First Reader Position

Because WTAW Press receives a large volume of submissions, a committed corps of preliminary readers is essential to helping the editor select manuscripts. First readers have the the responsibility of reading material submitted to the WTAW Press and providing thoughtful feedback as to the merit and potential of the given submissions.

For this position, we look for writers who care deeply about literature and books. We want experienced writers and editors, those with a background or education in Creative Writing or Literature. Writers who are serious about their own craft are good candidates, as are those who are interested in learning what goes into publishing a strong catalog of books. Reliability and a commitment to reading for the entire submission period is essential.

Specific responsibilities of the role include:

  • Providing concise responses to approximately twelve submitted manuscripts per week online, according to a specific, provided framework.

  • Meeting weekly reading deadlines, and clearly communicating with editorial staff when scheduling conflicts arise.

  • Familiarity with the evolving WTAW Press catalog, with an eye toward the shape of contemporary literature.

This is a volunteer position that requires six to ten hours per week. Readers work remotely and on their own schedules each week to meet their deadlines.

To apply please email a brief cover letter, detailing your experience and your reasons for wanting the position. Provide any links to online publications you may have of your own criticism and/or creative writing. Email wtaw[at] wtawpress [dot] org with "First Reader Application" in the subject line. The reading period is from June 15 - September 15, 2021. Apply by May 14.

Why Read for a Literary Publisher?

The behind-the-scenes vantage point is a great learning opportunity. It’s eye-opening to see the variety and quantity of submissions. If you're a writer, reading these submissions can improve your understanding of how a publisher might read your own manuscripts. Reading what is not selected for publication will teach you a great deal. The more readily you learn to discriminate among the range of quality, you’ll come to to understand where authors miss the mark and what common missteps to avoid. You’ll discover what makes a manuscript stand out in terms of insight and intelligence, tone and style, voice, intriguing characters, skillful use of language, and forward momentum. And whether or not you're a writer, there’s a great deal to be gained from figuring out what personally makes your heart sing when differentiating among the very good to brilliant manuscripts.

Thoughts from KB, first reader during 2020 open reading period.


* You get to read some truly excellent and provocative work. While it makes it difficult to choose or turn down some manuscripts, it's always inspiring to read.


* Having the perspective of a reader informs my own writing process, what works, and what doesn't. I'm inspired by the good writing, and for the manuscripts that need more development, it makes me feel better about my own work. You start to see a lot of mistakes that newer writers make (i.e., not following submission directions, not having a clear narrative perspective, overwrought prose, lagging plot, etc.) and it helps me improve as a writer.


* The process became for me a comforting ritual. I'd set aside time each week to read the manuscripts that I considered personal development—just for reading, no distractions, to enjoy the writing I read, to learn how to become better at evaluating literature, and to try and become a better writer.


* Knowing I’m helping a small non-profit press makes me feel like a valuable addition to the literary community, in a small but significant way.


* The sheer number of submissions made me feel hopeful about literature and the arts in general—so many people out there compelled to write, who see the value in literature and reading. With the current administration openly disdainful of literary arts, journalism, liberal arts in general—it feels like a small revolution to be reading and writing and a part of this community.