Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How To Burn Bridges, Lose Contacts, and Generally Not Get Published

A few months ago, I read submissions for a project. There was some lovely work by an author. It was accepted. It also seemed said author would be suited for another project on which I was working, and actively looking for material. I contacted the author with information about the other project and invited the author to submit. I got back a promise that I would receive the material in “a couple of weeks.”

That was in November.

Now, I get quite a few submissions for the various sites each day. When I invite a writer to submit, I, as do most professionals, expect a reasonably short response time. “A couple of weeks” to me, means two, perhaps three. Weeks, not months. Or, at least, contact if the author cannot submit or decides not to submit.

The best response would have been to receive the requested submission via return email. Or within forty-eight hours.

And no, I am not going to send a follow-up. It is the writer’s job to keep track of requests and submissions. It is my job to keep track of the submissions I actually receive, read them, make a decision, and let the writer know in a reasonable amount of time so that the writer can be happy about an acceptance, or can get the piece out again on submission if it’s rejected. I don’t want to tie up a writer’s work indefinitely. If it’s not right for me, it’ll be right for someone else and should go out in search of that someone else.

What will happen if, in six months, said author finally “gets around” to submitting?

Chances are, I’ll reject the work, unless it’s absolutely brilliant. Not because I’m being mean. But because the slot in which the work would have fit is now filled – hey, publication day is coming up and I couldn’t wait around.

Talking with other writers and also agents, they agreed. This goes back to earlier posts, where I encourage writers to “finish first” before submitting queries to agents or editors. If the agent or editor is interested, that professional expects the requested materials to come by return mail.

If you don’t, if you make excuses or ask for more time or tell them the material is not ready, no matter how polite said agent or editor is in response, most of the time, you’ve already made the “unreliable” list and blown the contact.

Remember: there are a limited number of agents and editors and slots for publication, in spite of the insatiable need for stories. There are also, literally, millions of writers. Agents and editors need writers who are not only good at the craft, but keep on top of deadlines and are reliable. Act like a professional and you’ll be treated like one. Part of that means sending out requested materials on time.

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