Getting Fiction Published in the New Yorker

Posted on November 28, 2005

Getting a short story published in The New Yorker is the dream of many writers. You can find submission details here. The Stranger, a Seattle newspaper, has an interview with Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at the New Yorker. In the interview Treisman provided some insight into how the New Yorker selects the fiction stories for each issue.

She says everyone writes an opinion of the story being considered. Some stories are liked by all six of the people in the fiction department. Arguments and debate arise when the opinion of the story is divided.

There are six people in the fiction department. Most of us do nonfiction as well, so we don't have as much time as it sounds. But basically stories come in, whether they come in through slush or to one of the editors or to me, and they get read and whatever we're taking seriously gets circulated to all of the editors and we have a meeting once a week where we sit around and argue. Everyone writes a short opinion of the story and those get attached to the manuscript as it makes its way around. And sometimes it happens that all six of us think a story is great-that's maybe one in 10 of the stories that get to this level. What most often happens is three people like something and three people don't, or four people versus two. It's a funny mix and there's lots of argument-you know, arguments that can be very frustrating because you're never going to convince the other person, but that is probably what the response is among the readership as well. You just hope that, in general, the majority is going to be affected by what you publish.
Wow. Even if you get published it doesn't mean all the editors liked it. On the bright side you might be able to get published without pleasing all the New Yorker editors. Treisman also talked about the difficulty of writing good endings.
There's so much weighing on it. It's quite hard to pull out of a story too. That's often why people write novels, because they can't pull out. And it's very hard-there's so much pressure on the ending either to sum everything up or to culminate in some final image that's going to say it all, and sometimes you just want to come to a stop, to let something that happened earlier in the story be the central thing.
Now if you can just submit a story with a great ending maybe the New Yorker will publish it. Easier said than done, of course.

Update: For more on submitting to the New Yorker you should also read this interview with Treisman in Forward. She says she receives 200 to 300 submissions a week. She also says 20% to 25% of the 50 stories published in The New Yorker each year are by unknown authors. She also says that it used to be harder for women fiction writers to get published by the balance has shifted in the past ten years or so.

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