Apocalypse Ink Production is starting a new feature on our blog this month on Author Etiquette. AIP loves authors, we wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t; but we have seen situations blow up that could have been prevented with just a little bit of patience, communication and common sense. Whether you are a new author or a pro, it’s sometimes handy to have a small reminder on how to handle a situation before it it gets ugly.
Patience is always a great quality to have especially if you are a writer. If you don’t already know, very few things in publishing move quickly. While it might not take long to write some short stories, once you submit, its a waiting game. You have to wait for deadlines then responses from editors. Sometimes this takes a while. It’s easy to lose patience when you are eager to hear a response.
Writer X sends off a short story to Publisher 1. Writer X sends the story at the beginning of the reading period so he knows he’s going to have to wait. Publisher 1’s first readers work through the slush pile sending up stories that they think are publishable.
As the deadline approaches Writer X begins to get excited as he should hear back first since he submitted early in the reading period. The deadline passes and so does the projected response date. Writer X has heard nothing.
Writer X emails Pubisher 1 and demands an answer on the submission but before Publisher 1 can respond, Writer X pulls the story.
This is an unfortunate situation for both the writer and the publisher. It isn’t exactly a common occurrence but it happens more often than you think.
While many publications run like a well oiled machine, sometimes there’s a glitch. Editors get sick or have real life issues or they receive more submissions than expected. Technical difficulties can cause a loss of submissions. Weather related issues can cause loss of electricity or the ability to access the internet. These problems and many more can cause a publication to get behind. Publishers often update the blogs or submission pages if such things happen but sometimes authors are left wondering what happened to their stories.
In cases like these, a query letter is the best response. A query letter is a polite request by an author on the status of a story. It often contains the title of the story, the date sent and a brief statement by the author. This is often sent after the response time has passed. Most publications post response times on their submissions page but it’s not always accurate. Sometimes an author must resort to Duotrope or the Submission Grinder for more details on response times.
The query letter notifies the publisher that the author would like a quick update on the status of the story. Publishers usually respond to queries quickly with a brief message on where the story is in the publication queue but sometimes no response is ever received. While queries are often more for the writer they can notify the publisher of problems. At times the query alerts the publisher that either the story has gotten lost, was never received or other problems. In these last cases, publishers usually try to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.
In the above situation, Writer X was not patient enough to allow the publisher time to respond. He did not wait to find out if his story was being held for consideration by the publisher--possibly for a special project or other edition. The editor could have had his hand hovering over the send button on a response when Writer X pulled the submission. We don’t know. Instead Writer X demanded a response and pulled the story before anyone had time to respond.
It’s difficult to wait, I’m very well aware of the fact. Some publications have an extremely long wait period and many go over the expected response time. But by being patient, you cultivate the air of being open to the publisher’s requests. It makes the editor more secure in their decision to take a chance on a story that could need some major edits. It improves your chance of your story being picked.
So next time you look at your spreadsheet or submission tracker and find a story that’s been held overly long, take the time to write a polite query letter to the publication. They will respond as soon as they are able. And in the mean time, don’t fret, write another story.