Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do You Really Think You Can Play This Game? Part 1

Writing is a dream of many. Thoughts of making it to the best-seller list often occupy our thoughts. In fact, many more just dream of the first byline. We all do it and we all revel when it finally happens. But the question remains - will you make it?

Do you really want to play the writing game?

What's the writing game, you ask. Simple. It's the one you play when you write and send your words into the world. It's the e-mail you quickly jot and send. It's the web site submission form you use to submit with. It's the haunting you do of your inbox and snail mailbox every day after sending a query or story. And it's so much more, too.

Now do you know the rules to the game?

They aren't as simple as you might think. Break a rule and you might find yourself far from winning. Break more than one and the outlook is bleak. Sounds scary, right? Then that's why you want to learn the rules.

With the popularity of submitting by e-mail, writers are spoiled to the fact that some replies may pop back into their inbox within 24 hours. Gone are the days of SASEs and weeks of waiting. Or are they? You might not need return postage anymore but the waiting period could become extensive depending on whom you are submitting to. With the quickness e-mail allows, many expect immediate answers to their submissions. This simply is not true and should not be expected.

One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make when using e-mail to submit work is to get impatient with the editor. As a writer myself, I know it is agony to wait for a reply but in order to grant proper professional courtesy, we should all allow for a sufficient amount of time to pass before following up. One week is not enough time. Even if a site says they respond in one week, don't get upset if you have yet to hear from them after those seven days have passed. By allowing at least a month to pass on those that state
one week, and a couple months for those that state one month, not only are you allowing the editor sufficient time to make a decision, but you are less likely to create the wrong image in their minds.

Further, impatience has caused many writers to either withdraw their work prematurely thus missing out. One editor reports having an article lined up for publication only to get an abrupt e-mail withdrawing it saying she took too long to reply. This editor was not only inconvenienced but she was very annoyed.

"Not only would it have been better for the writer to send a follow-up letter instead of a withdrawal, she also was rude in her letter and I don't think I will consider working with her again."

Believe it or not, editors do talk to each other.

Another submission boo-boo is to submit to competing markets at the same time without letting them each know. Though the subject has been a major topic of conversation in many writers' groups, editors everywhere agree that it is a major inconvenience to spend time reading submissions and then accepting them only to find out that it was accepted elsewhere instead. The publication cannot now accept the work even if they normally accept reprints simply because the competition is publishing it. If both publications always used
all the same works, one would no longer be around.

Again, professional courtesy would call for at least one line in an e-mail cover letter - "This submission is also being sent to other publications for consideration." Names do not have to be included but at least allowing the publisher to know ahead of time that it may turn into a reprint instead of an original article is not only helpful but the editor will thank you for it.

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