It’s been six months since Page & Spine: fiction showcase opened its virtual doors as a .com e-zine with me, N.K., at the helm—publisher, editor, IT department, toilet scrubber and lightbulb changer. You wouldn’t think that would be long enough to compile a list of guaranteed reasons for a writer’s work to be rejected, would you? Well, I’m as surprised as you are.
Before I share my list, let me explain. I'm a writer. I know what it is to birth the baby, put it out there for all to admire and watch it be kicked to the curb. I know what rejection feels like and, as an editor, I do everything in my power not to reject a writer’s work. I’d much rather share in a newly published writer’s “happy dance” than be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes I have to say “no”. Here are my current top five reasons for doing so and the ways to avoid them.
Don't submit inappropriate work. You've heard this before. Your work should be of the same quality and general tone as the majority of the publication’s archived work. Original approaches and points of view are welcome and encouraged. Inappropriate subject matter is not. For example, an article on the construction of windmills probably won’t be printed in a fiction magazine. But a story in which someone builds a windmill might. Or maybe an essay using the concept of a windmill to make some point about a facet of writing will. You really should read at least one issue of the magazine before you submit something. If you’re still not sure, ask.
Don't submit non-publishable work. An acquiring editor is neither the writer’s personal ghost writer nor his researcher. That’s blunt, but there it is. Early drafts should never be seen by anyone receiving submissions. That said, mistakes slip through and it’s up to the editor to catch them and suggest corrections. We all make mistakes.
Don't argue over minutia. Publication isn’t a contest of wills. There’s usually a good reason for an editor to suggest changes to your work. If the change doesn’t affect your intended meaning, go with it. Pick your battles. If you’ve been cooperative in the past, it’s more likely you’ll get your way when it really matters to you.
Don't miss deadlines. Issues are planned ahead of time. Sometimes, months ahead of time. If you keep an editor waiting, publication of your work will be pushed back to allow more eager writers to fill your scheduled slot. If your appearance is pushed back often enough, you may be lost in the shuffle.
Don't forget your manners. Don’t grovel. Don’t put on airs. If you start out in a relaxed but businesslike manner you’ll be well on your way to a comfortable working relationship. “Please” and “thank you” mean a lot.
One last thing. Recognize that when human meets machine sometimes machine wins, at least temporarily. Publication mistakes happen. If you spot an error in our e-zine, by all means let me know. Mistakes, caught early, are no reason for concern. They can, and should, be corrected. But when the gremlins are feeling frisky it can take multiple tries. As in most things, a sense of humor helps – a lot.