Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Submit: Let's Not








Have you picked up on the rude tone of most literary-journal guidelines for submission? Submission, all right! I hadn't thought much about the rude tone until I found welcoming guidelines on the website for Poetry London, and compared them with those from Ploughshares, which are typical of many journals.

At Poetry London, Colette Bryce (above left) asks that poems be sent to her; she tells us that she and Martha Kapos (above right), the assistant poetry editor, read the poems and confer about them. I believe her when she says she is "always interested in work by unpublished poets." She also writes: "Postal submissions are welcome and are all carefully read." Poets are encouraged to send up to six poems, a generous amount.

In contrast, Ploughshares' guidelines are replete with threats: I quote their "RESTRICTIONS"--caps and red ink are theirs; the bolding is mine:

Send only one manuscript at a time, either by mail or online. Do not send duplicate or multiple submissions. There is a limit of two total submissions per writer per reading period, regardless of genre, whether it is by mail or online. Do not send a second submission until you have heard about the first. We will cross-reference our databases periodically, and if we find more than one active submission, or a third submission (or more) during the reading period, all submissions will be immediately and summarily rejected unread. Simultaneous submissions to other journals are amenable as long as they are indicated as such and we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. We do not reprint previously published work.

SUBMISSIONS BY MAIL: Mail your manuscript in a page-size manila envelope, your full name and address written on the outside (at least an inch down from the top, to account for USPS barcodes). In general, address submissions to the"Fiction Editor,""Poetry Editor," or"Nonfiction Editor," not to the guest or staff editors by name, unless you have a legitimate association with them or have been previously published in the magazine. Unsolicited work sent directly to a guest editor's home or office will be ignored and discarded; guest editors are formally instructed not to read such work. All manuscripts and correspondence regarding submissions should be accompanied by a self-addressed, 44¢-stamped #10 envelope (S.A.S.E.) for a response; no replies will be given to domestic addresses by e-mail or postcard. For international submissions, please include a stamped International Reply Coupon (I.R.C.) with your self-addressed envelope, or provide a valid email address for us to respond with. Send a recyclable copy of your manuscript; manuscript copies will not be returned.

Why do we put up with such rudeness? Humiliated, hectored, lectured-to writers speak up!


15 comments:

  1. Makes me want to submit to Poetry London for sure! Thanks, Miriam.

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  2. poetry at least used to have a four poems per year restriction; agni used to charge to read all unsolicited submissions...

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  3. Oh yes, this gets me fired up.

    Writers are the juice for litmags. We are the lifeblood. Without our language, our poems, our stories our thoughts, without the stuff of our minds, the stuff they exist to celebrate, Ploughshares ain't shit.

    With one hand they love us and with the other they smack us down. Sounds like an abusive relationship to me.

    www.theliteraryactivist.blogspot.com

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  5. Thanks for your comments! Ploughshares could use words like "please" and "we would be grateful." They could change their tone and still keep their restrictions.

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  6. Who says either Ploughshares or Poetry London is typical? I find most of the guidelines I see to be brisk and businesslike at worst. If I were a poetry editor swamped with hundreds to thousands of mostly dreadful poems, I'd be a bit...crisp. I agree with Mim's last comment, however.

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  7. Yes, Greg, I agree: my sample was small, just two journals.

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  8. Do they not understand that those who submit also buy? That their guidelines are tantamount to pushing away customers? I guess they sell enough issues, already, and don't need my money.

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  9. I'm sorry. I find all the restrictions funny....
    and this is probably something I wouldn't fuss much about since I'm busy being enraged about the impossibility of passing the needed healthcare reforms and all the carefully instructed hecklers at the townhall meeetings.

    I love you dearly, Mim...and long to go to lunch you, but I wouldn't find myself exercised about this particular problem...

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  10. Healthcare reforms, not to speak of global warming, and the end of planet Earth. Melissa. I like your point of view; those restrictions sound funny.

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  11. Certainly on the scale of things, the nitpickiness of the editors at a particular magazine doesn't weigh large.

    Still, I have to say that when I read pent-up stuff like this (is a "page-size" envelope different from a #10 envelope? and I'd like to meet the schlump whose job it is to sit and measure every envelope to make sure the author's name is at least one inch down from the top), I immediately think of the Shakespeare line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

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  12. Mim, what is godzilla...I love the idea of you listening to it and checking out blogs...

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  13. Godzilla is the monster in Japanese films with his name.

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  14. I think the people who submit poetry have seen this type of thing so often that they have become 'acclimatized' to it as well as realizing that poetry editors do not always have an easy (or even pleasant) job. Unfortunately, this condescending practice is wide spread enough to also show a huge exposed underbelly of a low level of culture in this particular part of the poetry world. Come on folks, your mom must have taught you better than that!

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