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Ditching Paper Applications and Moving to a New Era of Publishing

Tin House regularly reviews both online submissions, book manuscripts, and workshop scholarship applications. They found one software solution for all their needs.

Tin House is a literary trifecta: online magazine, book publisher, writing workshop. They use Submittable in all three areas of the company, including the management of scholarship applications for a week-long workshop held every summer at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Because Submittable is such an industry standard, we made the decision to completely switch over from paper applications.

Lance Cleland

Tin House Workshop Director

Building a historic literary community

Founded in 1999 by Win McCormack, Tin House seeks to showcase undiscovered writers alongside prize-winning authors. While their quarterly magazine recently ended its run, its online selections and various paperbacks still help define the industry, while their week-long workshop held every summer at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, features award-winning poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction instructors alongside top-notch agents and editors. 

From the beginning, Tin House wanted their workshops to be available to anyone regardless of cost. In 2017, they offered 15 scholarships toward tuition, room and board.

Seeking an industry standard (and fewer administrative tasks) 

When Tin House Workshop Director Lance Cleland started in 2010, the selection committee for scholarship recipients and workshop attendees included himself and one other colleague.

“Because Submittable is such an industry standard now, we made the decision to completely switch over from paper applications in 2013,” explains Cleland, “which ended up saving us about 10 hours a week of work.” 

Since then, the number of submissions has grown. In 2017, they received approximately 1,100 submissions and accepted around 21%. Their team now includes four readers, with extra help from editors in their magazine and book divisions.

Sharing the platform, from scholarships to submissions 

While moving from paper applications to digital submissions made sense for Cleland’s job, the flexibility of the platform lets Tin House use Submittable across all of its departments. “One of the major reasons we went with Submittable was because it was a platform that both our magazine and workshop could share in terms of managing submissions,” says Cleland.

Because the editorial team at Tin House changes each year, they use Submittable's archive feature to share past scholarship recipients with new staff members. “It’s a vital tool as we begin the application process year to year,” says Cleland. In addition, having the ability to create multiple application categories in one place makes it easy for his team to grow and expand workshops—which everyone benefits from.

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