4.24.2007

and i trust her with my heart

Here's a modest proposal from the thinking throngs of writers submitting to all y'all editors of zines, journals and the like:

If you needs must keep our work for more than, say, 15 days, then you needs must return it with a personal comment. Am I right? (Nothing like having your hard written stuff out in the breeze for 30, 40, 50 days, only to get it back with rubber stamp response.)

And if you're keeping it for that long, you might take the time to formulate a response that would be helpful (or not) to the writer, that might (hope against hope) improve their work and thus the submissions to your publication.

It's demoralising for the writer to get nothing in the way of feedback, and for the editor to get nothing in the way of quality material, so if we both do our jobs completely (writers, research the places you're submitting to for appropriateness--DO read some of their stories, or poems, whatever fits, and evaluate them vis a vis your own work, DO submit professional level work), (editors, see above) we might see some true progress in this relationship.

We need each other, yes we do. So spell it with me: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Socking it to me is optional.

4 comments:

caveblogem said...

I know how you feel, KF. I got my first rejection email this year, and I submitted the piece to the magazine because I had heard that they give good feedback. Unfortunately, in this case, the feedback was something like, "didn't pull me in," or something like that. Very short and unhelpful.

The worst part is that it seems, so often, that people don't even read things, and yet feel competent to judge them. This guy clearly wasn't engaged with the piece I sent. It wasn't that good, I don't take it all that personally. But the fact that he couldn't point to anything in it and suggest something that would have made him think a little more positively about it. That's the part that makes me think that he was bored with it and wanted to move on to something more interesting, not make an effort.

One of the worst parts of graduate school for me was grading the work of undergraduates. It was really, really hard work taking something that was poorly written and ill-informed and suggesting ways of improving it. As hard as it was, I felt like I had a responsibility to help them.

mary said...

Totally. Depressing--the constant rounds of getting nothing in return for putting "it out there" is rough. I get energy from submitting/receiving (even rejections). But not hearing...it saps me.

Anonymous said...

Just to counter - 15 days is a very short amount of time for a magazine to have a piece. Some magazines can do it, but after ten years of sending stuff out, I can name only two instances where a response came to me that quickly.

So is 50 days. 90 days seems reasonable to me. The volume of submissions magazines receive is enormous, and except for a few well-funded mags, they are labors of love for the editors competing with paying jobs and families. Even the smallest publications will have an enormous, never-ending pile of subs to get through. And, to be fair to contributors, quality mags will read *every* submission equally, which is a lot of work, not to mention the work of producing and promoting the magazine. To pause and offer advice on a piece that holds no merit for an editor would only detract from the response time for the *next* piece in the pile.

I also think there are often many good submissions - I don't think any journal is lacking for publishable pieces - that's the problem. Editors must make hard decisions - sometimes it really does come down to 'not right for us' and to say more, in my opinion, is unnecessary. And as an editor, it's *really* easy to get sucked into a bottomless pit of advice-giving.

If you have 300 submissions to reject and 5 to accept, it can be very time consuming to offer advice to every rejection. It's also not the job of the magazines to offer this service - if you want feedback on your submission, head to a classroom or writing group.

kf gallagher said...

Thanks for your counter, Anon. Much of what you say has merit. However, the fact remains that there exists an inequity in the mutually beneficial relationship between writer and editor. Perhaps this relationship could be improved with, if not personal responses to each piece, which might as you say prove impractical, then as Mr. Redding put it, a little tenderness. Acknowledgement of the receipt of a piece of work (I hate the implied subservience of the term "submission") could be done, as so many things are these days, automatically. After a period of time has elapsed, perhaps another electronic missive could be spat out of the great machine, communicating to the writer that yes, the magazine knows it still has your piece of work and yes, some answer will arrive within blank period of days. Is this mere impatience? Not really. For example, a piece of mine sat with a magazine from January till yesterday. After my second query, I got a great note from an editor saying the magazine's fate was in question, since the senior ed. has unexpectedly resigned. He apologized and recommended another magazine, one that is going strong, to submit to. I appreciated his candor and told him so, but what prevented him from communicating that status to all the writers whose work waited in limbo on his shelf? Perhaps he didn't want to give up the ship just yet. Understandable.
The unequal nature of the current writer/editor relationship is something that many new writers take without questioning, but there's no reason than innovations cannot be made to increase the communication and the courtesy of this exchange, to better reflect the fact that this is a need based exchange on both ends. I know seasoned writers who simply state in their submission that if they have not received a response in blank number of days, consider the piece withdrawn. Brave. But we have to be. And yes, so do editors opening the floodgates and taking on the huge and honorable task of getting work out there. I've done it.
Thanks again for your thoughts, Anon. Keep writing here and elsewhere.