Friday, 5 March 2010

Subbing the Old Fashioned Way

In a time where people are converting to eco ways, creating simpler work processes, making the world more accessible. Why are some literary magazines asking for postal submissions and postal submissions only?

I have just literally sealed up the envelope for a short story. Snail mail is so last century. The literary magazine in question (who shall remain anon) has a decent website, has a blog, and even e-versions of the print magazine. Postal submission doesn't seem to fit with their digital vision. To be honest, postal submissions is a bit backwards.

The company I work for embraces technology for submissions and queries. Firstly, it stops wastage of paper (paper comes from trees) and secondly, the query can be dealt with quicker. Postal is so long winded, for the writer and for the editor at the other end. And in these 'economic times' money saving ideas are the only things to save magazines and publishers. I have heard of E-book readers be used by editors to read submissions.

What do others think?
Should postal submissions be thrown into a museum along with dino bones or should we save this extinct method?

Added - An article about the same idea - Email Submissions: Why we love them (and hate them).


Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Jessica - lots of good luck!

I used to help run a short story comp and we used to accept both paper and emailed entries.

It was strange - but certainly, we got better checked work in the paper entries. If there were entries covered in typos and other glitches, it would be the emailed ones! It is almost as though email is too easy, somehow - just download and press a button...

But the other aspect is cost. To print out (as we did) two copies of each story for reading and judging cost us in paper and ink and electricity (!)...cutting into the revenue we earned from the entry fees.

So, its probably the cost of processing emailed entries that made them decide not to go that route.

Alex Thornber said...

I tend to stay clear of postal submissions, purely for the wasted paper. If you get rejected or accepted, once your story has been put into the magazine the manuscript will probably be binned or left floating around somewhere.

At Tomlit we only want e-mailed submissions. As it is an e-magazine and the members of our reading panel live in different cities it would be silly to get paper submissions.

I think Vanessa is right though, e-mailing does seem to be too easy and it allows mistakes to go unnoticed. But it is a much simpler way of doing things with much less waste. So in this case I think e-mailing is better.

Good luck with the submission.

Steph said...

Usually, postal submissions are required because magazines (and agents, publishers, editors, competition organisers...etc...etc...) decide not to invest on printing tons and tons on entries, as NO editor (agent, publisher...etc...etc...) works on screen. You don't see mistakes on screen, you need the paper copy. As Vanessa says, cost is the reason here. If I were to print everything myself, I would not be able to offer £ 100 to the author who wins the short story compo, neither would I be able to afford one print run (let alone more) of the anthology with all winning stories.

And by the way, I agree that it is boring, cumbersome, slow and blah blah blah. But unless one only receives 3 entries (or 3 articles, 3 proposals, 3 spec letters...) it's just not feasible for us to absorb all costs. The more I spend on prod, and the less I can give back to the authors who are part of the venture.

As for the paper 'wastage'... well, it isn't wasted at all if you have submitted to a competition. Neither is it wasted if I print a story for editing and judging. If I (or you) were to print stuff I don't read and have no intention of reading, THAT would be wastage. Editing and judging will NEVER happen on screen and you should beware of whoever tells you that editing can be done on screen. It can't; that's why, as Vanessa says, so many mistakes appears in emails.

Jessie Carty said...

i still send both print and email submissions although if i don't know a journal well i might not be keen to take the time to print out a submission.

in a way it is good that some keep to having postal submissions because it helps the post office and also supports that magazine bring a print journal. most writers want to have at least a few print journals with their names on it. so if we want that we should also accept having to print and mail a few submissions here and there to be fair :)

Jessica said...

Thanks for all the opinions - I was sorted of surprised the other day to discover that 'paper submissions' still existed - I am part of the generation where we use tech for everything. All though I am a CD sort of person rather than downloads.

I guess in the future, the reading experience will evolve and us writers will adapt again.

Jessie, our postal system in the UK is either on strike or losing post. I sent off to a major comp once, heard nothing and the cheque wasn't cashing. A few months later it was returned with a sticker on the front saying the address did not exist... I checked and emailed and I had the right address - I guess that is where my 'beef' is with postal subs. At least with email I am in control.

Jessica said...

....until the email bounces back!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Jessica -

I think there is another point here. And that is, is the competition reading those entries off screen, and shortlisting without printing off?

I can't read and enjoy a complete short story on screen. I can't sink into it - I am far too aware of my surroundings, and the story loses out if I try.

Just finished judging the large parcel of stories sent to me by The New Writer - No way would I be able to concentrate fully on over 20 short stories on the screen. let alone hundreds!

maybe thats my age? maybe younger bods can happily sink into work that is pages and pages long on screen. I cant, so don't.

Steph said...

I don't think it is a generational thing Venessa. I am 30 and I find that reading on screen isn't that appealing. Having said that, I don't want to give the impression simply to think in terms of what I like or don't like. When I started editing years back, I remember that the publisher I was working for sent me the first manuscript and told me in no uncertain terms not to try and edit on screen as it is impossible.

I later learnt that the computer screen produces flickers that send a certain message to the brain, the message that we have actually blinked, even though we have not. Notice how glassy-eyed people look when in front of screens; they don't blink as often. The result is that the accuracy suffers. Very often people gasp at their mistakes on paper and that's because they didn't see them on screen. It's not down to being blind nor stupid nor favouring one method over the other. I have yet to hear one agent (one agent who receives 300 manuscripts a week I mean) say that they read (not skim-read) on screen. Even when they accept e-submissions they print them out.