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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Electronic Submissions: The New Blogosphere Rant Topic

The blogosphere is ripe with rants about electronic submissions and the credibility of short fiction publications that don't use them. Scalzi has talked about it and so has Jonathan Strahan. With such big names (in the SF/F world, at least) speaking on this issue, it seems rather pointless for me to remark here. But, this is my blog, so I am going to do just that.

I stopped submitting my fiction to the big three and any other publication that refuses (or refused, for a time) to take electronic submissions about a year and a half ago. I think that was around the time when Tobias S. Buckell remarked in an audio interview that he refuses to submit by mail now for various reasons (some of which have been spoken to by Scalzi and Strahan). I'm not sure if Buckell still feels that way, or if I'm taking it out of context, but it truly made me reconsider my priorities in getting published. The result of that reconsideration, obviously, was my complete seizure of mail submissions, with exception to the Writers of the Future Contest--an exception I won't bother explaining.

Print submissions make little sense in the 21st century. Some of the valid reasons why are:
  • Electronic submissions are easier to track. As mentioned elsewhere, it's difficult to lose an electronic submission if you're not a moron. Move them to a magic email folder than everyone can access and you're set.
  • Electronic submissions are easier to submit, which means more writers who do write good stories will likely submit to you. Yeah, some crappy writers will submit too, but so what? It should be pretty damn obvious from the first paragraph that a story isn't worth reading.
  • Electronic submissions are easier to reject and deal with. Editors only have to click reply, past in a form rejection, and be done with it. No postage, no mail men, no nothing.
  • There's almost no difference between reading a print submission and an electronic submission. Obviously a printed manuscript is easier to read, but, to be fair, if a story is good enough to get published, that fact will make itself clear just as readily in an electronic submission.
  • There are plenty of magazines (online and otherwise) that not only accept electronic submissions, but also pay at or above the rates of those publications that don't take electronic submissions. Even the freaking New Yorker takes e-subs. Get with the program. If a magazine that has been around for over 80 years can figure it out, well, there's really no excuse, right?
  • Writers make next to nothing as it is, especially in the short fiction world (and especially in the SF/F world). Print submissions cost a pretty penny for postage. The cost might seem nominal in the short run, but imagine the cost when you have twenty or thirty stories out there. There's never a valid reason for a writer to have to pay to submit something. You pay the writer, not take money away from them.
I'm sure there are plenty of other reasons. Personally, I refuse to pay to submit anything (WOTF being the exception, obviously), and I won't submit print submissions to any of the big three again. The same is true of any magazine. Unless I know that I'm going to be paid for a print story, I'm not submitting it. Maybe that sounds stupid to some of you, but I simply don't see the sense in it.

And, like Scalzi, I question the credibility of any magazine that refuses to accept e-subs. Seriously, the excuses are just that: excuses. I get it. I understand the reasons for not taking e-subs, but they're really ridiculous. We live in the 21st century, not 1925. It's about time the publishing world caught on.

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  1. I think a magazine adamantly refusing to accept electronic submissions is clearly a sign of pre-historic thinking. Where the speculative fiction genres are concerned, I would expect a more progressive attitude. Fortunately, there are a great number of excellent publications out there that have a more level-headed view. I'm perfectly happy to stick with those that aren't too hoity-toity to adapt and leave the dinosaurs to their own devices.

  2. I think it's beginning to hurt the big three, to be honest. A lot of amazing stories are being published by online magazines or magazines that primarily accept electronic submissions. A writer is far less likely to submit to a print publication if they can get the same basic service from someone else...