Please welcome to the Editor’s Q&A corner The Rumpus Editor-In-Chief, Marisa Siegel. Marisa talks to us about her new role at the publication, their focus going forward, her new managing editor, the articles you should read if you want to write for them and more!
Q: Let’s start by talking about your recent big news at The Rumpus! For those who missed it, please share your recent announcement and tell us about the response.
A: As we announced on Tuesday, January 17, I have purchased The Rumpus and effective immediately, am the Editor-in-Chief and owner of the site. Lyz Lenz will be stepping into the role of Managing Editor.
The response to our announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. I have received personal notes, Facebook messages and posts, and tweets from contributors, friends, and readers who are very excited to see what lies ahead for The Rumpus, and especially, to see two women at the helm of the site.
Q: How do you describe the content The Rumpus publishes, and how (if at all) might that be changing or shifting focus with your new role?
A: The Rumpus publishes great writing that might not find a home elsewhere. We tend to stay away from “hot takes,” and prefer unique perspectives on and deep-dives into pop culture. We always look for diverse voices, diverse subject matter, and diverse points of view.
While I wouldn’t call this a change, I do think we will begin to focus even more on politics as a necessary response to what is occurring politically and culturally in America right now. We will do this by running more political work, but also and more importantly, by choosing all the pieces we run through the lens of that aforementioned political and cultural context. Story and strong writing will remain at the center of what we publish.
We will increase our efforts to share writing from people of color, from LGBTQ writers, from women writers—essentially, we will make it a priority to give space to groups that are being marginalized elsewhere. This is something The Rumpus has always done, of course—it’s just our current top priority.
Lastly, I hope to increase our focus on small, independent presses across all verticals of the site. This doesn’t preclude occasionally working with a larger press, but in general, I would like to see The Rumpus focusing on writers who are working with small, independent presses when we choose our reviews, our interviews, etc.
Q: Can you give us links to a few pieces that really nail the voice of the site?
A: This is a tough question! Here are a few recent pieces that come to mind:
And personally, here are a few of the pieces I was incredibly proud and grateful to publish:
Q: How many articles do you publish in a given day?
A: We publish two features every weekday, and one feature each weekend day. We also run shorter original content—like our Notable event listings, comics, and link roundups—on our sidebar. Sidebar pieces vary day-to-day, but usually there are anywhere from two to five sidebar posts on weekdays.
Q: Now to the nitty gritty—how can potential contributors submit something for consideration?
A: The best way to get your piece in front of the correct editor and get a reply is to use our Submittable. You can (and should!) also check out our Writer’s Guidelines for more information on what we’re looking for and how to submit.
Q: Final drafts or pitches?
A: We accept pitches for interviews and book reviews. For all other sections, we do ask to see finished work.
Q: How long should writers expect to wait before they hear a yay or a nay on their submission?
A: We always respond, whether it’s with a yay or a nay. We ask that writers wait three months before querying about a submission, but you’ll often hear back more quickly. All of our editors work on a volunteer basis, and manage full-time day jobs, so patience is very much appreciated.
Q: Tell us about your new Managing Editor, and how you share responsibilities as far as submissions go.
A: Lyz Lenz is amazing. She’s a wonderful writer, a smart and incisive editor with an eye for what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, a kind and generous friend who really puts her heart into the projects she chooses to work on. Lyz has been with The Rumpus for almost three years, first as a blogger and then as our Deputy Books Editor, and I have no doubt she will make a fantastic Managing Editor. She and I share a similar vision for the site moving forward, and are truly thrilled to be working on this together.
With regard to submissions, each section editor manages her own submissions. The Managing Editor generally only sees what has been accepted. This isn’t to say we won’t change some of how this works going forward. But right now, this is the system we have in place, and our section editors do a good job of selecting work that is a good fit for site.
Lyz’s responsibilities include managing the editorial team and editorial calendar, running the sidebar blog, and working closely with me to shape the site moving forward.
Q: Your announcement letter stated “I want to reach a point where we can increase our pay to writers, from a nominal fee to a more industry-standard rate for feature articles.” What can you tell us about current pay rates and future plans?
A: Currently, we set aside $300/month and every feature writer and book reviewer is eligible to opt in for payment. We then divide that $300 between the writers who opt in. We’ve been doing this since May 2016, and payments tend to be between $12-15 per writer.
We know that this is not industry standard, and we hope to increase revenue such that we can increase the amount we are able to pay and move from an opt-in system to a system where all feature writers are paid the same rate ongoing. But I do want to be honest, and share that The Rumpus runs on a shoestring budget. This goal is very close to our hearts—Lyz and I have both done our share of freelance writing and we struggle as writers to make money—but we also know there is a lot to figure out before it can become a reality.
Q: Why do you think contributors choose to publish on The Rumpus?
A: I think that The Rumpus has a reputation for publishing good work. We publish big-name writers alongside writers who are being published for the first time, because honestly, none of that matters to us. We look for strong writing, and we don’t care what other publications your bio does or doesn’t include. We’re honest, we’re straightforward, and we are very open to new ideas. I think (I hope!) we create an environment that feels welcoming to contributors and wholly respectful of the work they publish with us.
Q: Do you ever accept previously published work, or should everything be new?
A: We do not accept previously published work, and that includes personal blogs and websites.
Q: Do you accept international submissions?
A: Yes, absolutely!
Q: And my favorite question…What’s next for you and The Rumpus?
A: Shortly, we’ll be announcing the members of our advisory board, which Lyz and I are both beyond pleased with. We really couldn’t ask for a better group to help us reach the goals we’ve laid out for ourselves.
Every April, we run a poem a day for National Poetry Month. We will be continuing that tradition this year, and following that, we hope to open submissions for unsolicited poetry and begin to run original poetry 1-2x a month on the site.
Ultimately, we will be working on a site redesign to optimize for mobile readers. More than fifty percent of our audience is reading us on a mobile device, and we know that right now, it isn’t always as easy on the eyes as it should be. We also aim to improve functionality across the site, to make it more navigable, and to improve our store.