The Trust Factor
by Don Webb
Bewildering Stories’ editors have been debating what to do about a recent increase in simultaneous submissions. Since they are all Review Editors and hold that position partly because they are all excellent writers, they have been able to examine the problem from various viewpoints. And we’ve come up with a solution of sorts.
Like all writers, our editors don’t want to send a submission to a single publication only to wait for months before receiving a rejection notice. It’s easy to waste a year in finding a publication that will accept a story or poem.
The problem is due to conflicting priorities. An author who sends the same work to more than one publication at a time has a single top priority: to get the work accepted. Bewildering Stories’ top priority is to make sure it can be read.
“But of course,” says the sim-subber, “aren’t acceptance and being read the same thing?”
“No,” we reply, “there’s no ‘of course’ about it. Honestly, you would be amazed how many writers don’t seem to care whether they’re read or not. We can tell them why nobody would start reading in the first place, or why most readers wouldn’t get past the first sentence or would perish of boredom if they didn’t click off and head for the fridge.”
If acceptance is the sole priority, websites can be found that will take anything and publish it sight unseen. But what kind of reputation will such a website have? Who wants to be tossed into an “anything goes” dumpster? An author may as well post the work to a personal blog and hope somebody sees it. There’s small comfort in that.
We have a reputation to offer. In our 15th year of weekly publication, Bewildering Stories is one of the oldest literary webzines on the Internet. Our archive must make it the largest. And our archive is highly indexed; nothing in it can be deemed “hard to find.”
Our Quarterly Reviews have a motto. They say that Bewildering Stories is a lighthouse on the chaotic sea of the Internet. We signal “safe harbor” and “welcome ashore.” The writers we publish know they are in good company.
Now, veteran contributors and many new contributors know that Bewildering Stories is a peer-reviewed literary journal. And they know that our consideration can take several weeks, depending on our backlog. But they also know they’ll be rewarded by our review readers’ thoughtful critiques. And we very much appreciate the expressions of gratitude we often receive for them. As we like to say, “A good word goes a long way” — in all directions.
We’ve always had a policy of considering simultaneous submissions. However, a lot of new contributors don’t know how we operate. And a few do know but take advantage of it. Consequently, simultaneous submissions will now incur a cost.
How can submissions go right? And how can they go wrong?
Good scenario: A regular submission comes to one of our Coordinating Editors. It is assumed to have been sent to Bewildering Stories only. The editor acknowledges receipt with an estimate of the time needed for a decision.
The work is read by two review readers, and the Coordinating Editor responds with the gist of their critiques and a decision. Acceptances are copied to the Managing Editor, along with the submission. The Managing Editor sends a formal “Accept New” or “Scheduled” notice to confirm that the title is on the official schedule. And the work appears in a regular issue.
Bad scenario: The contributor has actually sent us a simultaneous submission but hasn’t said so. Our consideration process is interrupted by a message telling us that the submission has been accepted elsewhere and is being withdrawn. All our work is wasted.
Worse scenario: We accept a submission, but a number of other webzines do, too. The author rejoices in multiple acceptances but says nothing about them to anybody. How will those publications’ editors feel when they realize they’ve been conned into “wallpapering” the Internet with the same thing?
Worst scenario: A submission goes through our regular procedure. The author uses our feedback to improve the work and sends it to another publication. That has happened. It’s like somebody borrowing your home to throw a party and then telling you you’re not invited.
A Biblical saying applies: “A workman is worth his hire.” A regular submission implies a contract. We critique the work and, if the results are mutually agreeable, we publish it. Everybody wins. The author is free to republish it elsewhere or in another form but doesn’t withdraw it.
A simultaneous submission calls for several different publications to bid on a contract. It creates a timed contest — a race — between publications to be the first to accept it.
Solution: The Managing Editor will have to read all simultaneous submissions. The response will be either “yes,” “review,” or “no.”
- “Yes” means that our review readers are likely to approve the submission. Now, what does the author want us to do?
- “Review” means that our review readers might vote “yes” but are likely to recommend improvements.
- “No” means that the submission falls into an area ranging from acceptable with modifications to undesirable.
There’s a good deal of trust involved in regular submissions. The authors trust us to read thoughtfully and to provide sound and timely advice, and we trust the authors to treat us fairly. In simultaneous submissions, the trust factor is absent. We can’t provide feedback because we’re given no time to do it, and we don’t know what the author’s intentions are.
Conclusion: A simultaneous submission is possible, but it takes a long shot at “jumping the queue.” If it doesn’t make it, the author comes away empty-handed. Please send us regular submissions. You can trust us to attend to them carefully and promptly.
Copyright © 2016 by Don Webb
for Bewildering Stories