since, I’ll change my mind. Until then, though, I’m just going to let other hopefuls play this game.

The full text:

PORTLAND, OREGON (JUNE 30, 2010) 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.