This Is Not A Criticism

As such. More of an observation. And something I’ve been pondering.

It’s to do with submissions. To do with us writers sending off our stuff to try to be published in good places. In the places we like to go. The mags, journals, ezines we like to read.
And really, it’s just one aspect of the process, which I should add doesn’t always happen, that I’ve been thinking about.
It’s this. 
You send something out (to somewhere you know, you enjoy and you respect). You get no acknowledgement that your piece has arrived with them (it probably says so in the guidelines). After X amount of time (say, three months as an average) the guidelines say you’re allowed to query. So you query. Politely. You get nothing back. You leave it another few weeks before emailing again. Still nothing. So you withdraw the piece, by email, and get no response to that either.
By which time four months have passed. And you’ve had no contact. It’s like your story’s been in a void for getting on for half a year. Strange.
And it really isn’t a criticism, though I think that in a lot of cases things could be better for us writers. I know editors are busy, I know they receive plenty of submissions. I know they have procedures in place and that it’s in their interests to get things read as soon as they can and that they’ve mags to run and lives to live and that everyone else submitting is, theoretically, in the same position. I know they’re underpaid (um, like us writers).
It just feels like a strange situation. And I thought I’d share.
Any thoughts?

0 Comments on “This Is Not A Criticism

  1.  by  The Dotterel

    Why not a criticism? It’s valid enough! And it’s exactly the same with book publication. The rejections I can take, especially the one’s that give a reason; but the silence, the lack of acknowledgement, even the waste of the SAE. Well, that’s just rudeness, isn’t it?

  2.  by  Tania Hershman

    I have to say I totally agree with your observations. I have had the same thing happen over and over again. As the editor of The Short Review, I can’t conceive of simply not responding to an email query. I just wouldn’t be able to sleep at night not answering so many honestly-motivated emails from the people my journal is aiming to support and promote: writers. How hard is it to send back one line? I’ll let you in on a secret: I use a browser plugin for Flock (also Firefox) that lets me set all sorts of signatures that I can insert into emails with the right-click, which are basically pre-written set replies to, say, an offer of a review copy of a book. Dear X, thank you so much and congratulations on your collection. etc… etc… It takes me 30 seconds to fire that off. Why can’t lit mags do the same? You feel as though they have cancelled that email address or something, or that they are wilfully staring at your email and rubbing their hands, cackling as they decide just not to reply. Do you feel how much I agree with you???!!

  3.  by  Sara

    Sometimes I think it’s a real bloody cheek Nik. I have read guidelines somewhere that said it’d take 3 or so months, and please don’t bother them by querying in that time. We work hard on our words, and give them away (often) for free. It seems disrespectful of the litzines to be so seemingly discourteous. BUT they aren’t bothered if you stop subbing, they have subs galore from all kinds of talented writers, all eager to be showcased. I don’t know what the answer is. I have a list of ‘zines I want to be in, and I sub with hope. It’d be nice if there was a blacklist somewhere of real crappy mags full of disdain and bad attitude. Writers could boycott them, show a little muscle!How about it?; )

  4.  by  Anne Brooke

    Actually, after 3 months of any submission, I simply make a note on my various spreadsheets that it was unsuccessful and send it out to the next and more discerning market!I’m not sure why a query would work, Nik – I’d advise spending your time submitting to the next one and writing some more of your wonderful stuff. After all, why waste the time?:))Axxx

  5.  by  Robert McEvily

    One of the reasons I started “Six Sentences” was to address this very issue. I’ve always been determined to reply quickly to all submissions. Anything less is rude and/or laziness.

  6.  by  Faye L. Booth

    This is what I think, too. I understand that folks in publishing are very busy and one doesn’t want to be a pain, but it always seemed to me, when I was sending Mirrors out for inspection, that the relationship was rather too unbalanced. This is another reason why I think email queries are the way ahead – if nothing else, it’s possible to set up an automatic reply email confirming receipt, so at least the author isn’t left wondering whether it arrived at all.

  7.  by  Lane

    A valid observation Nik. I don’t buy the ‘too busy’ line in a three month time frame (and I’m talking small presses here for short pieces not 90K m/s). Even an automated response is better than none.

  8.  by  Samantha Tonge

    Whenever i’ve queried how my submission is going, it has resulted in a swift rejection – okay, it was probably going to get rejected anyway, but even so…I’ve just withdrawn a submission after 4 months, i wouldn’t want it to be published anyway now. 4 months is a long time to wait, though.Sam x

  9.  by  Sandra Patterson

    The waiting…it can drive you mad. Not me of course, this strait jacket is for my backache. :-)Isn’t publishing just a cross between an adult version of “pass the parcel” and a commando-style endurance test?

  10.  by  Nik's Blog

    Do I take it that this resonated with a few people then?!Thanks all for responding. It’s certainly nice and heartening to know that it’s not just me and that I’m not being bratish or petulant.The thing is, for me at least, I don’t mind being rejected. I can take that. It’s an expected part of the job. What isn’t so easy to take, as many of you have said, is the silence. A form rejection is fine. It means we know where we’re up to and that we can try to get our story(ies) published elsewhere – which is useful because some of us are trying to build careers here!I’ve said it, probably privately, before, that there’s a danger that writers are expendable and that is Bad News for journals, writers, ezines, the lot. Writers need places to be published and those places need writers to give them content, and as such, I think, should treat them with a bit more care and/or professional courtesy.Trouble is, if we say we won’t send XYZ anything else, there are plenty of others who will.Arghhh! What to do!Thanks again all.Nik

  11.  by  Nik's Blog

    Ooh – and thanks to Tania and Rob for giving us an editor’s take on things – it isn’t THAT difficult to be efficient and polite is it!? And I’m happy to say that you’ve both been prompt and polite in replying and/or rejecting me! :)Nik

  12.  by  Women Rule Writer

    Hi Nik,I’m rather late to the discussion here, but I have to agree.Poetry Ireland Review for example take longer and longer as the years go by to reply. And some places never reply at all. It’s infuriating. So I made a new 3 month rule for myself (after 11 years of this crapola). “If I’ve heard nothing, they don’t want it.” This has resulted in a few poems being published twice, but it wasn’t my bad housekeeping that caused it, so sod it, I say!I’m more finicky about stories though.

  13.  by  Nik's Blog

    Hello WRW!Thanks for your thoughts on this rather tricky subject. And it is tricky: you want your work to appear in Good Places, you don’t want to anger them by constantly withdrawing/pestering, you try to have faith in the submission process (good stories consistently appear so they ARE being read and selected) and yet there are always other places to try. What do you do? Tis very tricky. A writer with no work out there for people to read because it’s constantly under consideration isn’t much use.I don’t know!NikNik

  14.  by  annie clarkson

    ah, I read your blog post several weeks too late, and realise that by weirdness I have blogged almost an identical thing. so, of course, I agree with your comments… It’s good to hear a couple of editors views…

  15.  by  Nik's Blog

    Shows we’re all thinking the same thing, doesn’t it. And I really enjoyed your take on this, um, irritating issue too.Nik

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