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Lack of Submission Feedback

In the last few months, I've submitted my work to a couple of major sci-fi magazines. Both publications rejected my manuscript, which didn't surprise or upset me to any great extent. Certainly, I was disappointed. I've been honing my writing skills for the last seven years, and after much hard work, I believe I've finally crafted a story that's as good or better than anything I see published professionally. Take that as author bias if you like. It is to some extent. But I also have the critiques of a couple different writing groups to back me up. That, and I'd be the first to admit that I hadn't written anything publication-worthy up until now.

Anyway, the point here isn't to cry rivers of despair or tout my work. What I want to focus on is the fact that these publications have stopped providing individual feedback. The rejection notifications I received from both magazines contained only a restatement of the original submission guidelines listed on their websites, which did absolutely nothing to help me. I have less than no idea why they rejected my manuscript. The editors stated that they receive too many submissions, and therefore do not have the time to make specific comments on each one.

Now, I certainly sympathize with how overwhelmed an editor must get by the multitude of submissions that he or she receives. I'm sure an editor spends many late nights reading other people's work on his or her own time. For that, I'd like to extend my wholehearted thanks.

I also understand the practical realities of workload versus time. If you only have so many hours in the day, and your workload requires more hours than you have, something is going to have to give. If you add up the time it would take editor to write individual feedback for all manuscripts, it no doubt adds up to time that he or she doesn't have.

That said, I believe the editor and his or her staff are ethically bound to find a way to provide individual feedback, no matter how limited. Heck, writing just one word on the return notice would make a huge difference. "Formatting" or "Plot" or "Characters" or even "Boring" would at least give me a vague hint as to what required improvement. To not do so is to allow writers to grope around in the dark, resending unpolished manuscripts to the next editor who then rejects it for the same reason. And round and round we go. By not telling writers anything specific, an editor actually increases the number of undesired submissions.

I'm on to you, Mr. or Ms. Editor. You think that you can use lack of individual feedback as way to further screen manuscripts and limit your workload. But in actuality, you are contributing to your own problem. And you're not fostering a community of learning and growing that will lead to bettering the industry that you love.

So, this is my plea to the editor. Find a quick and easy way to let writers know why you're denying their submission. Yes, it takes a little time, but it does not take that much time to scribble one word on a page.

End of rant

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