Go Forth (Vol. 17)
Submittable, next to email and international postal service carrier providers, is probably the largest literary submissions platform in existence in current humanity. I think that a lot, if not, at this point, most writers who have submitted their work to journals and contests have at some point interacted with this company, but I don’t know if anyone stopped to ask, What is this thing I am sending my work to? I decided I’m asking. Michael’s cool. He used to edit a DIY/Punk ‘Zine called FAT when he lived in Budapest. Now he does this. I figured if anyone wants to start a publishing related company, they could read about these guys.
NICOLLE ELIZABETH: Hi Michael. Thanks so much for talking to us about Submittable. How did Submittable start as a concept and get rolling as a company?
MICHAEL FITZGERALD: Bruce and I were friends and thought it might be fun to start a company together. We didn’t know what we wanted the company to be. Neither of us had business experience. (We once made a documentary about alpinists who exclusively scale mountains with letters on them.)
At lunch one day, we made a list of things that sucked. I had just sent out a story the night before to five or so places. The process and tools people were using were sort of scattered and amateur. So, in the list, I added “Sending Out Work.” Bruce asked about it. I said it was a nightmare finding appropriate journals, sending them work on all these different systems and then tracking the submissions. He said, “It’s a Submishmash.” We started writing code that night. A few months later we tricked our other friend, John Brownell, into joining us. A year later, we had a few hundred clients.
But we kept running into problems with large universities and businesses. The IT people and administrators were suspect of something called Submishmash. It was always a struggle to get them to write a check, and our bills were piling up. So we renamed it to Submittable. It’s a little soul-crushing, but our revenue instantly doubled. We went almost three years before making a living of any kind. We originally thought it would take two or three weeks.