Response Times and Professional Magazines

Yesterday I withdrew a story from a market because we were starting to near the one year mark, and the couple of queries I’d made all got the usual “It’s in the queue, we’re swamped, just a little longer” reply. I don’t mind waiting a little longer, but I do mind when it gets used to keep you going for months.

So that’s cool, and no hard feelings over them having sat on it a while. I end up withdrawing a story for similar reasons once every couple of years. But here’s the reply I got regarding the withdrawal:

Thanks for the note. Your story is officially withdrawn from our reading queue. One thing you might want to consider in the future is that pro markets take a lot of time. So I’d tailor a story for a certain market and then move on while you wait. That’s what Bradbury and Matheson and all those guys do. Some pro markets such as Cemetery Dance take up to two years. So that’s why I say. But the credit one receives when they break pro is worth everything. I hope this helps you future endeavors. You can send along something else in the future when we reopen for subs in [identifying information redacted]. Just make sure it’s a different story as I don’t accept stories that have previously been withdrawn.

Some pro markets do take up to two years, but it’s darn few of them. Most of the professional magazines are professional; they get stuff back to you fast. Even without e-submissions, Gordon Van Gelder manages to wade through swamps of rejections and still return them in a timely manner. Sure, is slow, but given that they pay five times as much as most, I’m willing to give them five times as much time in which to reply. Asimov’s, Analog, Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Strange Horizons all pay professional rates and yet manage what is apparently a highly unprofessional rapid reply rate.

We got 550-600 subs a month towards the end of my tenure with Fantasy, and I would have felt terrible making people wait over a month, let alone more. And I’m going to say, this particular rejection is a great argument for form rejections, because the patronizing tone here really put me off, plus this is TERRIBLE advice for a new writer. Write what you want to write, not what you think a magazine wants to see.

I dunno. Maybe the editor is working off a different definition of professional than I use.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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