28 April 2010

Magazines, Publishers, Agents: Submit to the Modern World!

I've been sending out lots of queries lately and I am amazed by parts of the literary community which insist on operating as if it was 1970. Some magazines will only accept correspondence by mail. Ditto publishers. Even worse, agents.

I know publishers can be slow off the mark at embracing modern technology. Plus, when it comes to the slush pile, it probably makes more sense for publishers to insist the writer pay the printing costs, so that their editors can lug around piles of books to peruse at their convenience. But with the emergence of e-books, one has to wonder if this Luddite approach doesn't hinder the process.

For magazines, there is an almost derogatory tone in their guidelines: submit full piece by mail, no simultaneous submissions, send SASE if you wish your manuscript returned, we do not critique, only those selected will be contacted, please allow 6 months for a response. The list reads like a statement on how writers cannot be trusted to operate professionally and, in any event, should be grateful to have their work even read by someone of our calibre. Oh, and don't bug us.

As for agents, mostly they have moved into a fine world of e-mail, links, and quick responses. Except for this one, which insisted that I submit by mail my full resume, writing credits, samples of my work, and the first 50 pages of my manuscript (probably about 80-100 pages total, printing costs, postage, and SASE if I would like it returned - $20-$30 cost), no 'signature required' shipping (i.e., no proof they received it), no simultaneous queries, allow 6 months for response, we will only reply to those selected. (We expect you to wait for our response before you do anything else, so sit around for half-a-year, hoping and wondering) No phone calls, no e-mail queries, and submit only 1 package at a time. Perhaps we'll deign to notice you, if not, go away.

In short, writers need to be at the beck and call of those who would make money from their work and spend unnecessarily on postage and production. After some of the submission guidelines I've read, I wouldn't be surprised to see: "Submit work on finely carved, polished pink marble, 12x12 squares, non-returnable." Someone getting the lobby floor done.

Time for a change in this business and I've seized the reigns. My new rules: If you want it mailed, you will not be hearing from me. If you want to be waited on, hire a butler, I'm busy. If you can't understand the Internet enough to make use of speedy and environmentally friendly processes like e-mail and electronic file transfers, then you probably can't market to that world either, and I have better things to do than explain mass communication to you.

In short: my work, my rules, if you don't like them, I won't bother you. You obviously are very busy, what with setting all that moveable type.

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