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Editor Interview: Trouble Department

Q: Describe what you publish in 25 characters or less.

A: work that shows its teeth

Q: What other current publications (or publishers) do you admire most?

A: Offhand I'd say Small Beer Press, Two Dollar Radio, Neon Hemlock, Kore Press, One Story, and Graywolf are all good examples.

Q: If you publish writing, who are your favorite writers? If you publish art, who are your favorite artists?

A: We talk about this in our submission guidelines!

Q: What sets your publication apart from others that publish similar material?

A: Most significant in that respect is the fact that we are also a bookseller, and we do most of our printing and bookbinding in-house with our own equipment. This is a big part of why we're able to offer more generous compensation than other presses of our size, because the profit margin per copy is much higher than average.
We also have a very well defined idea of what it means to be an indie press. We exist to serve readers whose tastes tend to be overlooked by major houses, where a book selling a mere 5,000 copies can make it a failure. We're not looking to make the NYT bestseller list, but we are devoted to getting our books into the hands of the readers who are waiting for them, even if that's only a few thousand, or a few hundred people.

Q: What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?

A: Don't overthink whether your manuscript is ready for us. We're open to unsolicited submissions one month out of the year, and tend to have a pretty hands-on editorial style, meaning we won't reject a manuscript out of hand just because it needs a little work. If it needs more than a little work, that's another story, but typos aren't the end of the world.

Q: Describe the ideal submission.

A: The IDEAL submission? Probably a novella or poetry book by one the authors mentioned in our submission guidelines that doesn't work for their usual publisher(s) for one reason or another.
But, I mean, everything we've published was an ideal submission, we just wouldn't have been able to describe it until it landed in the inbox. Surprise and delight us and it won't matter that your name isn't Danez Smith.

Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?

A: You have to include contact info in the manuscript itself! We accept submissions via direct upload, so all we get besides the document is an IP address. If the manuscript doesn't have your info, we can't respond.

Q: How much do you want to know about the person submitting to you?

A: The manuscript tells us everything we need to know.

Q: If you publish writing, how much of a piece do you read before making the decision to reject it?

A: Right up until the point when it becomes clear that we either wouldn't be able to sell it, or that it wouldn't get enough attention on the editorial side for the finished product to really shine. Sometimes that happens in the first ten pages, sometimes only after I've read the whole thing twice. Usually somewhere in between.

Q: What additional evaluations, if any, does a piece go through before it is accepted?

A: None, typically.

Q: What is a day in the life of an editor like for you?

A: Well, very little of it involves reading submissions, except during September. Daily tasks mostly revolve around developmental edits, design, production, or marketing, depending on where we are in the calendar. I don't really multi-task; we publish 2-4 titles per year, some in the spring and some in the fall, so e.g. March is spent almost entirely on driving pre-orders for the book that goes to press in April.

Q: How important do you feel it is for publishers to embrace modern technologies?

A: In no particular order:
- Especially in pandemic times, electronic submissions are a must.
- Social media is not free marketing, and the value of paid advertising on social media is highly dubious.
- Print-on-demand services make a certain amount of sense, but we specifically haven't had much need for them.
- Fuck Amazon.
- eBook availability is important, even if the genres in which we publish aren't the most reliant on them.
- Always use the right tools for the job at hand, whether that means hypertext or a sewing machine.

Q: How much do you edit an accepted piece prior to publication?

A: Expect at least a few rewrites. Even the most polished work needs to transition from being a manuscript meant for an editor's eyes, to a trade book meant for readers. And we do tend to accept fixer-uppers that need more work, provided the components of a commercially viable version are already there.

Q: Do you nominate work you've published for any national or international awards?

A: Where applicable. Nothing of ours is going to win a National Book Award, but we pay more attention to state, country, and genre-specific awards.