Saturday, 28 February 2009

Sorry, this is not for us, but thanks.

Yesterday, I went through my list of poetry/short stories I have submitted to various magazines, anthologies and online journals. I noticed certain patterns. There are some editors who respond very quickly, they send a short email or letter saying, 'sorry this is not for us, but thanks'. Wonderful. I love these editors. There are other editors who take their time to read submissions, between two and six months. This isn't as ideal, but I am happy with this as well, because they are very clear about this in the 'guidelines for writers' and they send an acknowledgement again, saying 'sorry, this is not for us, but thanks'.

These small acknowledgements, often by email, are really valued. They help me work out whether I am sending work to the right place or wrong place, and also whether I am free to send it out somewhere else. I can forget about the submission, and either soon or eventually the editor will give me a response. It reassures me. It says many things, including 'I have actually read your work', and 'I respect you as a person, enough to give a very small amount of my time to sending you a reply'.

The longest I ever had to wait on a submission was about 14 months. It was a small press that eventually accepted my work, contracted the work, paid me, and put a lot of work into promoting the anthology. 14 months is a very long time, but I was sent several messages along the way, telling me what was happening. It enabled me to make a decision about whether I wanted to wait or not. It also afforded me some respect I felt. The same press had previously taken a very long time with a previous submission which they subsequently rejected, but they wrote me a wonderful email telling me exactly why and giving me feedback about the stories I had submitted.

I even like the editors who write in their guidelines 'if you have not heard from us within two weeks, assume we have not accepted your work'. I can make a note of the date I send a story or poem and then know by a certain date that it has not been chosen. Hurray for editors that have clear guidelines.

My complaint is with the editors who never reply. As though my submission (and me) have been ignored, possibly thrown away without being read, and certainly rejected without me even knowing about it. Some of these editors put 'disclaimers' in their guidelines about 'we are a very small magazine and we don't have time to reply if we do not accept your work.' I have to confess I never send work to a magazine or website that says this, as for me it is about courtesy, respecting the time that a writer puts into their writing and their submission. A brief pre-prepared email that says 'sorry, this is not for us, but thanks' takes less than a minute to send and will encourage me as a writer to a) continue reading their magazine and b) perhaps submit something wonderful next time.

So, I am campaigning for rejections, bring them on. At least we know where we stand.


Nik's Blog said...

Absolutely agree (I even blogged about just this thing a few weeks ago:

I don't think a decision is too much to ask for, nor do I think it's unreasonable to expect editors to follow their own guidelines (as they expect us to) and get back to us as they say they will.

Nik X

Tam said...

Well said :-)

Michelle said...

I absolutely agree with you, Annie.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Here, here. As a former magazine editor I know what hard work it is running a mag, but for crike's sake, if you can't be bothered even to set up a system whereby people are at least answered,you shouldn't be doing it. No bloody excuse in my opinion.

deemikay said...

I've never had a rejection letter. But then, I've had an acceptance letter either.

But I'm all for common courtesy. Editors should realise that people may have better things to do than buy their magazines. No readers, no submitters, no magazine...