Submissions aplenty, as long as they don’t need a hard copy

All these submissions are starting to pay off (listen to the Doctor Who writers, they know what they’re talking about) – one recent one is now through a magazine’s initial reading stage, so fingers crossed. Another of this week’s submissions has been delayed, however, as I remembered (once I’d printed the story and covering letter, written my address on the SAE and started addressing the A4 envelope) about the postal strike. Most of my submissions these days are electronic, but there are the odd few print magazines who still insist on postal submissions. Even without the postal strike, that usually makes me hesitate (probably that’s the idea, cutting out on late-night impulsive send-outs); I’m naturally tight and the cost of paper, printer toner, envelopes and postage adds up if you do this a lot, and there’s always something like a smudged signature, a mistake or illegibility in the address, then the concern that the manuscript itself or the response to it will get lost in the post. It seemed sensible to wait a few days for the backlog to clear and standard service to continue, but I imagine this postal action isn’t going to go away entirely for a while.

I’ve heard a lot of comments this week along the lines of ‘nobody posts anything any more’, but leaving aside those of us who submit writing or art in hard copy, either through compulsion or choice, there’s the rise in mail order. Not long ago people were saying that Amazon had killed high-street book and music shops; I use it myself sometimes if I know exactly what I want, it’s often cheaper and (as long as the item’s slim enough to fit through the letter box) it’s much more convenient to have it delivered while I’m out at work than having to detour into a town centre or make a special trip. Ebay is booming, and there are plenty of specialist or small press comics and magazines, or art and craft products and supplies, that aren’t available in shops (at least outside of London). Most people still send physical greetings cards rather than an electronic version, and in my experience aunts still send birthday money as cheques, not through Paypal.

Electronic correspondence is often quicker and more convenient (particularly if all the local post offices have shut down) but it doesn’t always work the way we expect it to. Attachments (or whole emails) get lost, rtf files look completely different in Word from how they looked in Open Office, and even plain text in the body of an email can lose all its spacing and layout depending on the recipient’s mail programme (as I’ve discovered with previous submissions). I’m all for cutting down on paper use and saving the cost of postage, but I’d hate to lose the facility altogether.

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