Interview with Craig Hart, Editor of The Rusty Nail and Sweatshoppe Publications

Today’s interview is with Craig Hart who founded the magazine, The Rusty Nail as well as the publishing company Sweatshoppe Publications.  

First, here’s some background on Craig:

Craig Hart is a writer, editor, and publisher. Early in 2012 he founded The Rusty Nail literary magazine for which he serves as editor-in-chief. He is also the publisher for Sweatshoppe Publications. Hart lives in Rockford, Illinois with his wife Kimberly in a house owned by their cat, Gracie.

SARETT: There are thousands and thousands of literary magazines-- and they do come and go. What was your impetus for starting The Rusty Nail?  
HART: My hope for The Rusty Nail is for it to remain true to the tagline, “Your words, your way.” A lot of literary magazines become extensions of the staff. They choose what they like, edit them down, and the reader ends up with a sanitized version. I want to preserve the raw feeling of words directly from the writer’s mind.       

SARETT: As an editor, are you sensitive to the experience of reading online?  Do you feel that reading online places special burdens on stories?  
HART: I tend to be a traditional reader. I like paper copy, which is why The Rusty Nail offers a print version. However, I know that many people like reading online and it does increase the accessibility of the work. There’s a place for both.

SARETT:  I’m amazed that editors can read as much as they do-- and you not only have a magazine, but a publishing company.  In your mind, what are the ingredients that make a good editor?   
HART: An editor should know the audience. I think an editor does well to keep in mind not only what they like, but also what the outlet’s audience will like. There are pieces that have appeared in The Rusty Nail that, as a reader, I wouldn’t choose. But if I know there is an element of TRN’s audience that enjoys that form of writing, then it has a good chance of making it through.

SARETT: We all know that writers read literary magazines, or at least some writers like me do -- but is that the only audience for them? Or put another way, is there a way to make that audience more diverse?
HART: I agree that the biggest audience for literary magazines are writers or, at least, people with literary interests. The Rusty Nail has addressed this by offering a diverse range of selections. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a defined audience. I think one mistake other magazines have made is trying to be all things to all readers. It can’t be done. By trying to make sure everyone is equally represented and served, it’s easy to end up representing nobody, at least not well.

SARETT: You’re also a writer (although how you find the time baffles me.) Has the process of being an editor has changed the way you approach your writing?  How?
HART: It has caused me to be more cognizant of the errors I see in the writing that I go through on a regular basis. It’s easier to find faults in writing other than your own, of course, but I’ve made a concerted effort to practice my preaching. Having said that, I think it’s important to run your work past an outside source. Being an editor doesn’t necessarily make one qualified to edit one's own work.

SARETT: You’ve started a publishing company, Sweatshoppe Publications (love that name!). How would you describe its editorial focus?   Is there a specific type of writer you’d like to attract?
HART: So far, Sweatshoppe Publications has published mostly poetry and short story collections, with a couple of novels thrown in. We’ve been pleased to publish a couple of non-traditional novel forms and first-timers. The writing we tend to lean toward is intimate and, in the case of fiction, with fully developed characters. We love honest writers who write without reservation, without holding back.

SARETT: Lots of us, including me, have chosen the self-publishing route.  What are the advantages, in your mind, of using a publisher like Sweatshoppe are versus self-publishing?
HART: One of the greatest benefits of self-publishing can also be its greatest flaw. Namely, the fact that anyone can do it. There are writers, like yourself, who are capable of putting out quality writing via self-publishing and I think that’s great. I’ve used self-publishing in the past myself.
The main advantages of a publisher like Sweatshoppe are that 1.) There is oversight. We don’t publish everything we get so if your work is accepted you can know that we’ve seen value in it. 2.) We don’t charge authors. The cost of design and getting the book onto the marketplace are assumed by Sweatshoppe. 3.) A lot of writers prefer to be able to say they’ve had their work accepted by an unbiased entity. It suggests an air of legitimacy.
None of this means that I think any less of those who self-publish, mind you. I love that industry. In fact, the parent company of Sweatshoppe Publications has begun a self-publishing option called Coffee Ring Publishing. You can find all our publishing options at:

Available on Amazon
SARETT: You are a busy guy -- and I see that you’re also published a book on writing exercises. Are these exercises designed for the neophyte or the more advanced writer?  
HART: There is something in there for both. Some exercises are more complicated than others. The exercises address the most common writing issues I see as an editor/publisher, little things that can make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

SARETT: Have you used the exercises in your own book?  (Just checking!)
HART: Haha...I’ve used versions of them, yes. I wanted to make sure they worked, after all!

SARETT: Any other projects that you’d like to tell us about?
HART:  I am writing a novel entitled Mosquito Bay, which is about a boy named Jimmy who discovers troubling things about his family, including his mother’s death. It’s a gritty tale, but honest, as we watch Jimmy struggle to grow up in the shadow of his family’s dark past.

You can visit Craig on Facebook, Twitter. His blog is at
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