SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Lynsey Morandin: We started Hypertrophic because we wanted to give a voice and a platform to the little guy. I've worked in different areas of publishing for years now, and all I really saw was that it's getting harder and harder for upcoming writers to get their names out there. A lot of publishing houses only want authors with a proven track record, someone who's already successful and known and can guarantee sales. And they need that to stay afloat. Lots of lit mags we looked into want a long list of publications behind your name before they'll accept you, or they want to see you have an MFA or have completed a writer's workshop or whatever else. We aren't about that. Our goal is to publish great work by great writers whether it's their 1st or 44th publication. The publishing industry depends on this new generation of writers, and we want to encourage them and get them started in this industry.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
LM: Most important of all for us is emotional pull. Everything we publish has to make the reader feel something, has to evoke a physical reaction. Then we look for writing style. Personally, I'd accept a piece with really great, lyrical writing even if nothing happens in the story. I'd take the way a piece flows over actual content any day. The other half of Hypertrophic, though, likes really terse, choppy writing, and he really considers the actual content of each piece. And you have to get a yes from both of us to go in! This last part won't affect you getting an acceptance or a rejection, but I also always look for an interesting bio in the query letter, something that catches my eye and makes me feel like the writer is an interesting person who would be fun to work with.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
LM: I can't tell you how many submissions I get where people will address query letters to "Editor" instead of my name and then go on to talk about how they had to do that because they weren't able to find my name anywhere. If you just wrote "Editor" with none of that explanation then I honestly wouldn't care one bit, but the explanation shows that you didn't even try and it points out your lack of effort. Our names and bios are on our website's About page, they're on our Twitter accounts, and they're on our magazine's masthead. It really doesn't take much to find them.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?
LM: Not unless someone specifically asks for them, and even then they're minimal. Most of the time I don't reject a piece because it's "bad," I reject it because it just doesn't suit our publication or fit with the next issue. So there really isn't anything to critique there. If I'm rejecting something because it's so far removed from what we actually publish, then I will tell the writer that. I also always note when I've fought for a piece but it just didn't make it past Jeremy (because we're such a small press we've agreed that we both have to okay every piece before it's accepted). I feel like rejection is hard enough on its own that the writer doesn't need negative feedback to rub salt in the wounds, so I'm way more likely to say what I liked about a work even if we don't end up accepting it.
SQF: If Hypertrophic Literary had a theme song, what would it be and why?
LM: After we hit the final button on every issue of the magazine, we play the Rocky theme song really loud and pretend we're running up stairs, so I'd probably say that's the closest we have to a theme song at this point. We also listen to a TON of Macklemore, and Make the Money has become a bit of a theme song as well.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
LM: Hm. Probably what my favorite part of this job is, and it's definitely the response emails we get from contributors. We publish a lot of first-timers and to see how happy they are to get an acceptance is beautiful. It's also great when contributors post photos of themselves with the magazine they're in or when they write to us after receiving their copy to say thank you and how much they love their spreads. That's what makes all the constant stress and impending deadlines worth it.
Thank you, Lynsey (and Jeremy). We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.