I’m a real editor now!

Yesterday, I said on Twitter that I felt like a real editor when I had to send out my first refusal notice for someone who had failed to follow submission guidelines in a way that is automatically disqualifying: they sent a standard manuscript, with their contact information and all. Since our editorial process is built around reading pieces anonymously, this is the one point on which we’ve accorded ourselves no wiggle room. It might be that we wind up using the other guidelines to trim the slush pile, or at least do some preliminary sorting and weighting, but that’s the one that’s just automatic.

Today, I had an experience that really hammers home the fact that I’m editing a magazine of fiction and poetry. I received the following email:

Dear Editor: I’m always glad to see new publishers on the scene, but you do have more requirements for publishing a writer’s work than I have ever seen.The worst requirement that is going to keep submissions out of your mail box, is your refusing to accept simultations. However, I do wish you goodluck.
[name redacted]

Well! I’ve heard about this, but I never believed it would happen to me. I was over the moon! This may not be the wisest move, but I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. [redacted]
First, let me heartily thank you for sending this email. As a writer and poet, I have many friends who have been editors and otherwise worked in publishing, and they have all told me stories about receiving messages like this when they were first hired or set up shop: the earnest and forthright man who wishes to tell them what it is that is wrong with their submission guidelines and what they may do to correct them.
Now that I have received one of my own, I feel like I am truly part of an illustrious circle.
I couldn’t agree with you more that not accepting simultaneous submissions will keep submissions out of our inbox. In particular, it will keep those submissions out of our inbox that are under consideration elsewhere, thus preventing awkward situations where a story or poem we would like to accept has already been accepted elsewhere. We are admittedly new to this side of the table, but my suspicion is that it will be markedly easier to assemble a magazine when the submitted pieces are sitting still as we try to arrange them. The advantage has always been clear to me, which is why I’ve never balked at submitting to a magazine that does accept simultaneous submissions.
Actually, come to think of it, I can’t recall the last time I read a set of submission guidelines that allowed for simultaneous submissions, without at least some healthy caveats. I know I’ve seen at least one, but it’s very much the exception and not the rule in my experience. I think considering simultaneous submissions is really a luxury that only the bigger, better established venues can afford, as they have the staff, organizational infrastructure, and pool of contributors to handle the complications that arise as a result.
Our fledgling two person operation, on the other hand, does not. In fact, if the only practical difference was that disallowing simultaneous submissions was that it cut our slush pile down by some arbitrary amount, it would still be worth doing on that ground alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy that the response has been as strong as it has been. I’m just straining to imagine how we’d keep up if it were both markedly increased in volume and some of the pieces submitted for our consideration came with an invisible random time limit and the possibility of a silent bidding war.
As for our other requirements, they are hardly that numerous but rather are specific. We have a preferred format for reading, which is quite normal. We have a standardized subject line for submissions, which is far from unusual and which aids in our automation and sorting. We require that all personal identifying information be stripped from submitted manuscripts so that we may read them without bias. Markets are split on this, but I think you’ll find most of them either require the author’s contact information be present or require that it does not; there are few magazines that take a laissez-faire approach to where the author’s name appears. We have a generous cap on the number of pieces that may be submitted by a single author at a given time.
And that about does it for requirements. Nothing unique, nothing even that unusual, nothing overly onerous or complicated.
Perhaps it strikes you as more than it is because we spell it out in paragraph form rather than bullet-pointing? This is a personal preference from my own time submitting. I prefer when publishers are unambiguous about what it is they expect of me rather than waving a hand vaguely in the direction of their inbox and hoping I can divine their preferences. It might be that you’ve never had the experience of stopping and asking yourself, “Is this really what the other person wants from me? Am I doing this right?”, but I prefer to go the extra mile to reassure those who do worry about such things.
Or perhaps when you speak of the number of requirements, you’re talking about the section entitled “Dos, Don’ts, and Dislikes” at the bottom? These are not requirements, per se, but rather are there to alleviate one of the unfortunate side effects of soliciting submissions for a first issue. If we were an established venue,then you or any other author or poet who happened by could peruse our back issues to see what sort of things we’re wont to publish, get a general feel for the magazine, and see how your work might or might not fit into it. I know that when I submit my poetry, I take care to get to know the market in which I’m trying to sell it.
It might be that the idea of finding the right home for your work is an alien idea to you. It might be that you are more accustomed to shotgunning your pieces across the wide world and its web, which would explain your preference for markets that accept “simultations”, as you would term them. To which I say: it is certainly an approach to things, but it is not my approach as a writer, nor an approach that is likely to receive a warm reception at any venue I edit.
Spam marketing may move penis pills, Mr. [redacted], but it does not move me.
That said, I wish you good luck as well in your endeavors. If you do chance to have any pieces you would care to submit, please do make sure you follow our relatively few, simple guidelines for formatting, as they help ensure that we can read your work without respect to your identity as a person and thus without any bias based on prior relationship, reputation, or email interactions.
Kindest possible regards,
Alexandra Erin
Head Editor
Ligature Works

Now, I’ve alluded to the size of our slush pile, both in this blog post proper and in the email response. If you’ve been thinking of submitting, please don’t let that stop you! Our guidelines, few as they are, can be found in detail at http://www.ligatureworks.com/submissions. We will tell you exactly what we’re looking for (insofar as that can be conveyed with regards to artistic works), exactly how to format it to be read, and exactly how to send it in. Easy-peasy!