August has arrived. For those unfamiliar with the world of poetry publishing, most of the journals and publishers work on an academic calendar. Things move slowly, slowly during the summer months, if they move at all. Many lit mags and book contests are closed to submissions during June and July.
Yesterday, a handful of lit mags opened their reading periods. Come September, the floodgates will be loosed. It's time to warm up the printer and buy the paper.
However, soon, the paper and printer will go the way of all things 20th century. A good portion of the journals are now accepting submissions via electronic means (either email or an online submission manager). A poet-friend and I had lunch this week and exchanged recent experiences with online submissions. There are many pros and a few cons, it seems. The pros have to do with saving money on postage not to mention paper and ink, receiving confirmation on receipt, ease of withdrawing a piece if necessary, and saving time in general. Our one beef with the electronic submission format has to do with the responses we receive. Both of us have received snail mail rejections with notes of encouragement from mags that are now using electronic systems. We've both gotten vague replies via email from the same mags that encouraged us in the past. It is near impossible to tell if the rejection is the standard one or if there is a personal message within.
Case in point. I recently received this email from a journal I absolutely love and admire and have been submitting to for years. In the past two years, I've felt like I was gaining ground because in snail mail rejections, I've gotten personal notes of encouragement. Here's the email:
"Thank you for giving us the chance to consider your work for publication in . Though it does not fit our current needs, we appreciate your interest in our magazine and your commitment to quality writing. I really enjoyed reading your poems. Keep up the great work."
Those first two lines seem to be the standard rejection, but the next sentence brings in the "I." Is that the personal message? It seems unlikely that editors have the power to edit within the system, but I'm still curious. Does the electronic system prevent editors from sending personal notes?
Let me be clear. I'm not criticizing this journal, or any of the others using electronic submissions. By and large, I prefer to submit electronically. I'm just throwing the uncertainties out there. Anyone who tries to get their work out there knows that the process, aside from the very clear guidelines provided by most journals, is muzzy indeed.
I've got my list of 20 mags with open reading periods, I've got my batch of poems all polished and shiny, and tomorrow I'll begin the process of sending my poems out there, if I find the courage to begin.