Narrowing the field

Looking for somewhere to place a story can be a tedious business. It’s made slightly simpler by Duotrope, where you can search for markets by genre, story-length etc but it can still take a while. Even when you’ve narrowed it down to a few and read stories from their archives to see how you’d fit in, the final choice for submission sometimes comes down to a coin-toss. So it’s thoughtful of the odd editor to do a bit of self-selection and save me some time.

Arrogance. That one helps. I’m not talking ‘our magazine’s fantastic and of course you’d want to submit here’, that’s the kind of thing you’d hope they think. I mean the clique thing, the ‘we don’t want you if you just cruised in from Duotrope’ thing. When there are so many magazines out there, in print and on the web, how do they expect contributors to find them? It might be nice to think that it’s all down to word of mouth in the literary salons, but I don’t think it works like that. By trawling Duotrope I’ve come across some good magazines that I haven’t always submitted to, but I go back and dip into their offerings now and then because I’ve found they have good stuff on show. I don’t subscribe to any magazines because I know from past experience of print copies that they’d pile up unread.

The other main strand of arrogance comes under spelling and grammar. One of my recent rejections hinged on a grammatical transgression I’m still not sure I understand – the sentence reads OK to me (and to the friends of mine who’ve read it), and I regularly wince at mangled sentences in published novels. I’ve even come across a ‘hall of shame’ on some magazine websites, where those submissions that didn’t reach the lofty standards of the editor are paraded for the world to laugh at (often there are spelling and grammar errors on the website. I have much better things to do with my time than point them out in an email to the editor, but I hope someone with more time on their hands has taken the trouble). Aside from the obvious pitfalls (dyslexia, anyone?), I seem to recall some of my contemporaries were taught phonetic spelling, and while it’s legitimate for an editor to reject a well-paced and engaging story on the grounds that they don’t have the time or inclination to correct the their/they’re/there etc that the spellcheckers haven’t dealt with, it’s not legitimate to hold the sins of the teachers against their erstwhile pupils and say ‘this author is thick/lazy and should be ashamed’. What kind of person humiliates a novice author in public? Not any kind of person I’d want to be associated with.

Which brings me to the other big one: unprofessionalism. That’s a broad term and largely subjective, but I’m willing to bet that most definitions would cover submission guidelines that include the phrase ‘fuck off and don’t waste my time’. Funnily enough that made me feel similarly about the magazine, but I’m too polite to say so. Yes there are plenty of time-wasters, yes it must be frustrating as an editor of a small magazine to have to wade through the no-hopers that haven’t remotely followed your instructions, but do you have to be so rude about it? I don’t care if I’m not included in the category of people you’re dismissing so brusquely, the fact that you’re doing it at all to anyone makes me add you to my ‘ignore’ list.

So here’s to the rude, arrogant, snobbish, petty and unprofessional editors that whittle themselves out of my field of potential story markets. Your tactics for reducing the number of submissions you have to deal with seems to be working, and your vibrant displays of reasons not to work with you save me a lot of time.


One comment

  1. arrs sameone who caant speel I entireally agre….seriously though as someone who can’t spell (especially when typing) I really do agree, shakespeare would no doubt have been rejected by these types, and editors can such arseholes generally from small press to scientific journals, I put it down to little hitler syndrome, someone essentially powerless gets a tiny bit of power and goes mad on it…hopefully one day I’ll get a lot of power and go spectacularly mad on it! (all I need to do is get on a tv debate it seems to have worked for Clegg)

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