• Thou Shalt Not Piss Off the Editor

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Rants & Raves     Comments 6 comments

    This is the gist of an actual note I received from a would-be submitter to my literary magazine, Black Heart, last week:

    Dear Editor,

    I don’t like having to use submissions systems. Logging in and having to remember passwords is a waste of time. Why are you making me jump through all these hoops? You are a bad editor, and I hate you. Will you read my work and publish it?

    Schizophrenic Writer

    The actual note resembles the ramblings of a doddering old man, someone who has recently learned to work a computer after many years of typing things on a Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter, and who is crotchety about these “newfangled contraptions” we all use to communicate in the 21st century.

    While I exaggerate for effect, I feel I must make an important point to would-be authors submitting manuscripts for editorial consideration:


    Go ahead: write about how unfair their submission process is in your blog. Bitch and complain to all your friends about how they are big meanies. Describe how much you hate them, and defame their character (or the characters in stories they’ve written). Tell the world how you feel! Just don’t send the link to the editor, if you ever intend to have your work published. By anyone in the realm of literary magazines, ever, cus it really is a small world. Okay?

    Seriously. If you want to get published, starting off on the right foot with an editor is crucial to your success. Making fun of the editor, telling them they are bad at their job, or otherwise complaining about how they do things is almost guaranteed to land your submission in the trash.

    Having gotten that out of the way, I must also add that while it is true that the submissions process is often arbitrary and occasionally even unnecessarily cruel, it ISN’T a pointless endeavor designed by evil editors who wish to make you jump through hoops and humiliate you. Really.

    Black Heart uses Submishmash, a submissions software program designed by writers for fellow writers and editors. The goal of using this system is to keep all of our submissions in one place, rather than scattering them around in various email inboxes, where they are often lost in a sea of spam, forwards, and photos of the author’s cats. Keeping everything in its place, and allowing our staff readers to vote on pieces and make notes about them helps make the whole process run more smoothly. And while you may be the recipient of a form rejection letter, at least you’ll know that someone actually read your work, instead of losing it their an inbox or the vast stretches of ether that make up the Internet.

    So today’s lessons are:

    1. Never piss off the editor, no matter how big a jerk they are.
    2. Submissions systems aren’t evil; they are actually helping editors do their jobs more efficiently, and railing against the system is the surest way to remain unpublished.

    Fight the power and submit a piece of your own using our evil Submishmash system.


    Laura Roberts is the editor of the rebellious literary magazine Black Heart, and a writing coach & manuscript consultant at WriteByNight. You can follow her on Twitter @originaloflaura, or check out her personal website.

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    David Duhr

    If I made a dollar every time a writer pissed me off, I’d no longer have to work as an editor.

    (Too easy?)

    But I always try to remind myself that a lot of writers who submit stories to me are just starting out, and are nervous, unsure of themselves. Then I try to remember what I was like back when I started out.

    Does it help? No. I still get plenty pissed. But it does keep me from lashing back at the writers.

    Most of the time.

    Laura Roberts

    True, very true. And I do tend to have more sympathy for the writers who admit they are new to publishing, or still in high school, or whatnot. It’s the ones who write me windbaggy notes and compare themselves to Bukowski that really burn my biscuits. The most egregious one actually informed me that “Bukowski was never edited,” and that he, the author, used to screw Bukowski’s rejects. Um, good for you, but why does that mean that YOU do not need an editor? Unless having sex with the women Bukowski didn’t want somehow confers special writing skills, I’m still… Read more »

    […] like Laura wrote about last week, editors are not (always) the enemy. And the submission process isn’t all cake and ice cream […]

    […] tip of the week: For those about to submit, we salute you. Just remember that pissing off the editor is never a good idea. Save your accusations for the corporations, […]

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    […] “Thou Shalt Not Piss Off the Editor” […]

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