Over at the 32 Poems blog, Jessie Carty writes about something all too familiar to editors of literary journals: the dreaded double-publish.
Recently, I was reading my contributor copy of a print literary magazine. Let’s call it Saddlestitch Review. I was reading along when I recognized an author’s name. I thought, “Neat, I also published that poet.” (You might see where I am going with this). But, the poem felt all too familiar. I reviewed my records and noted that I had not only published this poet, but I had also published this poem.
I also helped to revise/edit the poem in question.
The double-publish. I had to say it again.
I would like to say this has never happened to me when I edited journals, but it has. It’s mostly happened with stuff I’d accepted for an online journal, but not always. Once I published a whole group of poems in an issue of La Petite Zine, only to see that same group in a print journal while browsing the tables at a bookfair. Another poet, let’s call him Douglas, republished a poem in Painted Bride Quarterly from his already published book (he fessed up to this after the issue went live, but we let it slide), but then, six months later published yet again in Nerve. So that’s a triple-publish.
The thing is, the world of editors, and especially poetry editors, is small, and it just so happens I was friends with Ross Martin, then the poetry editor at Nerve, and pointed out the triple-published poem. And here’s where editing an online publication has its benefits: we both took the poem down in the same afternoon, effectively un-triple-publishing the work.
All this went down almost 10 years ago, and it still amazes me that there was a debate for writers of whether or not publishing work in an online journal really “counted,” and so going ahead and re-publishing a work in another journal would be no big deal. There were panels on this subject at AWP, with titles like “online versus print” and so on.
I think the “prestige debate” is past us. But there are still writers who don’t think it’s that big of a deal to double-, even triple-publish their work. I know I know I know–it’s not a war crime, no one is getting hurt, there are larger things to worry about in this world.
Call it delusions of grandeur, but I think it’s safe to say most editors of literary journals feel very proprietary about their selections. They like to feel that they’ve discovered something. It’s that feeling that in part keeps them going through the slush pile for no pay.
So then picture that same editor who sees the same poem/story/essay in another journal. It’s like seeing your boyfriend/girlfriend having conjugal relations with another boy/girl by the locker between classes. Or something. In the case of Jessy Carty, she went the classy route rather than some kind of public outing: she wrote both editor of the other journal and the poet. “The editor was not aware and offered future accreditation for anything they publish online,” she writes. I think means it was published for the second time online, which is a twist of what I’ve seen in the past.
“But the poet?” she asks. “Never responded.”
I’ve written maybe two double-published writers in my life, and neither of them responded as well.
What’s an editor to do?