This has been the kerfluffle flavor of the week on the lit-blogs: Partners West sums it up pretty well:
A few days ago, Tin House came up with a great little idea, called Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore. It required writers who submit unsolicited manuscripts to purchase a book at an independent bookstore and send the receipt along with the submission.
People on litblogs are OUTRAGED, and they are responding with outraged-people-on-the-internet weapons, which is to say, they are employing weird false analogies:
I think it’s ridiculous and offensive. Writers are readers. This is well established. That’s like asking a drug addict to bring a receipt for their last score before selling them more heroin.
I was a reader/volunteer for Tin House a few years ago and am only recently getting over how false, lousy and ridden with middle-brow elitism their entire organization is..
Imagine a wax apple that insists it’s a real apple because it has none of the visible flaws that real apples have. Though it turns out it’s still real enough to be rotten once you bite into it.
Having had a night to sleep on the Tin House policy, I have had a change of heart. What a brilliant concept. We at Dzanc Books will now require a resume and college and grad school transcript — there must of course be grad school — with all unsolicited manuscripts. The submitter will be required to provide a reading list of all the books they’ve read in the last five years. We at Dzanc will also provide a reading list and the submitter will need to have read each book on our list and provide a review. Failure to meet these standards, the submitter will have to bake us a cake. And not just a cake but a poetic cake, and a film of them baking the cake. As we receive thousands of submissions a year at Dzanc, we have every right and reason to limit the folly of would be submitters thinking they can just submit us their work. This is brilliant. Thank you Tin House for blazing this trail.
Here's what I think: The receipt idea is heavy-handed, but it's coming from a good place, and besides,Tin House can do whatever the fuck they want with their own business. Or heroin trade. Or wax apple. Or whatever.