Courtesy Costs Nothing.

As a writer myself, I’ve always tried to be courteous with the markets to whom I’ve submitted.  If they’ve rejected me with a personal rejection, I thank them for their time and wish them a great day, week, or weekend.  I’m not after anything.  But, for me, it’s a goodwill method of completing our transaction.

Of course, there’s been occasions some markets haven’t deserved courtesy.

Once, it took a prospective market eighteen months to get back to me.  I couldn’t even remember having submitted to them in the first place.  Another time, a publisher rejected my manuscript and then, three months later, sent me another rejection for the same submission.  I joked to them (in email) I must be travelling well if I was getting rejected without submitting.  They apologised and said the re-rejection was a mistake due to an administrative turnover.  I told them it was okay and wished them a great day.  Another time, I got a glowing rejection.  Unfortunately, it was somebody else’s glowing rejection.  They apologised and I told them it was okay, but I’m unsure they understood how deflating it was to read somebody else’s glowing rejection when I’d gotten the form rejection.

I’m really not a tolerant person, and there’s been a few times I was probably entitled to snipe in response, to – simply – tell these people to get their shit together.  I didn’t.  What good does it do me?  I understand that errors or delays happen.  I mightn’t like it, but how’s griping going to change anything?  It’ll just engender ill-will, and who knows how it may affect my chances should I ever submit to these same markets again?  Moreover, who knows how many people running these markets talk and compare notes?  The last thing I – or anybody – wants is a reputation for being difficult.

We started [untitled] to give writers an avenue for their stories – one also open to mainstream writing (as opposed to exclusively literary fiction) and which isn’t cliquey.  We might solicit the occasional piece from writers we know are capable of producing good stories (although that still doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic acceptance), but we don’t pore through submission lists looking for people we know.  We read blind (meaning names and details are taken from submissions).  Stories stand and fail on their own merits.

Here’s a basic rundown of how things work: an intern will log submissions.  Two interns will read a story and rate it.  Stories that don’t reach a certain rating are rejected.  Stories that do will be passed through to the second round, where they’ll be read by the remaining interns, Blaise, and myself.  We’ll then get together at a content meeting (every two or three months) and discuss which stories to accept or reject, and discuss robustly why those decisions are justified.

We’ve produced five issues of [untitled] and were only paid a meagre wage (thanks to a grant from Arts Victoria; the bulk of the money went to production costs and authors) on one issue.

Otherwise, the production of [untitled] is both a labour of love, as well as an education for us, and – more importantly – for the interns performing their practical placement with us.  It’s also something we can only attend in the little spaces our everyday lives afford us.  We have full-time jobs, households to run, kids; interns are in full-time study, some have children and/or work, and obviously they have school assignments.

When submitting to [untitled] we will try to get back to you within 12–16 weeks.  Three months is about an average time for most journals and publishers.  Yes, there are journals who respond quicker.  There are also some who take longer.  Some don’t respond at all, leaving you with the inference that after a certain timeframe, you’re rejected.

Lately, our response times have lapsed due to circumstances beyond our control – we’ve had a turnover of interns, one had a baby, I (the chief editor) was in rehab for twenty months after being struck by a car, Blaise and Kev (the publishers) have been setting up the Busybird studio (on top of their full-time jobs, household, and kids) … the list goes on.

I’m not trying to martyr ourselves.  Nor am I making excuses.  We don’t like lapsing either.

But if we take a little while longer to response than we usually would, or than you’d like, be patient.  We don’t request exclusive consideration of your submission, meaning you’re free to submit it elsewhere when it’s with us, (just as long as you let us know if it is accepted elsewhere).  This means you don’t have to put your submission’s market chances on hold waiting for us.  If you’re really curious as you’ve been waiting a while (e.g. three months) just drop us a line, and we’ll let you know what’s happening.  Sometimes, the delay is simply because a piece arrived at the beginning of a submission rotation and has been pushed through to the second round.

I am unsure about the need for sarcasm or condescension or condemnation, as has occasionally occurred (from, admittedly, only a handful) following belated responses.  We are doing our best.   And such assaults really just make us question why we put the effort in we do if the job’s not only going to be thankless, but attacked and ridiculed.

Anyway, just something to ponder.

Courtesy costs nothing.