Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 31 May 2013

I Submit

Has it really come to this?

I read this tweet on my feed the other day:

Not taking electronic submissions, today, is essentially saying you don't want foreigners on your list. 

It made me wonder where the prejudice might lie, and why. Submissions are submissions are submissions. We are writers; we spend our lives submitting our work. Every agent, every publisher, every writing competition seems to have its own set of guidelines for submissions, and the first rule of submitting is that writers submitting work follow the guidelines to the letter. If those guidelines include that the submissions must be made by post, what of it? If the writer is submitting, by mail, from overseas it only means submitting a little earlier, probably only a few days earlier, than a writer submitting by mail, locally. 

If everyone is submitting by post, surely the playing field is, for all sensible purposes, level?

I know the writer who wrote this tweet, a little. I have met him a few times. He is published, he is prolific, and I do not believe for a moment that anything would prevent him from submitting if he chose to, and certainly not the idea that he might have to walk to his local post office in order to mail his submission from his home, which, from most places, might be considered to be overseas. The minor disadvantage of a couple of days less to work on his piece would not deter him.

I wonder why he made this statement. 

Have we really come so far down the track of technology, are we really so reliant upon it that we cannot think of an alternative method of sending a document from A to B? The best writers have always been known globally, translated widely and appreciated cross-culturally. Not taking electronic submissions allows those few without access to a computer to submit work. My mother lives in the middle of the first world, but she is not computer literate. She could write a short story on her electronic typewriter and post it, and why shouldn’t she? 

I don’t know how poor you’d have to be to miss out on a wi-fi connection in some parts of the World, or how far into the third world you’d have to be to struggle to find a reliable connection from which to send a piece of work electronically, but I imagine there are still places where poverty and connectivity are an issue, but where writers still write and might just be able to post out a manuscript from.

In the late 80s and early 90s the husband was not penalised by the comics industry in the US because he is British. Editors at the big American comic book publishers could have decided employing him was too complicated. Telephone conversations were expensive and difficult because of time zones, everything had to be FedExed, which was time consuming and expensive, or, later, faxed, which wasn’t always reliable. Nevertheless, he was talented, and so he was employed, despite the logistical problems. The advent of the computer and of e-mailing made all of that easier, of course, but, at the time, nothing stopped him from working, or them from employing him.

I’m sure none of these are the reasons why some agents, publishers and competitions prefer not to take electronic submissions. Who knows, maybe their reasons are to do with the technology and security surrounding the huge volumes of incoming mail and attachments inviting submissions generates. Maybe it’s the fault of technology and our lack of understanding of how best to employ it. It’s not unreasonable to think so, is it?

The bottom line is this: When writers are given the opportunity to submit their work, however they are given that opportunity, there is seldom a good reason not to take it, and having to walk to the post office really can’t constitute a good enough reason... can it?

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