Do Your Homework!

5 Jul

Writers generally understand that they need to do research when writing an article or even a story, if it goes beyond their personal life experience and knowledge. They have no problem with seeking out the information that they need to make their writing accurate. Yet, for some reason, very few writers seem to realise that the same thing goes for getting their work published – you need to research where you are submitting to, or, at least, be happy to accept that misfires will occur if you do not do the research.

Now, I fully understand how labour intensive researching markets can be and how costly it can be if you buy a sample issue of every magazine you might want to submit to. Now, with the internet, it is easier than ever to do your homework by checking out magazine details on listing sites, looking at publishers’ websites for information, requesting guidelines via email and even emailing specific queries to editors. Yet, a large number of writers don’t bother.

What you need to understand is that, especially for a small press editor who is generally doing all the work himself in his spare time, every submission and query takes time to deal with and such a number will be received that they soon add up. By not ensuring that you have got it right, you are wasting the editor’s time – and that decreases your chances of an acceptance as the editor will be less well disposed towards your work.

Writers can get it wrong by submitting in the wrong format (or, for those publishers with stringent genre requirements, by submitting the wrong thing altogether). As an example, I much prefer submissions via email to be in the body of the email, not as an attachment, and certainly not multiple attachments for individual poems, as the time to open each one, although measured in seconds, soon starts to accumulate into minutes. Or, I receive files in formats I cannot open and have to ask for them to be resent – again, wasting time.

Worse are those writers who, once they have been accepted, turn around and withdraw the work. Now, the occasional error happens, and that’s fine, and I can even tolerate simultaneous submissions – it’s not really good form, but with so many editors who never reply or whose magazines fold, I can understand why people do it. What annoys me are the people who withdraw their work when they discover that they won’t be paid or that Monomyth isn’t a glossy magazine – or, worse, who, realising they won’t get paid, start sending the accepted piece out to paying ‘zines on the off-chance of an acceptance. The reason such an attitude so annoys me is twofold, both stemming from a lack of research. Firstly, if the physical quality of the magazine or being paid are so important to you, you really should confirm those details prior to submitting or query along with your submission. Secondly, I am quite happy to consider previously published work (I am not one of those publishers who believes that once a story has appeared it should never be seen again), so there is nothing stopping you submitting to a paying outlet and, then, seeing if I would give the piece a further lease of life.

The worst example of such an attitude was a contributor to one anthology who posted a moan on their blog about the fact it wasn’t a ‘proper book’. Although they did admit that they had somewhat misled themselves by not checking further, they did ignore the fact I’d very clearly signposted the small press nature of the project in the advert to which they responded as I knew it would be read by professionals and semi-professionals and didn’t want to mislead them! Not so much a case of not doing his homework as not paying proper attention. But, what really annoyed me was that he complained it would not be seen in bookshops (technically true, although I have sold a few copies via bookshops), yet, rather than sucking his disappointment up and encouraging people to buy a copy, he was doing it down to the very people – readers of his fiction – who might have bought the volume!

The strangest example was one in which, some time after the acceptance of their story, a contributor asked for it to be withdrawn saying that they had “studied Monomyth on the website for months” and had decided “we may not be compatible”. No definition of the compatibility issue was given, so I tend to assume he had managed to sell it elsewhere, or possibly wanted it to appear in a glossy magazine. Although why he hadn’t checked up on such things and why it took months of study (presumably of the entires on the Atlantean Publishing wiki) to reach such a conclusion, I cannot fathom. It seemed unlikely it was anything to do with the story itself, as I’d already accepted it and it fitted with the sort of thing we often publish. The only other possibility I can imagine is that his mortal enemy had already contributed to an issue. I suppose I could have queried further, but I am always tight for space and if his withdrawal means someone else gets to appear in print sooner, then so be it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t affirm that most people who submit to Atlantea Publishing generally get it right and that a lot of new potential contributors do their research, ask for a copy of the guidelines or look at an issue first. I get many requests for information which I always endeavour to answer as soon and as fully as possible. Yet, that significant minority who do not do their homework can be extremely inconvenient at times. I have a great deal of sympathy for those publishers with more restrictive requirements than I do – they must have to weed out an awful lot of erroneous submissions before they can get down to work!

So, do us editors and your work a favour and do your homework before submitting. Make sure that your work is the right sort, presented in the right way to the right person at the right time. not doing so tends to give editors headaches and those make them grumpy – and grumpy editors are less likely to accept your work!


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