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Following Up with Publishers August 24, 2009

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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In the past several years, quite a few publishers have added a statement to their submission guidelines along the line of “if you don’t hear from us, we’re not interested.” This seems to reflect a trend in society to seldom return phone calls or RSVP. No response means no.

I’ve never been good about following up with editors I haven’t heard from. I just figured that if they were interested, they’d let me know. I’m sure this is true most often, but in 13 years of writing, I’ve experienced times when I should have followed up.

Last week, another one happened. A magazine editor let me know she wanted to buy an article from me. I asked about another article I had proposed shortly before it. She was unfamiliar with the earlier article but intrigued by the idea. She searched her computer and found the proposed article in her spam filter. She told me she would have bought it had she seen it in time for the intended issue. I have written enough for her that she offered to purchase it for the next theme cycle–a year off. I will probably take her up on that offer but am disappointed because the article will no longer be as timely.

I once had an editor catch me at a conference and tell me how glad she was to see me because she wanted to buy a series of four articles I had sent to her after pitching them at a conference the year before. She had lost the articles, including my contact information, but remembered what I looked like.

An editor at a book publisher wrote me once to tell me how much he enjoyed a humorous short story I had written for an anthology his house was compiling. He had found my story so funny he had passed it around the office–and then couldn’t find it when it was time to pull the anthology together. Months later, he finally got it back and sent it to me with an apology stating that he wished he could have included it in the anthology.

Mistakes happen. I’m glad for publishers who acknowledge submissions when they receive them and send rejection letters. Receiving a rejection letter is better than being left hanging.

I probably should follow up with publishers that don’t indicate in their guidelines that no response means no. But I doubt I do because that takes time and usually I’ve already moved on to something else. And who likes to be a pest?

This past week I almost pulled a short story from consideration from a magazine. (I hardly ever do this either because it’s time consuming and, usually, I’d rather spend the time on newer stories.) The magazine had held the story for a year, and if they weren’t going to purchase it, I wanted to submit it elsewhere. I became distracted with another project and picked up the mail before writing the retraction letter. In the mail was a contract for the short story.

You just never know.

I’m happy I didn’t take the time to follow up.



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