Submissions at the push of a button: Why not?
I frequently get e-mail from writers asking why TNQ doesn’t allow e-mail submissions except for its contest entries. I know submitting by e-mail is easier (and cheaper) for writers, but we have our reasons, and I thought it might make more sense of the policy if I set them out here:
• Having to go the distance of buying stamps and putting a submission in the mail means that a writer will think long and hard about whether ours is the right venue before sending something our way. Our editors all volunteer their time and find it difficult to accommodate the number of submissions we receive in timely fashion as is without opening the floodgates to anyone who can push send. We are not alone in this. Brick, among my favorite literary journals, begins its submission guidelines with this caveat: “To all of our submitters: As of January 31, 2007, Brick will no longer be accepting submissions via e-mail. Our goal in opening the magazine up to electronic submissions was to create greater ease-of-use for people interested in sending us work, but unfortunately, over the course of this experiment, we received an overwhelming number of submissions in this format, and we found there were just too many for us to handle expediently. So we regret to announce that we are now returning to a mail-only submissions policy.” The problem for most lit mags in Canada is not finding enough work of sufficient quality and interest to pass along to readers; it’s finding the resources to publish them.
• Often when someone submits by e-mail we have no idea where the manuscript is coming from. As we publish Canadian work only, this is problematic for us. If you submit widely by e-mail, you should get in the habit of including your home address in the submission along with a personalized cover letter.
• We like to circulate manuscripts in hard-copy (easier to keep track of) and not be tied to a computer when we read since most of our manuscript reading happens in our off time. We also find it helpful to have the short-listed manuscripts in hand when we meet, so we can sort them in various ways, read a passage aloud, riffle the pages to be reminded of what drew us to the poem or story initially, etc. Since manuscript reading is, in essence, a service (we do not charge writers to review their manuscripts and we read everything that comes across our desks), it seems reasonable to ask that they provide, at least, a hard-copy version to facilitate the editorial process.
If it’s any consolation, we do respond by e-mail if the writer prefers. Hope that makes sense of the policy.