Wednesday, November 1, 2017

ASK THE EDITOR: Why Am I Such an A**?

Author With Self-Respect (AWSR) asked:

"I'd like to know why you think it is OK to verbally abuse prospective authors before they even submit to you? 

"'THANK YOU for thoroughly reading our guidelines! (Do it. You may wish you had, because I am JUST in the mood to dump your story in the trash if you don't follow the rules. Thank you! ~The Editor)' [A quote from Flash Fiction Online's submission guidelines.]

"'' [A link to our submission page.]

"You can honestly stick both the sarcasm - THANK YOU - and the attitude where the sun don't shine, and shame on anyone that allows this to pass unchallenged." 

Not unchallenged anymore, eh, AWSR?

I bet you thought I wouldn't have the guts to answer. 

Let's start with your question, and provide a definition.

abuse  n.  
1.  wrong or improper use; misuse:
the abuse of privileges
2.  harshly or coarsely insulting language:
The officer heaped abuse on his men.
3.  bad or improper treatment; maltreatment:
The child was subjected to cruel abuse.
4.  a corrupt or improper practice or custom:
the abuses of a totalitarian regime
5.  rape or sexual assault.

Have I used this warning improperly?  If it were true that properly submitted stories was the overwhelming norm I suppose it could be argued the warning is improper.  IF it were true.  If only it were true.  If only. *sigh*

Was my language harsh or coarse?  I didn't use any crude or coarse language.  I didn't phrase it in unusually stern language.  Considerably less stern than the language I used with my own growing children when they misbehaved.  But since when is stern a bad thing?  Stern warnings are not uncommon, nor are they inappropriate when circumstances call for them.

Is the statement mistreating prospective authors?  Only those who allow themselves to be mistreated by it.  There is nothing in that statement that mistreats anyone. 

Maybe I'm a corrupt totalitarian editor?  Closer to the truth, maybe.  But I am the ruler of the roost.  I am the one that must manage a huge slush pile.  I am the one who represents the magazine in the most public way--second only to our publisher, who would have been much more "offensive" had she been the one to pen those lines.

It certainly isn't sexual in nature.

How exactly is it abusive to prospective authors?  It very specifically targets only a portion of those authors who submit with us: 

"...I am JUST in the mood to dump your story in the trash if you don't follow the rules."

Only those authors who choose not to heed the submission guidelines should feel in any way offended by this statement.  And if they decide to feel offended and refuse to follow the guidelines they are likely to feel even more abused when they receive a form rejection--because I do NOT use up my valuable time telling every author why I reject a story.  I'm not paid NEAR enough for that.

Which brings us neatly around to a few hard facts about editors:

1.  An editor is NOT your babysitter.

It is not my job to hold your hand and pat your head through the submission process.  I will treat you with all the polite respect you deserve.  I am not your critique partner.  I am not your writing coach.  If you make a mistake during submission that causes your story to be rejected, that is not my fault, nor my responsibility to explain.  

Does my statement seem a little harsh?  Maybe.  But if it catches your attention and causes you to be extra careful in reading and heeding my guidelines, and if it causes you to be extra careful in properly preparing your manuscript, then I'm doing you a favor. 

(I could have said f*ing favor there.  Yes, I could. But I prefer to avoid coarse language.  It's extraordinarily unprofessional, wouldn't you say, AWSR?)

2.  An editor does NOT have time to correct your mistakes.

Truth: Most magazine editors aren't paid for their work. 

I'm not.  I've been working at Flash Fiction Online for 10 years now, without a penny of recompense.  My work for this magazine is done in my spare time--what little of it I have.   And we're not a small-beans pub.  We pay professional rates.  We are SFWA membership-qualifying.  We have 35,000+ monthly readers.  That, my friends, is no small beans.

I have as many responsibilities outside the magazine as you have outside your writing activities.  I process THOUSANDS of stories per year with no monetary reward to hope for.  YOU write DOZENS of stories per year with some hope of monetary reward--which, by the way, you may receive because some unpaid editor somewhere chooses your story over the thousands of others that land on his/her desktop.

Let me tell you something else:  A few months ago, I was rejecting 20-25% of stories because authors were regularly disregarding guidelines.  I took action in order to save myself some extremely valuable time.  

First, I edited our guidelines to include that harsher statement that AWSR has chosen to be so very offended by.  

Second, I added a required button to our submission form, in which authors must indicate that they have, in fact, read the guidelines.

What do you suppose the results have been?

A dramatic decrease in rejections due to guidelines errors?

Dramatic may be an overstatement.  I still reject 10-12% of stories due to guidelines errors.  1 in 10.  Still far too many.  It should be closer to 1 in 100--the honest error, the mistakenly downloaded file, the mis-typed word count.  If it was 1 in 100 I could justify using some of my time to give authors a chance to fix the error and resubmit. 

I am harsh to save myself time and to decrease the chance that YOU, ungrateful and easily offended one, will receive a bland form rejection, along with 99.4% of the other 8000+ authors who submit with us each year. 

Honestly!  Toughen up, put away your self-pity, spend more time learning how to write and less time worrying about potential emotional boo-boos.  Writing and submitting is hard enough.

To address AWSR's non-PC submitter-shaming ("...shame on anyone that allows this to pass unchallenged."), AWSR is the ONLY submitter who has challenged the statement so far.   

NOTE:  AWSR felt the need to publicly complain on Reddit (expanding the whining to include my preferred choice of fonts and for wanting Standard Manuscript Format!  GASP!!  The horror!) , in which discussion he/she found very little sympathy--at least from those who could write a legible paragraph:

So, you see, AWSR, I don't put up with abuse either.

1 comment:

Flygirl said...

"So, you see, AWSR, I don't put up with abuse either."

In my head I heard a whip cracking. Or in the famous words of a very famous Kung Fu Master, PO, "skedoosh".

I love love love love it. You, Ms. Vincent, reminded me why I love literature and why I want to be an author.