16 February, 2009

The Wonderful World of ePublishing...

Publishing articles, short stories, poems and memoirs is easier today than than anyone would have ever dreamed even just twenty-years ago. The simplicity of epublishing has opened up the writing world to anyone and everyone who has ever had an idea to share. Magazines and publishers that once only accepted submissions via snail mail have opened up their email boxes, making the submission task for writers just a little bit easier.

The fact that submitting your work is easier than ever is no cause for slacking off! Editors are definitely going to be pickier than ever when it comes to your queries, your cover letters and formatting, so you'll want to make sure everything is up to date and in tip top shape before you submit anything.

Now, before you start thinking I'm some kind of expert on epublishing about to spin you a fascinating and useful yarn on how to polish your esubmission, stop right there. I'm just a writer like you, fascinated by the ever-increasing opportunity to share my work on the world wide web. I've learned a few tricks along the way, as I'm sure you have to, but what are the editors learning?

Well, I just so happen to be the poetry and fiction editor for the online literary arts ezine eMuse, and I can tell you that it has been an eye opening experience over the last eighteen months. Not only is our small staff responsible for all of our own promotion on top of editorial duties, we also have to make sure that our contact information is always up to date, that our contributors are properly attributed and that we produce our issue on time, as promised every quarter.

Editing for eMuse, something I enjoy and look forward to every issue has been a major challenge because as I'm putting together the poetry and fiction resources for each and every issue, I'm reminded of my own experiences as a writer. Being a writer has pushed me to a point of professionalism as an editor that I hope I never fail at.

You see, in the last year, I've had two lousy experiences with online submissions that I would like to share with you. If you're an editor, I hope that it will inspire you to practice editorial professionalism to the best of your ability (and I am sure that you are already at your professional best as it is...) If you are a writer, I hope it will inspire you to step out and draw attention to this kind of unacceptable behavior as well.

Publishing is not a joke to writers. Whether we are publishing for no to low or even professional pay, getting our work out to the public is a top priority for us. Sure, we can all say that we write because we love to write, but in the end we all know the truth: we write because we want to share our thoughts and dreams with the world. When you as a publisher send an acceptance letter to a writer it is one of the most thrilling things in our world. We will dance around, parade, blow our horns and promote the hell out of your publication because we want the world to not only read our piece, but support the people who support us.

When you send an acceptance letter to a writer and then never follow through with the publication it is one of the most crushing experiences you can imagine. I recently had an experience like this with a "motherhood" magazine that accepted one of my memoirs about teaching my daughter the value of everyday magic. I originally submitted the memoir in February of 2008. I received a response in June apologizing for how long they were taking, but asking me to hang in there for a little while longer. Finally in September I received an acceptance letter, telling me they were going to print my story in their next issue. That issue was set to publish after the New Year. It is now mid-February and not only has the editor put off mailing me the proper permissions forms twice, the new issue has still not gone to print. I just checked their website again before starting this blog, and there is no information about an upcoming issue available at all.

How does this make me feel? Like strapping on my Christian Bale attitude and sending a letter to let them know I'm done with them professionally, that's how. It's not only completely irresponsible, it's downright rude.

You have a responsibility to your contributors and your readers to publish on time. Get the correct information from every contributor in a timely manner, or don't run a publication. If you can't act professionally, no matter how busy your personal life is or whatever other excuses prohibit you from being professional, don't run a publication.

Now my second pet-peeve is outdated contribution information. This is the information age, people. If you're accepting submissions via email, promoted through your website, make sure your guidelines, email address and contact information are all 100% up to date, 100% of the time. My second story today is about a submission I sent out back in November. There was a deadline, an estimated time of contact regarding acceptance of rejection. I waited and when I finally sent an inquiry to find out why I never heard from them, the email bounced back to me. So I contacted the editor via another email address on the site only to find out that email is now defunct, and she gave me a completely different email not even listed on their site, in their magazine or anywhere else. How disappointing is that, and how many other possible contributors had their submissions lost by the wayside? The funny part is that the editor (who is really one of the nicest people alive,) told me they were lacking enough submissions to go through with the theme of that particular edition... well, no wonder.

It's hard enough to 1. work up the courage to send our work out under circumstances of rejection, 2. make sure every submission is perfect according to each individual editors preferences and 3. to wait for months and months on end to hear a response about the status of our work. When you add unprofessionalism to the list, it's a crying shame. The standards writers are expected to live up to are exceptionally high, and that is as it should be, but editors and publishers need to be held accountable to the same standards. Keep your word, make the process of submitting as easy as possible, and for blog's sake, publish when you say you're going to.

We all understand that things happen. People make mistakes, disasters pop up, but lack of communication is simply no excuse for unprofessional editing and publishing. The wonderful world of epublishing is supposed to have made things easier and more accessible to writers, publishers, editors and readers. Let's do everything in our power as a unit to keep it this way.

I'll step off my soapbox now, and get back to editing my novel. In the meantime, may the writers keep writing, the editors keep editing, and may all of us enjoy the successes we believe we so rightly deserve.


Nicole Ireland said...

Aw, Jenny. I'm sorry that you've had the run around twice. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior and I think it exhibits a lack of professionalism on the publisher's part.

You are right. IT does take a lot to submit your work. Some writers would have given up after having your experiences. The important thing for everyone to remember is to not give up. Things like this do happen, as cruddy as it is. You have to remain focused on your ultimate goal. It will get frustrating, but if you want you dream to come into fruitation, you have to stay focused.

Rachel Cotterill said...

Well said :)

Sheri said...

That really sucks that those people treated you (and many others too I'm sure) in such an unprofessional way. :(

I bookmarked the eMuse website and will check it out later today most likely. :)

Jacquéline Roth said...

Being part of editing and puting together eMuse has definitely been a learning experience. It's taught me a great deal about working under deadlines, keeping the work loads at limits that we can actually handle, dealing with other writers, etc. It's been interesting.

Epublishing is something we all need to think about as writers. Newspapers and many print magazines are realizing it's almost impossible to compete with the internet. The closing of Realms of Fantasy is only one example. Print books will always exist. But epublishing is ecofriendly, less expensive and allows for faster contract to release time frames.