October 14, 2016 by Nathaniel Tower
When I started Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine back in 2008, I didn’t have a long-term vision. I wasn’t trying to create the next great lit mag. I launched the magazine because I was a frustrated writer. I was simply tired of waiting six or more months for a form rejection, and I wanted to do something different. Writers deserve better.
I founded Bartleby Snopes on the principle that every submission matters. That’s why I committed to responding to every story within a week. And that’s also why I offered personal feedback on every story. Naturally, this wasn’t too hard at first. A fledgling magazine that lacked a compelling design started by a no-name writer didn’t demand much attention.
Slowly but surely, the submissions trickled in. As the magazine became more well-known, I decided it needed to offer more. I gave the website a facelift. I started the Story of the Month Contest and later the annual Dialogue Contest. I added staff members. I became an early adopter of Submishmash (now known as Submittable) and an early proponent of flash novels. We paid out over $12,000 to writers. Over the course of 8 years, the magazine saw a steady increase in submissions and readership. Times were good.
In our 8+ years operating, we’ve received over 17,000 submissions. We’ve published over 750 stories and over 600 authors. We nominated stories for every indie literary award. Some of our authors later became published novelists, award-winning writers, and valued members of the literary community. Others were already accomplished writers before submitting to us. And we are grateful for every opportunity we’ve had to publish writers.
Now it’s time to close the book on Bartleby Snopes.
I consider myself a realist (and mostly a pessimist). Bartleby Snopes has been a big part of my life, but I don’t expect the world will end as a result of this announcement. I anticipate it will create nothing more than a minor ripple. A post or two on Facebook about how it’s sad that another magazine is closing its doors.
The people who will care the most are the ones we’ve published. But even their melancholy will be short lived. As will mine.
Some will wonder why. Others will wonder why now. Others will know the answers without hearing them. But most will simply find other magazines for their stories.
The decision to close Bartleby Snopes is something I’ve been kicking around for awhile. Mostly, it’s personal. I no longer have the time or the energy to make the magazine into what it should be to give our writers what they deserve. Don’t mistake this for an act of selflessness. I’m doing this mostly for me. I’m getting older. Work is more exhausting than it used to be. My writing has been stagnant over the last few years. I have a novel manuscript that’s been sitting unedited for almost five years because I’m always too busy with Bartleby Snopesresponsibilities. My daughters are rapidly growing into amazing little people, and I don’t want to miss an important milestone because I’m swamped in submissions that need a response within a week. I don’t have time to do all these things. If something has to go, it’s Bartleby Snopes.
So what happens now? That’s what people will care about the most. What happens to all the stories we’ve published? Will they vanish into the ether of the internet? As a writer, I’ve seen this happen all too often. At least a quarter of my published stories are no longer available. All that hard work, the time spent writing, editing, and submitting, all so people could click on a broken link on my publication list. I don’t want that to happen to others. After all, there are 600 writers to think about here.
The good news: those stories will all exist indefinitely on the website. We’ve already paid the hosting fees through 2020, and I plan to renew well beyond that. As long as it remains economically feasible, the website will remain alive. But it won’t be active. No new stories. No new designs. No new announcements. And certainly no calls for submission. Just an archive of what Bartleby Snopeswas.
Perhaps another lingering question is, why not let someone else take over the magazine? This was considered, but here’s the reality: Bartleby Snopes was my singular vision. Having someone else take over would be an injustice to that person. Anyone willing to run their own literary magazine should mold it to their own vision from the beginning. Furthermore, if Bartleby Snopes were to continue, I would not be able to separate myself from it. It is a part of me, and having it continue under someone else would simply not be feasible for me. Finally, I believe Bartleby Snopes has accomplished everything it was meant to accomplish. This is the right time to say goodbye.
What’s next for me? I’m going to write. I’m going to enjoy my family more. I’m going to read more. But not submissions. I don’t plan to read any submissions for a very long time.
Thank you to everyone who supported Bartleby Snopes. Someone out there may try to thank me for the gift of Bartleby Snopes, but I’m not the one who needs the thanks. Bartleby Snopes has enriched my writing and my place in the literary world more than I’ve done for anyone.
But before I go, I want to do a few more things. First, I want to publish stories through the end of the year. Shortly after this message goes live, we will begin accepting submissions for our final month of publication (please note that we will not offer feedback during the final two months of submissions). It’s quite possible that no one will want to submit. Why bother sending work to a publication that is admittedly closing soon? Beats me. I probably wouldn’t do it myself. But as an editor, I feel compelled to bring this to a fitting close. I hope the final story we publish will be some type of elegy. Maybe it will be a themed month. Send us your stories of farewell and departure.
And wait, there’s more. Of course we’ll put out one more print/PDF issue in January 2017. It won’t be any bigger or better than our other issues. It won’t be some crazy special issue with all our favorite stories from the past 8 years. It won’t even be “The Final Issue.” It’ll just be Issue 15.
And one more thing. After we publish our final story, we’re going to have theStory of the Century contest. Every story we published since the very beginning will be eligible. The top vote getter will win $100. That person probably won’t become rich and famous, but it will sound cool to add “I won the Bartleby SnopesStory of the Century Contest” to the old bio.
I want to thank all the writers who’ve submitted, all the readers who’ve read, and, most of all, every staff member who has helped me get through those 17,000 submissions. Without my fellow editors, Bartleby Snopes wouldn’t have lasted half as long as it did. If Rick Taliaferro hadn’t offered to help out way back in 2010, the magazine would’ve been dead in the water before some of our biggest accomplishments. And without April Bradley, who’s done most of the heavy lifting over the past two years, the magazine would’ve tanked long before this announcement.
Speaking of April Bradley, she will continue to operate Women Who Flash Their Lit. It’s an amazing project, and it should be known that she’s been the driving force all along. I’m grateful that this project will continue to give voices to the many amazing women who write flash fiction. It doesn’t need Bartleby Snopes to exist.
So that’s it. This is the end. The last hurrah for Bartleby Snopes. Will I miss it? Of course. But if you asked me to keep doing it, I would tell you that I’d prefer not to.