Sunday, November 13, 2011

Submishmash seems to be leading the submission race

In an earlier post, I wrote about the various ways that writers and poets can submit their work to editors and publishers -- via email, an online portal, or snail mail -- and it remains true, but even though it's only been a few months since that post the submission landscape has changed appreciably. I completed a novel in June, after five years of working on it, and I began writing a series of short stories. As such, I've been quite active in the last few months in terms of contacting publishers (regarding the novel) and editors (regarding the stories). Based on my experience, it seems that more and more people are utilizing the submission service known as Submishmash. There are others, including Tell It Slant, but far and away Submishmash is leading the pack.

In fact, Submishmash now calls itself the number-one submission management tool, used by over 2,000 publishers and universities, according to its website. It's hardly scientific, but since the first part of July, I've contacted 84 editors, including publishers about my novel, and 25 (or nearly 30 percent) have used Submishmash. Two have used Tell It Slant (about 2 percent), and seventeen have used some other online portal system (just over 20 percent). Of course, email continues to be an option, but my sense is that the majority of editors/publishers who were already attracted to electronic submissions have moved to a service like Submishmash, if not Submishmash itself. Of that 84, only seven were email contacts, or about 8 percent. I mentioned in my post regarding writers' guidelines that perhaps email submissions required the most care in that journals/publishing houses tended to have very specific -- and idiosyncratic -- instructions about how to prepare your submission. I imagine that those e-submission enthusiasts prefer the simplicity a service like Submishmash offers.

A few journals still prefer snail-mail submissions, perhaps believing that it keeps the number of submissions manageable. And along with the rise in submission service use, like Tell It Slant and Submishmash, there's been a rise, from my perspective, in journals that require a nominal reading fee (usually $2 or $3). This may be an opportune time for me to acknowledge that the unscientific statistics that I used in the previous paragraph were undoubtedly skewed by the fact that I'm increasingly attracted to journals who use online submission managers. I cannot put a number to it, but I know in my perusals for outlets for my new novel and newly written stories that I passed up a few possible contacts because they were requiring snail-mail or email submissions, and at that moment I didn't have the patience or ambition to pursue them. By the same token, I passed up a handful that required a reading fee. Now, however, I've become comfortable using PayPal to dole out the two or three bucks, so I'm more inclined today than I was even a couple of months ago to pay the reading fee.

There is some debate in publishing circles about the ethics of charging a reading fee, and tied into that debate is whether or not a reading fee suppresses the number (and hence overall quality) of submissions. I'm sure that some editors/publishers, especially those over the age of, say, 25, are disinclined toward the fee because in the "old days" only disreputable journals charged a reading fee. Professional and serious outlets would never lower themselves to charge a fee -- which no doubt led to the creation of so many writing contests, as it was seen as more noble to charge $15 to enter a contest (which in various ways was returned to the winners and entrants) than to charge everyone a couple of dollars, almost none of which would be returned to the writers and poets, in terms of a subscription or sample copy, etc.

The journal I read for, Quiddity, has recently switched to using Submishmash (from snail mail); and I find it quite handy. I receive an email from one of the editors letting me know there are submissions for me to read. My account is the same for both my Quiddity reading and for my own submissions to journals/publishers which use Submishmash. As a  reader, I simply log in, click QUIDDITY, then click on a story (I'm only reading prose), and it pops up on the screen. I generally increase its magnification a couple of times to make it exceptionally easy to read, and when I've reached a decision I either click the thumb-up or thumb-down icon (there's a maybe option, but as a group we decided even before Submishmash that maybes are virtually useless -- it's yes or no, or get off the pot).

There's also an option of adding a comment to the submission, which I don't bother with either. If I read something wonderful and I fear that Quiddity may lose it if we don't act promptly, I'll email or text the appropriate editor and alert her or him that we have a live one we may want to act on as soon as possible.

Just a couple of side notes regarding using Submishmash: I was having trouble at first receiving email notifications from the editors that I had something to read, so I contacted Submishmash support and received a response literally within the hour (it turned out to be a minor technical glitch that was immediately cleared up) -- and this was on a Saturday morning. Even though using Submishmash as a reader is handy, I do sort of miss having to haunt the campus, where I only teach part-time, to pick up fresh or drop off read submissions, and likely running into one of the editors or interns in the Q office. And in addition to the human contact, I miss the feel of the submissions, the bulk and smell of them, and the knowledge that the actual writer who composed the piece physically handled the material and signed the cover letter. I liked looking at the signature to see what it may imply about the author.

Would I want to go back to snail mail? Probably not, but one does lose something of the experience by going to electronic submissions. And based on the trend I'm seeing as a writer, it's full steam ahead for e-submissions, with Submishmash in particular leading the field.
Men of Winter

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