So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on submissions and responses. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I recently received a rejection that didn’t horribly disappoint me (okay, it did a little, but it also inspired me). Why is this? Simple. I’ll get to that.
Of course, every author has been rejected. Some more than others, but we all get our fair share of “No, thank you.” If you just can’t believe this to be true, please just push the “I believe” button for me.
Thankfully, the submission process is pretty straight forward (as in, just do whatever the editor wants and don’t argue about proper submission format, because they’re the ones who have to read from the slush pile). So, let’s chat a bit about responses, but first some background.
I started writing many MANY years ago. If you can believe this, I typed my first submissions…with a typewriter. I mailed them. Through the mail. Rejections came that way as well. With a stamp. I know, you’ve all read about that, right? Kinda cool, but not really. Anyway, after a disastrous start in both writing and life in general, I made a big change in the form of the US Military. Fixed me up right, it did. Put me through an awful lot of college as well, which doesn’t hurt. Anyway, one random day I was driving down the A30 in Cornwall and saw a little side road that looked just plain creepy. I thought…What if? and an idea formed. I was writing again. End background.
After that, my very first response basically told me that the story was crap. Of course, it wasn’t in quite so many words, but it was more than a form response and it really opened my eyes. I know a lot of people don’t give personal responses and I can totally understand why. Who wants to argue about a story’s merit when the editor has the final word? Might as well argue politics or religion. Both will get you nowhere because they’re completely subjective.
Anyway, in this case the response touched on some of what was very wrong with the story. It wasn’t exactly nice, but it also didn’t crush my soul with “You’re shit, stop writing now.” Sure, I was disappointed, but enough time had passed (it was a couple months from submission to response) that I could go back to that first story and realize the editor was totally right (in fact, that particular story has been retired). I think he realized I was relatively new and wanted to throw me some sound advice. Maybe not, but that’s what I like to think. Editors are people too, you know.
So as an author, what do I appreciate in a response? Well, I appreciate any response, really, as it doesn’t always happen. Acceptances are always appreciated, but that goes without saying. That brings us to the R word.
Again, it happens to all of us. For me, what makes a response more meaningful is simple. Professional and respectful. That’s it. Some editors provide personal feedback. I appreciate that because I actively seek feedback through beta reads (I know some writers don’t do this, and they are also referred to as insane). Personal feedback tells me they saw enough in the story to comment. The downside is when an editor uses feedback as an opportunity to criticize rather than critique. I’ve only had this happen once, and it was quite unpleasant. I leaned back in my chair, re-read the email to be sure there were absolutely no redeeming qualities, and then hit delete. You can’t argue with the editor. It’s just stupid to try. I marked that particular publication as “ignore” and did just that.
So what prompted this random discussion about responses and rejections? Oh yeah, my recent rejection. I opened the email and, as usual, knew before even reading. They just look a certain way (you know, because they’re missing a contract?). The cool part about it was this – it was short, it was simple, and it was respectful. The editor thanked me for considering the publication. The editor told me he’d enjoyed the story but it didn’t fit with the current theme. Then the editor closed his response with perhaps the best thing you can read in a rejection letter: He invited me to submit again.
Instead of marking them as “ignore” I marked them as “favorite”…and then I bought another issue. It’s karma.