Friday, February 26, 2016

Ask the Moon: You again?

Yesterday I fielded the question of how soon to send again when a rejection solicits work—the coveted “send again” note. I received two related questions from my friends Karen and Lori, respectively.

Karen wonders how long to wait before sending again after withdrawing work that was accepted elsewhere, and Lori asks how soon to submit again after appearing in an issue.

Yesterday’s advice on when to send again boiled down to this: Wait a month to avoid appearing desperate or annoying an editor. Of course, different editors have different attitudes, and some say directly when they would like to see more work. None of this is science.

Karen’s question requires us to consider a few important factors. When our work is accepted by another journal and we need to withdraw from Journal X, it is fine to replace the submission. If we merely clicked “withdraw” on a Submittable submission (or a submission on another management program), I see no good reason not to submit again immediately. But if we had to communicate with an editor via a personal e-mail, it may be a good idea to wait a bit before resending.

As an editor, I look at Submittable as a ticking clock—one that keeps editors on their toes. Unless they’re scanning for famous names, editors probably take Submittable submissions in order. This is only logical; no reasonable person will jump on today’s submissions when there are unread submissions from December. When we submit again to Submittable or another management system, we just remove our work from the queue, and there is no compelling reason not to replace a submission with another at the end of the line.

Some journals accept submissions without using management systems, of course; these provide an e-mail address that a staff has to maintain by hand—probably with a system that is refined over time, but still, a rejection is going to be processed in some way by a human hand. I would be reluctant to send a new rejection immediately when the system is not automatic, because someone is going to have to track down the old submission and cull it. A new submission could complicate matters, and that human I mentioned may feel annoyed to see it. That’s not a good start to a relationship.

I hope submitters are being careful not to ignore journals’ guidelines, because we can’t forget that some dinosaurs don’t welcome simultaneous submissions. It is certainly a mistake to follow up a withdrawal with a new submission if the journal does not allow simultaneous submissions in the first place. I’m not sure when to send again when a writer is thumbing his or her nose at the journal whose attention is being courted. I’d avoid ever sending again out of pure shame.

A slightly more comfortable scenario is offered in Lori’s question—when to submit again after a journal publishes our work. Once I publish in a journal, I have to admit that I feel rather connected to that magazine—as if I’m part of its team, its family. When I’ve been in a magazine, I return the interest and attention it showed me, and I like to follow its news, read its issues, and be connected in whatever way I can.

With that being said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to send again very soon after appearing in a journal, unless there is a special call for submissions, a solicitation, a contest, or some other compelling reason. Why would we? We’ve cracked that nut, and it’s time for the next challenge. My suggestion is that writers wait at least a year, but probably more like two, before sending new work. Editors don’t want us in every issue, so why set ourselves up for rejection? And why not find a whole new audience with another journal? That makes the most sense to me.

I love thinking about the submitting game and all of the various strategies we employ to find homes for our work. I’m not certain there are right or wrong answers for any of this, but writers do well to try to think like editors. If nothing else, it builds empathy for the hard work that happens in the publishing world, and it helps to guide us toward respectful and considerate practices.