10 September 2007

My pet hate

Today, among other things, I've been reading subs for Poetrix, and I was all set to blog about the wonders of discovering the perfect image embedded in a poem, and more on our editorial process, when I came across one of my pet hates. And maybe this is a pet hate because I do the typesetting, and more than once we have been caught out with people who have submitted to multiple publishers, but my pet hate is people who write in their cover letter "...and if I have not heard from you in three months I will feel free to send my work elsewhere". Excuse me while my blood chocolates on the way to boiling. (Old microbiology term -- at around fifty-six degrees C, blood denatures and turns a lovely chocolate colour.)

This particular offender was dated 31 May, so quite possibly the poems I was reading are now doing the rounds somewhere else. I am a writer too, so I know it's a frustrating game of waiting. I get it -- I really do. And I get that some places do hold onto stuff forever -- and perhaps we seem guilty of that too, but the fact remains that every issue has in the prelims our closing dates: 28 February and 31 August. Now, these dates have not changed in the over-ten-years that we have been producing the magazine. We have been very open about how we operate. We do not read submissions as they come in, but pool them and begin reading after the closing date. It's really up to you to find out what those dates are if you want to time limit how long we have to read. It's a fair guess that if you send your work on 31 May, you're not going to make the 28 Feb deadline. And if you're only going to let us hold them three months, then that expires on ... wait for it ... yes, 31 August, which gives us exactly zero days to formulate a response.

We have a committee that reads all poems, which means they have to circulate between at least five of us. Want to keep us to three months? Then try sending just before the closing date. I realise that not everyone can buy a copy of every magazine, but if you're not prepared to do the groundwork, then don't limit time this way. As I said, I get it. But writers need to get that this work we do in bringing out a magazine is a labour of love. We don't get paid for it. We try to break even so the magazine at least pays for itself, but we spend many hours reading and considering submissions, making selections, having editorial meetings, collating work, typesetting, proofreading, sending out acceptances and rejections and then putting it all together and mailing it out to submitters or subscribers. (And my pet love is all our subscribers -- you guys keep us alive, and we really do appreciate that!) We need to streamline our work too. Writers who do time-limit their work may feel they're taking a professional approach, but I see it as someone who either doesn't understand or doesn't care to understand the process. It means that we now have to do extra work contacting the author to find whether or not their work is still available. Honestly, editors are looking for reasons to reject your work. Don't ever give them a reason to say no.

Sorry about the rant, but my blood is ever so slowly turning brown.


Sherryl said...

Ah, fellow editor...
Poetrix has been in the Australian Writers' Marketplace now for many years, as well as in their online version. And full guidelines have been available at www.sherrylclark.com/poetrix.htm for many years too. Plus we mail out guidelines to whoever asks.
So to your boiling blood, I will add: why no SSAE? why twenty poems at once? why write to us as if we publish books?
But you're also right when you say we love our subscribers, we love all those poets who support us, we love receiving poems. And we love being a team because, if it was only one of us doing it, we'd have run off screaming into the bush by now...

Tracey said...

You know the no SSAE thing doesn't bother me as much because I just think that they're amateurs who don't know what they're doing. Or that with the advent of email, they expect us to contact them that way. But with those who time-limit their submissions, there's often an air of indignant professionalism. Sometimes they'll quote policy (can't remember whose -- the ASA's?) and say they're doing it in keeping with those people's recommendations. And I just keep thinking, yeah, you think you know how it works, but really you have no idea or don't care. All that work -- I feel like straightaway this is a cross against their poems. Realy does drive home the point about not giving the editor any reaason to reject your work!