Friday, November 14, 2008

Submission Follow-ups

After we submit a manuscript to a magazine, we wait for a response. That duration varies depending on the market, among other factors, and we should follow-up with the editor of that publication if there hasn’t been a response in a reasonable amount of time.

What’s a reasonable wait? We can find reported response times for established markets through websites like Duotrope and The Black Hole. Some magazines also post slush updates or statistics on their websites. Newer magazines tend to be fairly quick at first because they don’t have a backlog of submissions to sift through (unless they opened to a private group of authors first).

Once you’ve calculated the average response time over the past few months, add that time to your submission to figure out a due date. (For example, if you submitted on June 1 and calculate an average response time of three months, expect a response on September 1.) When you reach the due date, check Duotrope and The Black Hole again to see if other authors have posted submission updates. If the magazine responded to authors who submitted after you, that should be a yellow flag. If not, you may need to adjust your due date based on the latest statistics.

My due date is here, so I’m ripping the editor in half! Don’t be so hasty. Check the magazine’s website to see if they have any news about their slush pile. Also, look at the submission guidelines. They may specify that you not contact them about unanswered submissions until a certain time period has passed, one that is likely past your due date. (Look for taglines such as: “Do not send a follow-up query until after 90 days.”)

If all sources, from the tracking sites to the magazine’s site, indicate that you should have received a response by now, be kind in your follow-up. Letters get lost in the mail, spam-guards kill emails, and editors get side-tracked. In any case, assume this was not malicious on the part of the editor. Just send a quick note or email stating the date of your submission, the title of your story, and ask if they received the submission.

Hopefully the editor will respond within a few days, and I usually like to allow for at least a month for a response. If you don’t receive a response to your follow-up, you may want to send an additional follow-up or choose another market for your work. Don’t waste a year waiting for a response from a market that typically replies within three months. Something happened. Move on.

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