Wednesday, November 24, 2004

No respect, I tell ya!

There was a thread on Forward Motion a few days back that has been bothering me. The discussion concerned response times and the seeming indifference and lack of courtesy of a lot of editors. I started thinking about how much alike writers and librarians are. Members of both professions tend to undervalue themselves and their work. The vast majority of people that you ask will tell you that they think libraries are essential, yet the library's budget is always the first to be cut and the last to be raised. I maintain that writers, too, are essential. Writers illuminate and disseminate their cultures' mythologies. Writers are the part of the societal organism that dreams, along with artists, sculpters, musicians, etc.

You would think that people this important would be valued and respected, yet Western cultures, American in particular, fear knowledge. Those who preserve and/or make knowledge available are often treated with disdain and are always looked upon as something strange and alien.

The Herbert S. White, Dean of the Library School at the University of Indiana, spent a long and distinguished career trying to convince librarians to stop acting like sheep and to stand up for ourselves. It is time for writers to do the same thing. We should expect a minimum of courtesy and consideration. We should demand reasonable treatment: acknowledgement of submissions, reasonable response times, notification if the response time will be exceeded. That is little enough to ask.

Many magazines are now no longer even giving estimated response times. There is also a growing trend toward not sending rejection notifications. The guidelines say that you may assume rejection if you haven't heard in a certain period of time.

That is unacceptable. I refuse to allow anyone to treat me this way. Anyone who cannot extend me the least courtesy will see no submissions from me. I realize that this policy will lose me some sales. So be it. There are more important things than sales, and self-respect is one of them. This is a lesson that I learned at great cost. It almost cost me my life. As a human being, I am due a certain minimum amount of respect and courtesy. I will not deal with anyone who does not think so.

So there. :P

It's alive!

I officially exist. is now viable. I have a minimal (extremely) home page up with a guestbook and counter. Got a lot of PHP scripts installed, so development should speed up. I just have to be careful that I don't use this as an excuse for self-sabotaging my writing. The mind works in mysterious ways, it's devilry to perform.


At 10:24 AM, Blogger Lynn Viehl said...

The publishing industry is built on the backs of writers, in the same way that the pyramids were built on the backs of slaves. In both cases, a certain amount of control is vital, or the foundation disappeares and the pyramid collapses.

At the same time, a lot of the apparent disrespect and indifference from editors is not personal or deliberate. Most editors are so overloaded, underpaid and unappreciated that they become jaded even faster than we writers do. I agree, there are editors out there who should not be permitted to work with writers, but the majority are in as bad if not worse a position as we are.

I think you should reconsider your stand on submitting, and not because I think you're wrong. Nailing shut a door because you don't like the way it slams in your face means you can never go through that door. The third or fifth or twentieth time you try that door, it may finally open for you.

I truly believe success is the best revenge. Once you have the sales numbers and the backlist, then you can pick and choose for whom you work. In a way, finding out now who are the good editors and who aren't will help you make informed choices when you get to the selective stage of this game.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Carter said...

You make some good points,

But... (don't you just love that word? :) )

I understand the position that editors are in. Overworked and overstressed are probably understatements. But (there it is again!), I don't donsider that to be sufficient excuse for rudeness and unconsiderateness (sic?). As supposedly civilized human beings, it is our responsibility to maintain certain civilized standards of behavior, and I will not participate in the breakdown of civility that is occuring these days.

Also, my experience so far has been with magazine editors, most of whom are independent. It chaps my butt for someone to solicit submissions and then gripe and moan about the number of submissions they receive. If you open your door to the world, you can expect a lot of people to show up. It is your responsiblity to provide the means to deal with them. There are ways to limit and filter submissions to a more-or-less reasonable level without treating your submitters like cattle.

As far as closing doors, I have reached a point in my life where I realize that there are much more important aspects to life than "success". I won't compromise my standards in order to make a sale. Some doors will remain closed to me by my choice. Just as I won't submit to a magazine that exhibits signs of poor editing (spelling, grammar, etc.), a closed door is a price I am willing to pay to maintain my self-respect and the quality of my life.

I will write whether I sell anything or not. I have a passion for words and stories, and I have developed (and am still developing) skill in presenting my stories. I believe that quality is more important than sales volume. That is why I was such an abject failure as a salesman. I have recognized some things about myself and set certain standards for behavior that I consider acceptable.

Idealistic? Sure. Unrealistic? Absolutely. I'm a dreamer; I'm an artist (not an artiste, I don't do pretension); I'm a writer.

Thanks for the comments. Cogent feedback forces me to think carefully about my beliefs, which is really good.


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