Monday, October 13, 2008

Submissions Basics

Some things seem so simple that I don't think I have to say them. Operative word here being 'seem'...

For starters, put your contact information on your story, people. That means your name, your mailing address, your phone number, and your email address. Even if I don't buy your story, I might just call you to talk with you about it. It has happened.

You might also think that because you're dealing with an online magazine that accepts electronic submissions, you don't need to include your email address. Why would you need to include it? You just emailed your story to us, right?

True, but here's the catch. The managing editor of IGMS and I both live in Greensboro, North Carolina, but we work out of separate offices on opposite sides of town. And the assistant editor lives in California. Stories are emailed from place to place, and back again, and back and forth again, etc. Your original email might or might not go along with it. I can't tell you how many attachments I have opened to find a story, but no way of getting in touch with the author. I've opened some files that don't even have the author's name on it.


On the one hand, my first thought often is, 'Great, here's one I don't even have to read.' Why would I read it? Even if I love it, I have no way of buying it because I have no way of contacting the author. Not that the odds of my loving the story are great, because people who know how to write a great story also generally have sense enough to put their name on it.

So I have little reason to think the story will be a good one, and little reason to try because I can't do much with it even if it is. So what do I have? I have this nagging feeling that in two or three or four or five or six months, somewhere along the line, I'm going to get a query from somebody saying, 'Where is my story? What happened to it? I submitted it six months ago and never heard from you! Waaaaaa!'

And for the record, it's not just IGMS that has this problem. Other editors at other magazines tell me it happens to them, too. More than just a little bit.

It's not only IGMS that passes stories around electronically, and it's not only IGMS that has staff flung all over the country. In addition to editing IGMS, I'm also the managing editor of a specialty women's business magazine called Diversity Woman. The publisher and I are here in Greensboro, but the assistant editor is is Reidsville, NC, one of the proofer readers is in Asheville, NC, the executive editor is in Berkley, California, the graphic designer is in San Francisco, our main copy editor and main proofer are also somewhere in California (I don't even know where, exactly). The industry is full of freelancers who are scattered all over the country, and if you think sending something to any one by email automatically means you are providing them with your contact information, you are tragically, pathetically mistaken.

It is in your own best interests to make things as simple as possible for us (editors in general). There are too many people who want to write, and are capable of doing it well, for editors to chase anyone around. It's not going to happen. Period.

Have I made this point abundantly clear?

I think so. I'm tired of ranting, so I'm going to stop now. After this you're on your own.


Alice Sabo said...

Can I ask a question about etiquette? I received a very nice rejection with a bit of critique. I am very grateful for it. Does a busy editor want one more email that just says thank you? Or is it better not to respond?

Edmund R. Schubert said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but personally I'm fine with (and even appreciate) a short 'thanks.' Short.