How Publishing Is Rigged You thought it was a meritocracy??


Meet Ms. Lily Hoang

Lily HoangLily Hoang is one of the HTMLGIANT regulars who is also a MFA grad who now teaches in the MFA program at New Mexico State University. These details in themselves are not very distinctive, as many MFA graduates go on to teach English at the college level because they can't get a job in the publishing business. They've got to do something with that degree, right?

[For more information about the kinds of cronyism practiced at HTMLGIANT, please read this post.]

But Lily Hoang is one kind of fraud who practices cronyism like it's nobody's business. Let's take a look at a few different facts about Ms. Hoang and then draw some conclusions based on what we just learned.

Fact number one: Lily Hoang doesn't submit her stories to magazines for publication. Because she's too scared.

In a HTMLGIANT post that dates to March 2011, various people comment upon the fact that the publishing world is full of rejection. The post is ostensibly about a HTMLGIANT contributor who was rejected from Brown's MFA program. The original poster has nearly gone off the deep end regarding this rejection, and still has not recovered.

The conversation in the comments section then turns to a discussion about rejection in general, and why rejection is so difficult to bear. Lily Hoang has her own rejection story to tell, in which she too was rejected from an MFA program. Keep in mind that Lily Hoang received her MFA degree a few years ago now, so that rejection must be getting pretty old at this point.

I was rejected from an MFA program. I still hold a grudge against them. I resent the rejection. A lot.

If you want to be in an MFA program, maybe you want to go to NMSU? Rumor has it there's (ahem) a super cool new prof working in their fiction program next year.

Also: I don't submit to journals because I can't take the rejection. I'd rather forego the pleasure of acceptance than endure the little slip of paper saying “You are not good enough for us.” Or, I'm a little crazy-sensitive.

But this is where we learn that she doesn't submit to journals. That's pretty weird, for a professor in a MFA program, who herself writes fiction, not to submit her short stories to editors because she's afraid they might get rejected. Keep in mind that this same woman is teaching English to college-age students. What do you think that she says to them when they want advice on how to get their own stories into print?

“How should I submit my short stories to literary journals, Professor Hoang?”

“Well, I don't submit anything myself. It's waaaay too scary to send your work out because you might get rejected!”

(A completely cowardly message coming from a Professor to her student. Are professors like Lily Hoang really suited to teach and inspire students in the classroom? Do you think mom and dad would like to know that their child's teacher can't even perform the most basic task in her chosen field? Not because she's inhibited or prevented from doing so by external circumstances. Because she's so afraid of rejection, she's afraid to submit.)

Fact number two: Lily Hoang does have short stories in print and at a few webzines.

  • She has fiction published at Necessary Fiction (online)
  • She has fiction published in Pear Noir! (print)
  • She has fiction published at Toad (online)
  • She has fiction at Mad Hatter's Review (online)

So let's put these two facts together. How is Lily Hoang getting anything published, if she isn't submitting her work to journals? Oh! I get it! Her friends work at the journals where her stuff is published. She's only giving stories to people she knows will accept them. She knows her friends will accept and publish her work, so she's “safe” giving them her work. No risk of that pesky rejection.

So a more honest dialogue between Professor Lily Hoang and her student might go something like this:

“How should I submit my short stories to literary journals, Professor Hoang?”

“Well, I don't submit stories anywhere myself. I'm too afraid they might get rejected. But I have friends who work at literary journals, so I send my stuff to them, and they publish it.”