Saturday, July 27, 2013

Response Times

A writing acquaintance recently complained that an editor who normally responded in days was taking an excessive amount of time to get back to her on a submission.

This might seem a casual remark on the face of it, but it speaks to a more fundamental issue between we writers and the editors who hold the power of life and death over our fragile prose.  To the writer suffering under a slow response from one editor means that the next editor on the submission list must wait even longer to read the priceless words forged with sweat and tears on the anvil of the writer's desk. That delay propagates  down the list  until it finally, blessedly reaches a receptive audience and, hopefully, produces a check at best and copies at worst.

For years I have tracked the response times of editors so that I can predict when to expect a response to a submission.  I hear from some within a few days of the predicted time. Others are less predictable and some, sad to say, simply don't bother to respond at all -ever! These last heartless bastards populate the absolute bottom of my list and are given an arbitrary sixty day turn around time.  If they fail to respond on a later submission, they get a "forget it and fuck you" message. Well, that last bit is a lie - one must always stay professional, even to the assholes.

Rejections are a fact of life for short fiction writers.  The output of most of us far exceeds the capacity of the market to absorb.  All but raw beginning writers understand that rejection is no verdict of unworthiness but that that particular piece was not meeting the needs of the editor at that time

I would not be surprised to find that the balance weighed heavily in the hundreds to one ratio of rejections to acceptances.  There is a vast reservoir of unpublished stories by well known writers that will never be read by their fans simply because of "not right for us" evaluations.  This treasure will fade in time as if the words were never written.

The problem with a delay in response sometimes gives rise to the hope that the story might be "under consideration" which is the best scenario but agonizing for the writer, who then feels like a fool when the rejection arrives somewhat beyond the window of expectation. It doesn't matter how many sales a writer has made, how many times this particular editor has said something encouraging, the rejection when it finally comes, is devastating.  Worse, there's nothing a writer can do about it.  We all understand that reading through hundreds of submissions takes time and editors often have other matters to distract them.

But a little consideration of the writer's business might help.


1 comment:

  1. Definition of rejectomancy:
    The Submission Grinder and Duotrope have good accounts of response times for SF/F magazine markets.


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