Electronic submission has simplified one part of my writing work. No more following contest rules about size of self-addressed, stamped return envelopes and multiple copies prepared multiple ways. No more writing checks sometimes not cashed for months. All good. Add a central submission site like Submishmash to the mix and the process becomes even less time-consuming.
So what’s my angst? I spent years as a corporate staffing manager and heard the lament of unsuccessful applicants who felt the lack of a personal rejection email was disrespectful. From my assessment of the quality of the applications at least half of the hopefuls did truly spend time preparing a good resume and cover letter that was accurately geared toward my employer. The other half sent their credentials to any employer with any opening creating a backlog of junk applications. Think of a public relations coordinator applying for an assistant treasurer opening. With no support staff and hundreds of applicants, we frequently let silence be our rejection letter.
With the spread of systems like Submishmash it appears more literary journals are following the corporate staffing groups’ path. Writers must check their account for the ”Ëœdeclined’ status. Feels cold. The time spent matching works with a publication’s audience plus paying reading fees means each submission is a business decision for a writer. Like those disgruntled careful job hunters, I would appreciate an email from the publication. It’s nice to receive a copy of the journal as part of the reading fee, but it would be nicer to have an acknowledgement that my interest in their publication is appreciated.
Let’s be less than subtle—writers, MFA students and writing faculty present the largest readership pool for literary publications. Editors of those magazines, whether traditionally printed or online, would do themselves a long-term favor to treat their hopeful writers as potential readers. Add fifty cents to the reading fee and pay an undergrad to manage the database or engage Submishmash and its peers to take that last step in closing the process in a way that engages a potential subscriber.
The future of literary publications is interesting. University sponsored magazines are struggling with funding challenges while regular people doing day jobs are launching a variety of local or genre journals. If you’re interested in literary journals, a recent blog posting by Nick Ripatrazone in The Millions is worth a few minutes of your time. http://www.themillions.com/2012/02/on-getting-paid-literary-magazines-and-remuneration.html