Friday 8 May 2009

Courtesy in writing, editing, accepting and rejecting

I may be old fashioned, but I think, if you put out a call for writers to submit to you, and they do, that it is only right to respond graciously in due course. Whether you are accepting or rejecting the work.

Do As You Would Be Done By seems to be appropriate here.

Mentioning no names, no pack drill, but I am sure that the high falutin' editors of at least two very decent literary publications I have looked at in the last 24 hours would not be chuffed to be treated with the disdain with which they appear to be treating the vast majority of those who submit work to them.

Email submission is easy. And green. So is a return email with a standard 'thank you but no thank you' message after the appropriate time. And it makes it far more likely that those rejected this time round will keep you in their sights for next time. Unless, of course that is your real agenda. And what the rejects should be reading is 'Get lost. Your work is crap. Don't bother trying again."

"If you havent heard from us within four months, five months, even no time scale... hard luck," is, with today's technology, arrogant in the extreme. It is treating writers with disdain.


Nik Perring said...

Couldn't agree more. But what can we, as writers who want to be in Good Places, do?

Tania Hershman said...

Exactly. I just heard back from a publication after a YEAR. Ok, so they had switched editors...but I had already assumed rejection and wiped them from my spreadsheet list thing. What do they think I will do for a year, sit around? They don't even pay for submissions. How is it that some publications can get back to you in 24 hours, and others in 365 days - and still others disappear into the void? Yes, in this day and age, is a simple email so difficult? Common courtesy, basic human decency. Perhaps you should "out" the publications you are talking about, they sound like they deserve it and others should take note.

Lauri said...

I absolutely agree, Vanessa. I find that the worst offenders are the literary mags who insist that things must be posted snail mail. In Botswana, I can't get international coupons so I always say- please recyle my stuff and reply though email.They can't be troubled. And yet I have paid handsomely to get my writing to them- why? Because they asked.I've stopped now. If you can't use email -you should go out of business as far as I'm concerned.

Also you find that these same folks who don't EVER trouble to respond don't want simultaneous submissions. Nowadays- I take that as an interesting, quirky suggestion.

Emerging Writer said...

Totally agree. It's widespread and rude. Happens also when applying for jobs.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Nik
What can we do? Not a lot, bar writing posts like this, which they will probably not see anyway. But we could make a resolution not to behave like this ourselves, should we get into that position?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi T

A year!! I think something is going wrong out there. Is it a function of the numbers of people desperate to write and be heard? So the systems are clogged, and waiting times get longer and longer?

If that is so, why do some of the most popular places manage to respond courteously within a few weeks?

It doesn't compute. Ok - if a publication is run by a single person, on a shoestring (or on nothing but love) perhaps one can forgive unintentional discourtesies. Others... who we know have admin support by looking at the set-up ... there is NO excuse!

I don't think it is fair to 'out' publications, really. It does neither me nor them any good, much as I'd love to. I hope perhaps the message will be passed round, or at least it may be discussed at editorial meetings.

But I do think, picking up Lauri's points as well... the 'no sim sub' rule should only be adhered to if the publication comes back within a short timescale, dont you? A tear? That is appalling... what other profession does not get paid, and has to wait a year or half a year to find out if a job is OK, or whether it has to be done all over again?!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Lauri... I know some publications will allow emailed submissions from overseas, if you ask. It's worth trying, even if their guidelines state that they expect all snail mail subs.

I love the 'interesting quirky suggestions'!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Emerging writer - yup. Again, I wonder if it is widespread because the numbers of submissions are far greater than they bargained for? Doesn't mean they ought to be arrogant though!

And jobs as well... no reply to a job application that may have taken hours to prepare? That's really bad. (I used to be in HR. Not like that, I assure you!)

Unknown said...

As a former weekly newspaper editor, I know how hard it is to get the issue out each week, plus deal with piles of pitches.

However, writers put heart and soul into their queries, and they deserve replies. I remember going into the office some Saturdays to catch up on reading queries and replying (usually via email).

I recently launched a flash fiction blog and you can bet everyone who submits will get an email sooner rather than later.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Paula, thanks for dropping by. It's lovely to hear that you spent time making sure writers got feedback via email, despite the pressures of producing a weekly paper. Please accept a virtual medal!

Lovely to see a new flash fiction site... I got all excited then saw it is for only writers with a Pasadena connection. A great idea to personalise it to a place like that, and I also liked the idea of linking each piece to three specific Pasadena places or businesses.

Take a look too at the new Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction...out this week.