Friday, 25 October 2013

Dear Editors

This is an open letter to all staff at the women's magazines dealing with submissions.

I've heard of a few cases recently where story submissions sent by post have been rejected and returned, and the writer has ended up having to pay excess postage.

This has happened for two different reasons:

  • Lots of stories have been stuffed into a single SAE, taking the weight over the limit.


  • An A5 SAE supplied by the writer has been taped onto an A4 envelope. The stamp supplied by the writer was only sufficient to cover small letter costs.


As you can imagine, it's very frustrating for a writer (or anyone!) to get one of those notes from the postman, saying they need to pay £1.50 or so to retrieve the letter. (You have to pay the excess postage plus a £1 admin fee.) The recipient has no idea what the letter will be until they pay the excess and collect the letter or have it redelivered.

So, please, if responding by email is not possible, please put a single rejection in the supplied envelope. If the writer has sent an A5 envelope, simply fold the submission. It will easily fit with one fold.

An alternative is for writers to stop supplying SAEs, and instead supply a stamped, addressed postcard marked with the story title and the word Rejection. The magazine staff could then simply post this and bin the story itself - if that would be acceptable to all?

Obviously none of this applies to those magazines who now use email only for submissions and responses, but there are still a few who prefer postal submissions (Take A Break, Woman's Weekly in particular). That's ok, we're happy to send by post, but we'd really prefer not to have to pay to get rejections!



14 comments:

Linda said...

Thanks for this post, Womagwriter.

Captain Black said...

Forgive me if I've misunderstood things, but…

Looking at the business perspective and leaving aside the emotional aspects of submissions and rejections, it appears to be the submitters who are at fault here. It's they who are supplying inadequate materials and/or funding for the postage (and I have to ask why they're doing this), so why should the womag staff be expected to adjust their procedures to accommodate these errors? If I were them, I'd be tempted to whack on a charge too.

womagwriter said...

You have misunderstood, Captain Black.
The writers have provided an adequate SAE with the right postage for returning 1 story. But the mag staff have either put many rejections in the same envelope so it goes over the weight limit, or taped the A5 envelope onto an A4, which needs more postage.
We're not asking the mag staff to change procedures, just asking them to return each story in the rejection envelope provided.

Captain Black said...

Thanks for the clarification and apologies for my misinterpretation. I guess what everyone wants is for both parties to consistently behave in a fair and professional manner.

Kate said...

I'm not sure why anyone would want back the original anyway?

The thing is, when I started, we were virtually scrawling out stories with quill pens on parchment and so we needed the original back, to iron it out by the flickering light of a fire in order to resub it somewhere else.

But surely now, even if you weren't going to rewrite anyway before resubbing, you would just print off another shiny clean copy?
So why have the rejected story sent back at all?

Much easier to put in, as you say, an SAE postcard with basic details and perhaps a space for a reason or comment; and to write in your submission letter - 'please don't bother to return hard copy, just recycle and let me know by email or by attached SAE'.

Saves both postage and that dreary moment of seeing a battered A4 envelope with your own handwriting on it ...

womagwriter said...

Kate, I think the only reason to get the story returned is so you know which story has been rejected. Some mags (eg Take A Break) send a standard rejection letter which doesn't name the story being rejected. So yes, the postcard idea would work and is probably less work for the magazine staff too (no envelope stuffing to do!)

Tina K. Burton said...

If only those who still want posted copies would get with the 21st century and accept email submissions, this problem wouldn't occur!

And yes, why don't they just bin the ms and return a small rejection slip.

Sharon at A Quick Read said...

Hi everyone,
Last December,this happened to me. I trailed to my sorting post office to pick up what I thought was a Christmas parcel. It wasn't - it was a postcard from YOURS magazine telling me my story had been rejected. I had to pay over the odds to receive this, because YOURS hadn't put enough postage on the postcard. I sent my story to them via email, so why couldn't they reply to me via email?
I agree - this system of snail mail submissions and rejections needs to change.

Sue Blackburn said...

Yep this happened to me two or three times. I put in a small SAE and politely requested if my story was rejected to use this envelope for the rejection and to please throw the MS. The MS was returned in the small envelope and I had to pay for the privilege of being told I had a rejection. I didn't use this method for long :o(

Geraldine Ryan said...

I think editors need to see the printed page. Plus, with a printed copy a story can be passed around among second readers more conveniently. It would incur a huge cost over a year to print out every story that's sent them - they get hundreds per week - so I don't think it's unreasonable of mags to demand paper copies. I've had stories back with comments scribbled on them by different people, so I do see that. I do, however, agree that we really don't want our rejected stories back and would be quite happy to enclose a stamped self-addressed postcard with the title of the story and 'No thanks' written on it.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem stems from the current system, in that the story becomes separated from the envelope before doing the rounds of fiction editor/second readers. And just imagine how many mss and envelopes are swilling around at any one time, which then have to be married up weeks later. I can only imagine they don't operate a reject-by-email system because they might then become inundated with some submitters wanting to 'discuss' the rejection. But I agree, when the excess postage things happens it can feel like insult added to injury - though on the positive side, you might overhear something juicy in the sorting office queue and end up with a great story out of it!

Kath said...

People's Friend have a good system - you have to send the story by post because they prefer to have the printed version but they will reject by email if requested. (It would never have occurred to me that anyone would be silly or unprofessional enough to query a rejection, whether by phone, email or letter - I expect they'd get pretty short shrift.) I always send an A5 SAE with ordinary first class post and have never encountered any problems - so far.

Shirley Blair, People's Friend said...

Got it, ladies and gents. I do hope this wasn't us, but I'll spread the word around our fiction and admin teams.

womagwriter said...

Thanks Shirley. No, it wasn't you, or any of your DC Thomson stablemates, but thanks for noting it.