7 comments on “S*** Editors Say: Rejecting Writers Badly

  1. Sensitive writer here. Wonderful post. How about the ones who simply never acknowledge your existence. You tossed your blood sweat and tears into a black hole. How long can you wait without hearing before you submit elsewhere?

    • The adage is, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” but in rejections I think never hearing back is actually worse. Sadly, it happens often, and even some of the most renowned magazines and journals are guilty of it.
      On the other hand, some venues have famously long wait times – sometimes years! – so how long you *should* wait before writing the submission off depends. Start with the guidelines: they will usually give you a rough idea of what to expect (“we aim to respond in three to six months”), although I’ve found these are often wishful thinking. Submission platforms like Duotrope can give you an idea of response statistics in real time, so if you see that the average person is hearing after ten months to a year, you might have to wait a bit longer.
      If the stated response time has come and gone, you are of course free to write a query. Many places (the good ones) will actually give you instructions on how and when to do this. Dear Editors, as per your guidelines, I’m writing to ask about my piece “S*** Editors Say”, which I submitted for you to shred, along with my hopes and dreams, on June 18th of last year….”
      Often they will respond with a brief explanation of what’s up (“Our offices burnt down and my dog ran away so I’m giving up being an editor and taking up country singing, so sorry” or, worse, “what submission? We have no idea what you’re talking about” – I’ve actually had one venue lose my submissions THREE FREAKING TIMES>).
      If they don’t respond to a “what’s up” query, and sometimes they don’t, THEN you have to decide if waiting on these people is worth your time.

    • Note also that literary agents, in particular, are prone to non-responses. This seems to be the industry standard. I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t care how busy you are, sending a response (even a form one) is just basic courtesy.

      Like doctors who charge you when you’re five minutes late, but leave you waiting on them for forty minutes to an hour. There’s an implied value judgement happening here, and it makes me want to egg a lot of houses.

  2. I save “please read the magazine (or “see the website”) for an idea of what we publish” for those submitters who made no effort whatsoever to check out the guidelines or a few sample poems or even the _description_ of the journal, for Cthulhu’s sake!

  3. The points raised by Ms. Connor concerning editorial behavior have also puzzled me. Submitters constitute a high-value audience segment. Submitters are more likely than others to read several publications, more likely to subscribe to a quality journal that uses a subscription model, more likely to contribute to follow-up crowdsourcing endeavors (the second round most pubs need to continue past the first year), more likely to engage in unsolicited promotion of the journal–if they feel they the editor has treated them with respect. Further, the writer an editor rejects for issue X might turn in the piece worthy of acceptance for issue Y–but that editor will never see that piece if the writer places the journal at the bottom of their market list because of a disrespectful prior rejection.

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