Update: See amendments at the end of this post.
So let's talk writers and publishing. And jerks.
Shock Totem is a magazine I publish with my fellow cast of nasties John Boden, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Nick Contor. Ah, you've heard of us! Excellent. Then you know we've published one issue so far—to great reviews, by the way, thank you, thank you. Our second issue is about to go to the printers. A little late, I know, but creative integrity dictates when an issue is ready and issue #2 took its sweet-ass time. More than that, though, publishing is not easy. It's not simple. It takes a hell of a lot of time and hard work to put out a great product, which I think we did with issue #1 and will do so again with issue #2.
But we're jerks.
Why? Because we send form rejections. Yup. Because we don't personally respond to every submission sent, we're jerks. Or so implied another writer who got our standard form rejection last night for a story he submitted just 37 days ago. He replied to that e-mail with a link to this article written by Lorna D. Keach: The Horror of the Form Rejection.
I don't know Lorna, nor do I know if she was referring to form rejections in general or just those that include multiple reasons for rejection with nothing indicating which applies. But I wonder if Lorna or this author truly understand how much time and effort an honest, hardworking editor/publisher, or publishing team, has to put in just to publish a handful of stories each quarter, or every six months, or even yearly?
Let's talk about that. Our first issue featured nine stories. When issue #2 drops it'll also have nine stories, among other things like interviews, editorials, and reviews. So two issues, eighteen stories.
Oh, and that's eighteen stories out of 4,192.
How's that for perspective? Even if we read just the first two pages of each submission, how many hours would that take? And how much more work goes into all the editing (real editing, I should say), the layout, artwork, promotion, etc? Hundreds of hours. At least. Not enough perspective? How about this:
Including travel time and on-call requirements, I often work 50 to 80 hours a week. I write. Hell, I have a life.
John is married, has kids, works long, hard hours. He also writes. Hell, he has a life.
Mercedes is married, has kids, one that requires a lot more care than most. She also writes. Hell, she has a life.
Nick is married, has kids, works long, hard hours. He also writes. Hell—yeah, you guessed it—he has a life.
You see a pattern here? We're busy! And despite the fact that we probably don't even qualify as part-time publishers, we manage to find the time to put out a print publication that pays professional rates (with money from our own wallets, mind you, not from profits, or advertising money, or donations); we respond to submissions in under 60 days, averaging a 30-day response time when many other publications average a year; and we read roughly 300–400 submissions a month. All on spare time that we really don't have. And we love it!
But we're jerks for sending form rejections? Sounds rather arrogant and foolish, right? Because it is.
I can understand, as a writer, wanting a little validation when it comes to my work. I can dig that. But I don't care to judge the character of an editor or publication's staff based on whether or not they send me a personal response. And I sure as hell don't want to wait a year for that personal touch, a little note from someone that "cared" enough to say "This doesn't work for me, so I'm passing. Good luck." My ego doesn't need that, and yours shouldn't either. Instead of a publication holding my story hostage for a year, I'd rather receive a quick form rejection—you know, that "demeaning piece of fill-in-the-blank crap that lacks any semblance of soul or humanity." Yes, please!
Just getting a response, any kind of response, in a timely manner is far more important to me. And it should be to you, too. Shock Totem could start sending personal rejections. It's possible. But you'd be waiting a very long time for something that really doesn't matter.
But I tend to think form rejections are better for a writer.
Paula Ray posted this on our forum:
"I see you as an editor of a pro market and I have a misconception about editors. I used to view them as celebrities, almost, and I figured they must be pros—have tons of stories published in pro markets, masters in writing, etc."
And how many other writers feel the same way? If we say a story didn't work for us, for this, this, and this reason, how unfortunate would it be if a writer took that personal rejection as law, especially when another publication might love it for those very same reasons? Maybe a story doesn't work for us, but Shroud Magazine may love the hell out of it.
Paula also added:
"Since I've been publishing my work, not long mind you, I notice that isn't the case, usually, and most editors are just struggling writers like the rest of us."
And she's right. Most editors, at least down here in the little leagues, are struggling writers. And some of them, sadly, are fucking terrible writers. But you want their advice, their validation? You surely don't need it. What you need is to simply understand that your particular story isn't for that particular publication, for whatever reason. Nothing more. And you want to know that quickly so that you can submit it somewhere else.
If you want validation as a writer, join or create a writers group with people that will read your work and honestly critique it, good or bad. The job of an editor is to make sure the stories he or she publishes are, first and foremost, right for their publication/publisher. Yes, some personal attention to a submission response is nice, a bonus, but that shouldn't be a determining factor in whether or not an editor is a jerk.
And if you disagree with me, then you are probably a jerk.
Amended for clarity: This reads a little defensive, and that's not the intent. It's just my little opinion on the absurdity of placing so much importance on something that, I feel, is relatively unimportant. And the last line was a little nod to Greg Gutfeld and his Gregalogue on Fox News' Red Eye, but I guess if you're not up at 3 A.M. you've never seen the only show worth watching on Fox News.
Amended for clarification: The author who sent me the link above responded and said he wasn't implying we were jerks, just that's it's "tough to be a writer" so he should "get used to it and soldier on." And we'll leave it at that.
But since we've gotten our fair share of insulting responses to rejections, I'm going to leave this post here. And with that, I present you with the best rejection response we've ever received. This was sent from DC Grondo, on Dec 23, 2008:
Now that I have a free moment:
FUCK YOU, YOU IGNORANT SON-OF-A-BITCH!
I made it clear that my time is too valuable to waste with your idioter crap and you send me an email!!!???
Are you fucking insane!!!
If I ever hear from you again, you freaking asshole, I will Wikepidia your pediphilic feletio lips all over the fucking universe!