Severely rigid writer’s guidelines seem only to serve editorial anal-retentive impulses, which I sadly sometimes feel may be driving certain journals to begin with.
I often go to a submissions page and have to tread through 8 or so dense paragraphs of (ironically, often inefficiently written) prose about typing my last name after the word ‘submission’ followed immediately with two forward slashes and then the word count. Are they suggesting that failure to be so explicit will preclude their ability to just read the story? And what is it about including mailing address for online journals? Unless there’s some distant prospect of a printed anthology (at which point many addresses will have changed), the entire medium is exclusively virtual. Do these editors want to see if you live in a culturally viable city like New York? If so, just say so. The street number doesn’t help.
Cover letters are absurd. Writers are not ‘allowed’ to describe their story, thus left in the awkward position of either fawning over the journal, or trying to sell themselves with a list of past publications. This crap is completely useless. Just read the fucking story.
I understand that writers can be disorganized, and these editors are describing an ideal process of what can be a logistical headache, but please, try to be more intuitive and agile here. In the magic of email, the sender’s name is cited along with the email. Is it not possible to simply associate a story as originating from a particular email, one which includes the writer’s name? It just seems that if an editor is serious about publishing a story, he or she will somehow ‘figure it out,’ and if they don’t want to publish a piece, then it’s irrelevant anyways.
Perhaps more irritating is when editors ‘go off’ (usually for three paragraphs) on—not merely what they are looking for in a story, but—the moral ethics of what makes good writing in the most absolute and abstract sense. They say things like, “describe it, don’t say it.” I’ll fucking say it if I want to. I’m the writer here, you’re the editor. It’s my job to write, and your job to reject or accept it. It’s not your job to preach to a voiceless public about how to write.
For every editor, there are about 200 writers. By statistical default, editors have ‘the power.’ They should be nice, and publish what they like, and reject what they don’t. If their egos are still hungry, write them a story about a sandwich. Wait, Bukowski did that already…
October 13th, 2008 / 2:10 pm