Twice last week, I came across posts in two different private social media groups where people in the writing business had experienced rudeness from novice writers submitting work. Now, I’m not going to share any specific details, because they are private groups.
But there’s no excuse for rudeness at any time, and it made me realise how some novice writers still don’t understand that writing is a business. It’s all about professional, business relationships, and for those relationships to function successfully there needs to be respect (on both sides).
There’s still a lot of the business that relies upon unsolicited submissions: writing short stories for magazines, submitting a non-fiction book proposal or a novel to a publisher, or approaching an agent.
When it comes to unsolicited submissions, writers are at the whim of those to whom they’ve submitted. It can be immensely frustrating waiting for someone to read your work and respond. I know. I’ve been there!
The problem with unsolicited submissions is that they’re not usually the highest priority. Publishing businesses have their existing writers, clients and suppliers to focus on first. Unsolicited work gets read and assessed when there is the time to do it – and there’s not a lot of that. That’s why many publishers of novels now no longer accept unsolicited material. They just don’t have the time to read them, and it often involves a lot of work for, ultimately, very little return.
The constant waiting can be soul destroying for writers, which is why some then lose patience and chase up a decision. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed, for time sensitive material it may be necessary to enquire as to the outcome of a submission.
So chasing for a decision isn’t necessarily wrong. But it’s how you chase.
Respect the fact that any reputable publishing business accepting unsolicited material will not charge for reading your work. The actual reading and assessing of material does not generate an income. And all businesses need to generate an income in order to survive. Unsolicited submissions are a cost to the writing business.
Respect the fact that what you submit now may be rejected, but a future unsolicited submission may be just what they’re looking for. So your behaviour when you do chase may influence whether that publishing business is willing to look at any work you submit in the future.
Respect the fact that the publishing business is fluid. Staff and personnel move around to further their careers and gain broader experience. Being rude to someone at one business may have consequences for you later, if they may move on to another business that you approach in the future.
So the next time you are frustrated at not hearing about a submission you made months ago, just remember to be business-like in your communication. Appreciate that the publishing business is busy. Explain if there’s a legitimate reason, such as topicality, for getting in touch. A polite, respectful approach should result in a polite, respectful response. Be rude and … well, you only deserve what you get in return.