Working at Ruminate Magazine

and how I became an employee again

In early 2018, a friend told me that the national, non-university-affiliated/independent literary journal Ruminate Magazine was hiring a remote fiction editor. I’d favorably reviewed Ruminate Magazine for NewPages back in 2008 and bought a few issues my friend had been featured in, and knew I enjoyed their aesthetic. I applied, and moved past the story critique stage to the interview stage, but didn’t make the final cut. A day or two after my rejection, the editor-in-chief asked me to apply for Ruminate Magazine’s remote managing editor position. I did, and received it.

In spring 2018, I began working between six and ten hours per week for Ruminate Magazine. I oversaw the editorial production process for the print quarterly—although, unlike when I worked at Perseus, I myself copyedited the poetry and prose and laid them out in InDesign. As time went on, I received more tasks, such as managing the genre editors and the Submittable queue, helping judge contests.

As I mentioned in the last newsletter, for this work I received $16.50/hr as a freelancer. Although I myself didn’t manage finances, I know Ruminate Magazine was roughly funded one-third through contests, one-third through donations, and one-third through subscriptions. I respected that the editor-in-chief paid the freelance staff as well as the writers. I also respected that Ruminate Magazine rarely solicited pieces, didn’t charge submission fees for open reading periods, and usually responded to writers’ submissions within their stated time frame. Additionally, from working on the editor side of the Submittable queue, I began to feel not as ashamed of my own submission stats: during Ruminate Magazine’s 2019 fiction open reading period, for example, we received over 900 submissions, and from that, our fiction editor and I chose 4 stories, an acceptance rate of about 0.35 percent.

At the end of 2019, the editor-in-chief and founder of Ruminate Magazine told me she was leaving, and the board was looking for a university home for the magazine, and would I like to stay on, maybe as a full-time editor? I researched the salary of full-time managing editors/editors at literary magazines, and learned they could earn as much as $50K to $80K/yr, depending on the location and the organization’s structure. In early 2020, the Ruminate Magazine board president pitched a $60K salary to interested universities, but because they didn’t offer enough funding and/or because of differences in editorial philosophy, the board decided for Ruminate Magazine to stay independent—then in May 2020, the board hired me as a twenty-five-hours-per-week, $18.50/hr employee of Ruminate Magazine. I currently oversee and execute all the editorial and production aspects of the quarterly print journal (the website publication The Waking has a different, distinct editor) as well as do some promotion (newsletters, product copy) and jointly plan an annual fundraiser. It’s a small organization: there is only one other twenty-five-hour-per-week employee, the director of operations, and everyone else works less than twenty-five hours per month as freelancers/contractors.

Although I’d love to receive benefits again at a job, I feel lucky to have maintained both my freelance editing work and my twenty-five hours per week at Ruminate Magazine during COVID when so many people have been laid off. And as far as my daily tasks go, being the editor of Ruminate Magazine is my favorite position in publishing so far: I like the variety and intellectual challenges of the work, I’m happy to again be working as part of a team, and I’m particularly pleased with our forthcoming issue What Remains. The genre editors and I wanted to reflect on what remains for the living after the death of loved ones; the poems, stories, creative nonfiction, visual art, and bonus interview all reflect this theme. And I wrote the editor’s note! You can read a sneak-peek essay here, a sneak-peek poem here, and/or buy it for $15 here.

Thanks for reading! I’ve now shared most of my experiences working in the publishing industry, so I’ll mainly be posting interviews, stories, and poems in this newsletter for the near future. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out.