PW: You've been fiction editor for almost six months. Has the direction of the department changed?
Deborah Treisman: I was here for five years, working very closely with Bill Buford, the last fiction editor, and in many instances we absolutely agreed about fiction, so there isn't a radical shift.
PW: How many stories do you publish a year?
DT: About 50. There are 46 issues a year, and two of them are fiction issues, which have several pieces.
PW: Your first Debut Fiction issue came out on June 9. What was the submission process?
DT: We put the word out saying that we're looking for debuts, and our definition is work by people who haven't published a book. They can have published in other magazines or smaller magazines. We get everything from top novels that are about to come out to people who are unlikely ever to publish a book. It's a matter of getting through all that material and looking not just for polished, strong work, but also for promise and a sense of a writer who's going to go on from here.
PW: You've said in the past that submitting to the slush pile is not the way to get into the magazine. Does that mean you don't read unsolicited submissions?
DT: We do read all submissions. I don't personally, but we have interns and assistants. I would love nothing more than to have something come in over the transom and be fantastic. In the five years I've been here, we've published a handful of people who didn't have agents. What most often happens, though, is that someone seems talented and they develop a relationship with an editor, and then a year or two later, something gets published, but it's not coming in through the slush pile then because they've established a correspondence.
PW: Are you increasing or decreasing the number of serialized works of fiction that you run?
DT: We probably do no more than five novel excerpts a year. It's hard to make excerpts work. I try to be very vigilant about them not serving as writing samples.
PW: What about stories from forthcoming collections?
DT: Most often, we see stories before they come out in a collection. It's not common that we get a completed collection of stories where we haven't seen any already.
PW: How conscious are you of timing serialization to book publication?
DT: When we serialize fiction, we tend to do it quite far in advance of the pub date. There's no point for us in functioning as advertising. We want it to be something readers can't pick up in the bookstore tomorrow.
PW: But there's no denying that the New Yorker plays a crucial role in the literary economy. Why don't you credit books with a line indicating where a story comes from?
DT: It's a very longstanding tradition here. It goes back to the sense that we're not publishing fiction to serve as advertising for a book. We're publishing fiction to be strong fiction. Another issue is simply that there isn't a huge amount of space on the contributors' page, and if you start crediting books for one writer, you have to do it for all of them.
PW: How do you respond to publishers' complaints about that?
DT: Publishers are used to it, and the exposure that writers get here is wonderful.
PW: What are the characteristics of a fiction writer that would earmark him or her as a candidate for a profile, as opposed to having work published?
DT: It's quite rare that we do a profile of a living writer whom we publish. We try to avoid it because it feels like a conflict of interest. And we don't review books that we've excerpted. It's sort of like running a dating agency for your own child—you're too concerned about how it all turns out.