On e-mail submissions

Wednesday August 13, 2008 @ 11:11 AM (UTC)

I’m not, in general, one of those writers who complains about the submissions process. I got excited at my first personal rejection, after all, and while of course I overanalyze the heck out of rejection letters (that’s almost in the ‘writer’ job description), I don’t take them personally or assume it means the editor thinks my work is crap. Maybe the editors have brainwashed me or something, but I figure rejection means that story wasn’t right for that magazine at that time, and that a long wait means the staff and editors (at some mags, especially litmags, volunteers) have a lot of submissions to work through.

That said, this wheel does have a squeak. I think it’s worth mentioning because e-mail submissions are only becoming more common, and because, knowing as many up-and-coming writers dabbling in editing and ambitious villainesses plotting small presses as I do, someone might read it who will be a chief editor someday.

E-mail is unreliable. USPS does suffer the occasional train derailment or unscrupulous postman throwing his stack into a piano, but on the whole, if you send a manila envelope, it gets where it’s going. E-mail, on the other hand, often gets where it’s going and sits in a junk folder, or is intercepted by the journal’s ISP because someone on your ISP is a spammer. And there’s no way for you to know. After waiting a few months to allow a decent interval, you can query, but if that doesn’t receive a response either, does that mean the staff is swamped, or that your submission has company in limbo?

All I suggest is that venues that accept e-mail submissions send acknowledgments. (They’re pretty easy to automate, I think, and copy-paste is a low-tech fallback.) If the venues also indicate on their submissions guidelines that an acknowledgment should arrive within X days of your submission, then the writer will know if her submission got eaten by the internet or blackballed by the blacklist. She can then proceed to send it from a different provider, et cetera. Many magazines already do this, and it’s a boon to writers’ peace of mind.


I’m just now getting to my feeds. Anyway, yes, it’s VERY easy for an editorial staff to send an acknowledgement. They should do it, if only for their own records. I am the editorial assistant for a very small and boring economics and finance journal, so I’m the person who liaises between authors, my boss the editor, the publisher, and potential referees.

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