Thursday, August 20, 2009

Editor Hat

I'm wearing my editor hat this week for Umbrella, working on a feature and interview for an upcoming issue. At the same time, a discussion of submission protocols has popped up on a listserv of poets. Wearing both poet and editor hats -- as I am also submitting work and preparing a manuscript to submit -- has made me think about the state of litmags and the way they conduct business.

The listserv comment that sparked a discussion was on the abrupt and callous tone of a major litmag's posted guidelines. I took a look and found the predictable long, demanding rant about what this journal insists on from poets submitting, what they will not tolerate, yada-yada. Very little mention of what, if anything, the poet can expect out of this transaction.

At the same time, I received an email rejecting my poetry manuscript, one I had submitted with an entry fee, and it was addressed to a file number.

About ten minutes later, I received a personally addressed email apologizing sincerely for the glitch in sending out a notice that addressed me by number instead of name.

Now, how hard was that? My reaction to reading the guidelines was, "Submit again to you? Hell no!" My reaction to the press that rejected my ms. but took the trouble to amend a careless email with a short, personal note (no doubt generated by program, rather than hand typed), was "Sure, I'll try again, and maybe even buy one of your books!"

I will let the editors and publishers decide which is the best approach. I guess if you're selling enough books and issues, you can afford to be callous toward those who submit -- who also happen to be your buyers.

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Welcome to my blogroll, Shannon Cain, The Literary Activist! Who got me started on this rant.

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I repeat, in case an editor out there isn't paying attention: YOUR SUBMITTERS ARE YOUR CONSUMERS. They buy your stuff -- or don't. Offend them if you want.