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 Dealing with Problem Editors By Editors of Writer's Market

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Lora
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PostSubject: Dealing with Problem Editors By Editors of Writer's Market   Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:41 pm

Dealing with Problem Editors
By Editors of Writer's Market

There are problem editors out there, and we’ve all encountered them at one time or another. Some rip people off, prey on poets’ desires to be published, or treat poets and their work with flagrant disregard. Fortunately, such editors are very much in the minority.

Now and then you may discover the disorganized editor or the overwhelmed editor; these two cause heartache (and heartburn) by closing up shop without returning manuscripts, or failing to honor paid requests for subscriptions and sample copies. More often than not, their transgressions are rooted in chaos and irresponsibility, not malicious intent. Frustrating as such editors are, they’re not out to get you.

There are many instances, too, where larger circumstances are beyond an editor’s control.

For example, a college-oriented journal may be student-staffed, with editors changing each academic year. Funds for the journal may be cut unexpectedly by administration belt tightening, or a grant could be cancelled. The editorial office may be moved to another part of the university. An exam schedule could impact a publishing schedule. All of these things cause problems and delays.

Then again, a literary journal may be a one-person, home-based operation. The editor may get sick or have an illness in the family. Her regular job may suddenly demand lots of overtime. There may be divorce or death with which the editor has to cope. A computer could crash. Or the editor may need to scramble for money before the magazine can go to the printer. Emergencies happen, and they take their toll on deadlines. The last thing the editor wants is to inconvenience poets and readers, but sometimes life gets in the way. Usually, difficulties with these kinds of “problem” editors can be resolved satisfactorily through communication and patience. There are always exceptions, though. Here are a few typical situations with problem editors and how to handle them:

An editor is rude. If it’s a matter of bad attitude, take it with a grain of salt. Maybe he’s having a rotten day. If there’s abusive language and excessive profanity involved, let us know about it. (See the complaint procedure on page 55.)

An editor harshly criticizes your poem. If an editor takes time to comment on your poetry, even if the feedback seems overly critical, consider the suggestions with an open mind and try to find something valid and useful in them. If, after you’ve given the matter fair consideration, you think the editor was out of line, don’t rush to defend your poetry or wave your bruised ego in the editor’s face. Allow that the editor has a right to her opinion (which you’re not obligated to take as the final word on the quality of your work), forget about it and move on.

54 Dealing With Problem Editors

An editor is slow to respond to a submission. As explained above, there may be many reasons why an editor’s response takes longer than the time stated in the market listing or guidelines. Allow a few more weeks to pass beyond the deadline, then write a polite inquiry to the editor about the status of your manuscript. (Include a SASE if sending by regular mail.) Understand an editor may not be able to read your letter right away if deadlines are pressing or if he’s embroiled in a personal crisis. Try to be patient. If you haven’t received a reply to your inquiry after a month or so, however, it’s time for further action.

An editor won’t return your manuscript. Decide whether you want to invest any more time in this journal or publisher. If you conclude you’ve been patient long enough, write a firm but professional letter to the editor withdrawing your manuscript from consideration. Request that the manuscript be returned; but know, too, a truly indifferent editor probably won’t bother to send it back or reply in any way. Keep a copy of your withdrawal letter for your files, make a new copy of your manuscript and look for a better market.

Also, contact Poet’s Market by letter or e-mail with details of your experience. We always look into problems with editors, although we don’t withdraw a listing on the basis of a single complaint unless we discover further evidence of consistent misbehavior. We do, however, keep complaints on file and watch for patterns of unacceptable behavior from any specific market.

An editor takes your money. If you sent a check for a subscription or sample copy and you haven’t received anything, review your bank statement to see if the check has been cashed. If it has, send the editor a query. Politely point out the editor has cashed your check, but you haven’t yet received the material you were expecting. Give the editor the benefit of the doubt: An upcoming issue of a magazine could be running late, your subscription could have been overlooked by mistake, or your copy could have been lost in transit or sent in error to the wrong address.

If your check has not been cashed, query the editor to see if your order was ever received. It may have been lost (in the mail or on the editor’s desk), the editor may be holding several checks to cash at one time, or the editor may be waiting to cash checks until a tardy issue is finally published.

If you get an unsatisfactory response from the editor (or no response at all), wait a few weeks and try again. If the matter still isn’t resolved, let us know about it. We’re especially interested in publishers who take money from poets but don’t deliver the goods. Be sure to send us all the details of the transaction, plus copies of any correspondence (yours and the editor’s). We can’t pursue your situation in any legal way or act as mediator, but we can ban an unscrupulous publisher from Poet’s Market and keep the information as a resource in case we get later complaints.

Should you continue trying to get your money back from such editors? That’s your decision. If your loss is under $10 (say, for a subscription or sample copy), it might cost you less in the long run to let the matter go. And the fee for a “stop payment” order on a check can be hefty—possibly more than the amount you sent the editor in the first place.

Yes, it’s infuriating to be cheated, but sometimes fighting on principle costs more than it’s worth.

If your monetary loss is significant (for instance, you shelled out a couple hundred dollars in a subsidy publishing agreement), consider contacting your state attorney general’s office for advice about small claims court, filing a complaint and other actions you can take.

Dealing With Problem Editors 55

Complaint Procedure

If you feel you have not been treated fairly by a market listed in Poet’s Market, we advise you to take the following steps:

First, try to contact the market. Sometimes one phone call, letter, or e-mail can quickly clear up the matter. Document all your communications with the market.
When you contact us with a complaint, provide the details of your submission, the date of your first contact with the market and the nature of your subsequent communication.
We will file a record of your complaint and further investigate the market.
The number and severity of complaints will be considered when deciding whether or not to delete a market from the next edition of Poet’s Market.


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