Friday, April 11, 2008

A New Record for Smallest Rejection Slip!

At least it's semi-timely. I submitted a story to this particular magazine at the end of December and it's now early April, so it only took about three and a half months to send me this rejection. And rejection is fine; I can live with it. But what I cannot tolerate and will not forget is the disrespect this magazine shows by rejecting a story with a form that measures only about 4 inches square. I've seen postage stamps bigger than this rejection slip. And they have the nerve to include the following: "We regret the form letter; we receive too many manuscripts to make private responses to each submission." Letter? These people have a very odd notion of that concept.

Do you think, by sending this absurd scrap of paper, the size of a post-it note, that they're saying, "Look, please don't send us another submission because we're not sure we could fit all these rejection words on an even smaller form." I believe I'll save them the trouble and scratch this magazine off my list.

17 comments:

Jade Park said...

Yah, the teeny tiny rejection slips kind of add insult to injury. When my husband asked me why the rejection slips were so TINY I said I had no idea why. He added, "Is it to save paper? Are they that hard up on money?"

Maybe.

Clifford Garstang said...

Unless there is hidden meaning behind the tiny rejection slips (as I believe there must be), the only justification is money. On a regulare sheet of paper they could fit about 20 notes of the size they sent me. I believe the ideal size (quality of paper is another matter) is 3 per page (no folding required to fit into the SASE), which would take 7 pieces of paper to produce the same number of rejection slips. If they have these things run off at Kinkos (doubtful), that means the tiny rejection slip costs about less than half a cent; the "large" slip almost 3 cents.

The small slip then is a savings of 2.5 cents at most. Assuming they are sending out 100 rejections a week all year long, that means that the savings is $130 for the year. I know that magazines are hard up, but is $130 worth it to antagonize writers (who are, after all, potential subscribers)?

Jase said...

Did the magazine say how long it would take to respond to the submission? If it said in the guidelines you'd hear in six weeks, then okay, be ticked. If they said four to six months, you can't complain about that. And if they didn't give a timeframe, you could have checked one of the websites that log response times to see what to expect.

As for the form letter, assuming it wasn't a one-word 'No.', why would you care if they used a small piece of paper? If it's a form letter, only a sentence or two anyway, why waste a full sheet of paper? Were the words disrespectful? Was the square torn out of a legal pad or something?

Fer crissakes, man, all it means is that an overworked intern who has the relatively thankless job of slogging through the slushpile thought it would be easier to cut one sheet of paper than fold six pieces. If you're serious about trying to get published, being pissy about what format a form rejection comes in strikes me as... Unprofessional. Nay, misguided.

Clifford Garstang said...

Jase,
Maybe you're one of those overworked interns? An editor perhaps who doesn't take the time to read a post (or a submission)? I did not complain about the timing of the rejection. It was under 4 months. Not bad compared to some.
As for the form, I also didn't say a full page is needed. In fact, it takes far more work for this overworked intern to cut a single page into 20 little squares than it would to cut that page twice to make three strips that fit into SASEs without folding. Which you'd understand if you'd read what I wrote.
The magazine in question depends on the slush and also solicits subscriptions from submitters. How they choose to communicate with their submitters is a reflection of the level of regard they have for contributors, and the crappy little rejection speaks volumes. They don't respect me; I don't respect them. If you were serious about writing, you'd demand the same respect.

jase said...

Perhaps, but does it take them six and two thirds times as long to cut it up? Probably not - they still end up saving time.

As for the timing, sarcasm or the lack thereof is a bit hard to detect when the rest of the post is how you "cannot tolerate and will not forget" such a horrid slight... followed by half-sarcastic sneering snideness about how they're trying to subliminally tell everyone to bugger off?

Almost all magazines depend on slushpile submissions, and they get them in such huge quantities that they can't really pay that much individual attention. A form letter, even a small scrap, isn't a sign of disrespect. That they bothered to have something set up to reply instead of an "if you haven't heard from us by then, you won't" is a sign of respect to begin with.

And, yeah... If I were serious about writing ^and an arrogant prick^ I would ^demand^ respect. Respect is earned. If you'd been published there before (wasn't mentioned), if you were a household name, if the story was just almost there until Stephen King thought they might like one of his for the cover and it got bumped, then yeah, you could talk about the respect you demand they show you. But as a raw slushpile suggestion, complaining that the response they sent was too small, not short, not terse, not rude in and of itself, but too tiny a piece of paper?

And to then boycott the magazine for this outrageous affront? That's some kind of ridiculous.

Being serious about writing doesn't mean that you demand respect. It means that you're serious about writing. If you practice enough, if you're good enough, then maybe eventually you can command respect. Until then you have to earn it, and respecting the people who make it possible for people nowadays to ^be^ truly serious about their writing is a good first step; necessary but not sufficient.

Clifford Garstang said...

