Herein is a tale of two publishers, and how they rejected submissions of mine. I want to stress right here, up front, that I am well pleased with both publishers (other than them rejecting my work, that is! 🙂 )
The first one is Kazka Press, http://www.kazkapress.net/
The second one is The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, http://www.grumpsjournal.com/ I’ll call it the JUE in here.
Both are highly recommended. They sponsor themed contests, and will pay for works they take. So, here we go…
I submitted to Kazka, and received a form rejection. But the email that had this gem in it:
As we’re a small press, we’d be willing to provide a little feedback regarding why we didn’t choose your piece for this month’s contest, if you’d like to request that free service. We’re writers too, and we know the sting of a form rejection. If you want this type of feedback, please ask.
Really? Wow! Snap – I’ll all over this! So I sent off for the free service…and, well, got this:
Due to a negative experience when offering promised feedback on rejected stories for our inaugural flash fiction contest, we won’t be offering this service any longer. We apologize for making you wait so long for nothing, but we do hope you’ll submit to us in the future.
What? Oh, damn! Some ego-filled <badword> poisoned the well. Here I am, someone willing to learn the craft, and some stuck-up, <really badword>, <lots of badwords> got there before me and blew up the editor. Then the idea occurred to me – what if I asked nicely?
It appears that the ‘negative experience’ is a universal one amongst editors.
I’ve been trying master the flash fiction form, and I know that feedback from you would have been very valuable. […] Should you relent and decide to provide feedback to select submitters, I would really appreciate being on the list. If you are firm in your resolve not to do so, I completely understand.
Guess what? The editor relented, and gave me some valuable feedback!
Here’s another such tale, of the JUE. I submitted a story to JUE, and got a form rejection back in three days. Wow, I must have really stunk up the joint! There’s no hint that they offer feedback or not. Still, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so I email back and politely ask for the areas where I came up short. And guess what? They responded! The editor’s feedback evinced a thorough grounding in what makes a story work, and what doesn’t. I got SIX specific areas where improvement could be made. That’s fantastic, and frankly, unheard of. Here’s how the editor ended the email:
I hope my comments are somewhat helpful. Good luck with the story. I’m certain it will find a good home somewhere. I look forward to seeing another submission from you soon.
Now, this might be boilerplate, but I don’t think so. The moral of this entirely too long post? A little understanding of the editor’s position, combined with a respectful request for feedback, can gain you valuable insight into your works and why they aren’t getting accepted. Always thank them for the feedback. Even if you disagree 100% with what they say, be polite. It works wonders.