Tuesday, September 8, 2009

No Reply Quandary

During my quest to become a published poet, I sent examples of my work to a plethora of venues, genre and mainstream (I did write a little mainstream). One thing I noted as my list of submissions and responses grew is that some editors never responded to my submissions at all. Such works sat in submission limbo forever, at least as perceived on my end of things.

Now, I know some markets don't reply to rejections, and say as much in their guidelines. However, others say no such thing, and yet still apparently practice the "no reply" policy. And querying might not do any good. Some of those same markets that refuse to reply to rejections also refuse to reply to queries about those rejected works. I know; I've sent out several queries that never received replies. Which leads me to the "no reply quandary" - when do you actually know if a lack of a reply is a rejection?

Many markets dislike simultaneous submissions. And I've been trying to avoid simultaneous submissions as much as possible. I've tried to play by the rules, but sometimes the rules don't make a heck of a lot of sense. Sending to markets that don't respond to rejections, and don't say as much in their guidelines, is almost like banishing your work to an endless void, from which it never returns. I know some may say that the publishing world is unfair, but that's beyond unfair, that's absurd (especially in the these days of e-mail).

How do you judge if a lack of response from a market is truly a rejection, or if that market just takes a remarkably long time to respond? How long do you give a particular venue until you give up on it and send the piece elsewhere (and run the risk of simultaneous submissions)? How many withdrawal letters can one poet send out before that poet gets a reputation as being too impatient? When do you assume a lack of reply is actually a rejection? I know patience is a virtue in the publication business, but no human being has infinite patience. And I'm not always known as a patient man; an irony for someone even just wandering the verge of the publication field.

I have a few poems submitted back in April and May of 2007 that never received replies one way or the other. I think it's safe to assume that the submitted works were rejected, and in these cases the editors just didn't bother to say "thanks, but no thanks". However, I'm currently awaiting word back on a submission of multiple poems sent to a certain market in late May of this year. The market claimed in their guidelines that they responded in 2-4 weeks, but then stated in July that they were behind due to unforeseen issues. In mid August I sent a query asking about the status of my submissions. I'm still awaiting reply to my query. I know I should wait a bit longer, give them more time, but how much time do I give them? I'm thinking of waiting another 4-6 weeks, and then sending them a letter withdrawing my works so I can send them elsewhere. Is that reasonable, or not?

I've also withdrawn works from markets that appeared dead or dying, ones that seemed to take so long to respond that it looked like they never would, only to have the markets revive and finally reply to my submissions or queries. So you can't always assume a "no reply" is indeed an outright rejection, which in my eyes muddies the waters even more. As a potential contributor relying only on the information about response times provided in a market's guidelines or on an editor's blog (and perhaps what is gleaned off of Duotrope's as well), I don't always know if a reply is just slow in coming, or if it isn't coming at all.

So, for all my writer and poet colleagues out there, what prophetic spell or scrying ball do you use to figure it all out? And where can I get me some of the same magic?

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