Jase,
I believe you are wrong, on several counts. And you don't need to lecture me about magazines, their slushpiles, or relationships with their contributors. I'm in the game. I've worked for a very good magazine. I get it.

There are plenty of magazines with tiny budgets who do a far better job of treating contributors like human beings. They understand that the people who submit stories are also subscribers and providers of primarily free content for their magazine. The only chance they have to communicate with the writers, often, is that form rejection. The particular form that the magazine in question uses is unprofessional. And for a magazine run by graduate students it is no surprise, but it is disappointing.

If you happen to be one of those graduate students working on a magazine, you need to get over your irrational feeling of self-importance.

Christy said...

I too have received a teeny tiny rejection slip, and I too was offended. It made me feel insignificant, unworthy. A third of a sheet of paper is fine - reasonable in fact - but to go to the trouble to cut it to the size of a fortune in a cookie is indeed too much. I have taken this publication off of my list, and will not be subscribing to the magazine. I hope the money they saved was worth it.

Clifford Garstang said...

Christy,
I think your position is completely rational. And, by the way, the last time I complained here about a tiny rejection slip (one that was also badly cut out), the editor actually recognized his magazine's work and contacted me. He asked for suggestions on how they could improve the form and I told him (heavier stock, a third of a page, with room for comments if they choose to make any), and that's exactly the form they designed. Am I now a fan of that magazine? You bet (even though they still haven't published me).

Richmond said...

I'm with you, Cliff -- that's just lame. If I were you, I'd mail them a ream of printer paper with a snarky note.

Waldo Jaquith said...

D'oh. I was signed into Google under my Richmond Sunlight account. Sorry about that.

Clifford Garstang said...

I wondered who Richmond was . . .

But, um, I think I'll keep the paper. Thanks for the suggestion, though, Waldo. I imagine magazines get enough snarky notes, eh?

cvillewords.com said...

"I am Richmond, hear me roar!" Heh.

I get six-page letters from magazines begging me to renew my subscription. So if you look at it from that direction, a third of a page is just minimum human decency.

jase said...

So, um, how exactly is a small piece of paper 'unprofessional'? How does sending one treat someone less like a human being? I mean, it's a form letter to begin with. If they had comments to write, they would have written them - if the paper were too small, they could ^then^ have gotten a bigger piece.

Honestly, if the physical dimensions of a form letter make you feel like you're being mistreated, or insignificant, or offended, then it's probable that you're a tad... high-strung? Overly sensitive?

Again, it's a form letter. Not a scribbled 'No.', not a personal insult, not a total indictment of your worth or lack thereof as a human being. Just a physical talisman of 'No thanks.'

Clifford Garstang said...

Jase,
You seem to have an odd notion of what's appropriate and what isn't. It's all right for you to come into "my house" and insult me, but it's not okay for me to suggest that a literary magazine needs to learn some more professional manners?

Maybe this is a generational thing, but I expect my relationship with the magazines I submit to to be business-like, courteous and professional. (And I've been around long enough to know what those terms mean.) That's why I make the manuscript look great when I send it in. No tiny scraps of paper, no ragged edges, no coffee cup stains, no bad photocopies. It would probably still be legible with all those things, but the magazine wouldn't read it and I wouldn't blame them. They expect professional work from contributors; I expect professional work from them.

If you're happy to be treated like crap, you're welcome to accept whatever the magazines dump on you. Good luck with that.

jase said...

"Your house?" Well, maybe more like your customary corner of the public park in the middle of New York City. Insult you? No. Your actions? Yeah. You could be a perfectly agreeable person, but stuff like this comes off as... suggesting otherwise.

The generational thing that comes more to mind, reading your thoughts on this rejection slip, is the sense of entitlement that the Millenials are generally maligned (not without some validity) as holding to. Was the rejection letter raggedy? Stained? Fuzzily photocopied?

And the industry standard for manuscripts is what it is because that makes it easier to read and handle. To communicate the story. A three thousand word short story just doesn't work on tiny scraps of paper. A 'No thanks', on the other hand, is communicated much better on a tiny piece of paper than the same size sheets as the submission, assuming there isn't a paragraph of comments.

Professional submissions are in standard manuscript format, SASE, contact information, maybe cover letter, etc. A professional response is timely and polite. Expecting it to conform to your own standards when those standards go above and beyond what is reasonably needed to communicate their response back isn't professional, it's quite self-centered.

'Happy to be treated like crap'? Please. There's a difference between self-respect and arrogance. Giving you a form letter cut from a sheet isn't a magazine dumping on you, it's a magazine treating you like any one of a hundred or more others who also sent in submissions. Grow up.

Clifford Garstang said...

As I said, good luck. With that attitude, you'll need it.

Jennifer said...

I have submitted stories with postcards instead of SASEs. Sometimes the form letter would be cut and awkwardly pasted on the card, but more often, my little scheme yielded a small, handwritten note.