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Friday, November 8, 2013

Rejection Etiquette Rant

I love submitting online. As a person living abroad, this saves me postage and the trouble of keeping return postage from another country handy (which can be hard to come by when you can't just drop by the post office), and of course I get the same benefits that domestic submitters do: saving ink and paper, saving time.

That said, I have not had such great experiences with submitting manuscripts online. For example, today I happened to visit the website of a publisher to whose competition I had sent my manuscript via their own online submissions manager, and I discovered, though this wasn't the reason I had gone to their website, that they have already announced their contest winner, but hadn't bothered to notify the rejected entrants directly. Apparently we were supposed to check their website frequently, until the result showed up. Two other contests have also not bothered to report directly to me that they had chosen winners, but seemed to assume that I would check their websites repeatedly, and I mean repeatedly since neither one made their announcement within the timeframe they had established in their guidelines. One contest announced their results on Facebook only, not even on their website. I wasn't on Facebook at the time; how was I supposed to know?

To all of these places each entrant has paid a fee, and provided an email address. Is it too much to ask for a form letter to show up in our inboxes, or for the presses to use an online submissions manager that will contact us when the result has been made?

(FYI: None of these places had given instructions in their submissions guidelines or elsewhere on their webpages to check back for results on such-and-such a date. That I can deal with; I mark my calendar and check the website only once, knowing already that if I have to check the website to get the news, it isn't good news for me. That is not the kind of behavior I am talking about.)

These insulting behaviors are not limited to online submissions. Today I received a rejection letter via the dreaded SASE for a manuscript that was sent snail mail just exactly a year ago. The winner had been announced on the press website back in APRIL, and at that time I wondered why they hadn't informed me directly via the SASE that they had required me to send. Today I see that they have used that SASE to report the winner seven months after the fact and to suggest that I try and enter again this year, as their deadline is the end of this month. They saved my SASE for seven months in order to use it for their own marketing purposes.

I get that presses are small, often non-profit organizations. I support them: I buy directly from them, I subscribe to journals and to repeated purchase programs, I make donations. I don't ask for a personal rejection, just for a direct one. Am I really supposed to spend time (that would be better spend practicing my craft) obsessively checking their websites and/or Facebook pages? Spending that kind of time and attention chasing down results isn't productive or good for my focus or morale.

I know that editors are overworked and are often volunteers. But still, basic etiquette, people. Not to mention good business practices...


Mari said...

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold"

Sorry to hear it, Jessica -- so frustrating. I think the entire system is simply overwhelmed under the incessant avalanche of submissions. Standards and communication deteriorate. It's really no different from anything else when it gets too big. Corporate model, anyone?

And it sucks to be holding the short end of the stick.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

You are undoubtedly right, Mari. I did have the need to rant for a moment though.