Apparently “No News” is not “Good News”

It used to be that if you submitted an article, story, book proposal or novel and you hadn’t been rejected, there was still the possibility that the publisher was just running behind. Until you actually got that piece of paper (or email) that said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” there was still a chance. You would check your mail or your email every day and tell yourself, “Well, no news is good news. Maybe I’ll hear next week.”

But no news is not really good news after all. No news might mean that they have deleted your submission because they don’t like it, because they don’t need it, or because it’s not formatted to suit them. You never know if, and you will never know why. I know, getting a generic rejection doesn’t tell you why either, but at least it tells you something.

Lately, I’ve been reading submission guidelines that say, if you don’t hear from us in [amount of time] then just assume that we’re not interested. Then there’s the site I saw today that first tells writers that they don’t accept simultaneous submissions and then proceeds to say that if they are not in a reading period, the submission will be deleted without response. A re-reading of these guidelines shows that they give NO idea how long a writer should wait for a response either. So, how long should I tie up a story or article while they consider it? A year, two years, five?

Ever hear of auto-responders? You know, “Thank you for submitting your story. Unfortunately we are not reading submissions right now. Feel free to submit your story elsewhere.”

I get it that some magazines receive more submissions than they can handle. I also get that sending a detailed rejection message could take more time than they have. On the other hand, we’re talking about computers here. Is it that difficult to write a little macro that could automatically open a reply, insert “Thanks, but no thanks” and then send the message? Is that really so difficult? Really? Your time is important to you, I get it. But what about the writer’s time?

It occurs to me that, in the days of easy self-publishing, why aren’t the magazines more respectful of authors’ work? And why aren’t we, as writers, more respectful of our own works? Why do we put up with publications that simultaneously demand an exclusive opportunity to evaluate our work without the common courtesy to notify the submitter when the story is no longer under consideration?

Am I mistaken or is there a disconnect here? I mean, these publications wouldn’t have anything to publish if there weren’t authors submitting stories and articles. So why treat them with such contempt?

It sounds as though I’m whining (and to some extent, I am) but also I’d love to get a dialog started on this. What do you think? I’d really like to know.