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Writers and Instant Gratification

If you are a writer–or aspire to become a writer–you should not expect any instant gratification. Writing is a long-haul proposition.

In this age of “instantness,” however, we’re all tempted to expect things, well, instantly. We have instant coffee, instant tea, instant mashed potatoes, etc., so why not instant writing success? Because it just doesn’t happen that way. That’s the writing life.

That said, however, there is something that we writers should be able to expect, and that’s prompt responses from editors. I was looking at my history of article submissions the other day, and something suddenly occurred to me. I am today seeing longer response times to queries and submissions than I did back in the “old days,” and by that I mean the days before e-mail. (Yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m that old!) Back in the days when every query and every submission had to be sent by snail mail, I was getting responses from editors more quickly than I do today in spite of the fact that we have communications media that allow near-instant response times.

I realize that editors are busy. Reduction in publishing staff only makes their work harder and more time consuming. But there’s something called common courtesy that is missing in publishing today. Why is it so difficult for an editor, upon receiving a query or a submission, to hit “Reply” and quickly type, “Got your query/submission. Will get back to you”? Or, if it’s obviously something he or she can’t use in that publication, saying, “Thanks. But it won’t work for us”? It doesn’t have to be a long explanation. Just the facts, ma’am (or sir). But we writers today should be able to expect some kind of response more quickly than we got when the pony express was delivering messages.

I must pause to say, however, that a few publications are superb in their response times. The editorial staff at Good Old Days, especially, has replied promptly to my queries and submissions. Thumbs up or thumbs down, they let me know. Quickly. And, what’s more, they return photos in good condition without having to be prodded for them. What impresses me most is that if they accept an article submission, they also return my SASE! That’s the first publication I’ve dealt with that did that, and I appreciate it because it saves me time and money. The next time I want to submit a manuscript to them, I already have a SASE available. No time wasted addressing and stamping another.

So, how about it all you other editors? How about showing us writers–the ones who make your publication possible to begin with–a little common courtesy by responding more promptly? If it’s a rejection, we can take it–after all, we’re writers, and part of writing is getting rejections. A prompt rejection also allows us time to submit our work elsewhere, and for a story that is linked to a specific date or holiday, a prompt reply is critical. If it’s an acceptance, we can handle that, too.  We certainly can use the encouragement it provides. Don’t leave us hanging; hit us with it.

Replying promptly to any communication is just a matter of common courtesy. It’s especially important in the writing and publishing trade. And courtesy is something that can’t be replaced by all the high-speed technology in the world if those tools aren’t used.

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