Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Bit of Frustration

Before I start this mini rant, let me first thank the editors I’ve worked with this year. Library of the Living Dead’s Victorya, Tim Long and Mark Johnson have all been exceptional to work with, as have Jessy Marie Roberts of Pill Hill Press and Lori Titus of Flashes in the Dark. The editorial staff at 69 Flavors of Paranoia, MicroHorror and The New Flesh have also been great to work with, and despite the fact that their markets don’t pay (I still enjoy submitting to nonpaying sites once in a while, if only for fun and networking purposes) I’m glad to have found homes for some of my shorts with them.

That said, something has been bothering me for a while that I need to get off my chest.

I checked my Duotrope Submissions Tracker earlier today and found that not only are several of my submissions dating from August still waiting for responses, but that most of the markets I submitted to are either dead, unresponsive of have been pulled from the listings by their editors. Normally, this would not be a problem, except there’s one tiny detail here that everybody involved (with the exception of myself) seems to have overlooked.

I haven’t heard one word from any of them. Not one.

The details for each publication are a bit different. Some are completely dead, their websites having already reverted back to their hosting company. Some have put up notices that they are no longer taking submissions. Some are actively seeking submissions for their next issue. Still, not a one has gotten back to me. Seeing as I submit almost entirely electronically these days, how hard is it for an editor (especially one whose publication is no more and is, therefore, not engaged in any upcoming projects that may dominate their time) to respond with a one-line reply letting me know it’s time for me to shop my work around elsewhere? I’m not the type of writer who is bothered by form rejections (though I always appreciate any kind of personalized communication), so even an obviously mass-mailed notification would suffice.

I don’t care about receiving a “we’re not buying it” response. It doesn’t bother me at all. I just want to know if and when I should move on.

Non-communication is pretty much the only thing about the submissions process that upsets me. I understand rejections, long turnaround times, dropped projects and anything else that might come up between a writer and a publisher. Things happen. People have personal lives and full-time work that often gets in the way. It’s completely understandable, though unfortunate, if things should happen to go wrong or take longer than anticipated. I can deal with that, and I am very patient when necessary.

What I don’t understand or accept is the idea of leaving a writer entirely clueless with the intention of never contacting them at all. If your publication has gone under, let those hopeful contributors know. If you’re experiencing an exceptionally long delay, let them know. If you’re not using their manuscript and are still in business, for crying out loud, let them know. Being left in the dark when a publisher folds is annoying and frustrating, but not being given even so much as a form rejection by a publisher that’s still active is a full-on slap to the face.

Not contacting a submitter while staying in business and moving forward with publication as usual is tantamount to saying “You’re not even worth a few words from me,” and that kind of insult doesn’t go over on me very well. It’s unprofessional as all hell, for one, and it shows a lot of negative character on the part of the editor. Who in their right mind would want to work, even just for one story, with someone that rude?

Not me, for starters.

I suppose the lesson learned, if any, from these experiences is “Contributor beware.” From here on I’ll have to be much more diligent during the research phase of the submissions process, only contributing to publications I’m already familiar with or have heard positive word of mouth on from other writers. Having a network of friends in the business should help weed these publications out a bit better. I’ll continue to be thankful for all of the exceptional editors I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and do my best to avoid the unexceptional ones floating about out there.

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