Professional Courtesy 101

Print-on-demand magazine publishing has created a fantastic opportunity for creative people to get their work on paper and into the world. It’s like the Internet equivalent of a wealthy benefactor; you invest your time and creative energies in a project, and someone else picks up the tab.

Unfortunately, unlike an actual wealthy benefactor, print-on-demand publishing requires no real accountability and, as a result, professional conduct is falling further and further by the wayside.

I’m speaking as someone who has been on both sides of this equation. I’ve been an editor in the past, and am currently working on a new project that has put me back in the editor chair. I’ve been a contributor, as a writer and a model, published by both print-on-demand and traditional publishers. And some of the things I am seeing lately, from both print-on-demand publishers and hopeful contributors, just make me want to cry, throw things, and consume far more chocolate and tequila than I can reasonably consider healthy.

Lack of money changing hands anywhere in the process does not give any parties the right to not behave like professionals. These are a few things I’m seeing a lot of that are just not okay:


I don’t care how well-established an artist or model might be, it takes guts to submit work to a complete stranger, and to just leave people hanging by not acknowledging submissions is not only grossly unprofessional but frankly downright thoughtless. I have seen more than one publisher cite the number of other things they have going on in their lives as their reason for not replying to every submission, they “just don’t have time”.

Really? You open the emails to look at the contents, don’t you? If you don’t want to use the contents in your magazine, how long does it actually take to click “reply/paste/send” with this message (which I will happily allow you to copy & paste)?

“Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Unfortunately, your submission does not meet our needs at this time”

Because if you really don’t have time to do that, 3 seconds of time to acknowledge a contributor as a human being and treat that human being with the basics of common and professional courtesy, do you really have any right to be asking people to put themselves and their work out for you to turn into something YOU will ultimately be profiting from? No news is NOT good news in this scenario. A swift “no, thank you” is infinitely preferable to just leaving people hanging indefinitely.


A call for submissions is exactly that; a call for you to submit work. Replying to such a call with “Here’s 12 links to places you can view my work on the Internet, go look and see if there’s anything you want” is not appropriate. If you want to submit work, submit it. If, in that submission, you want to say something like “Here are 3 poems/photos for consideration for your magazine. More of my work can be viewed at”, that’s fine. But asking an editor to chase down your work online and look through multiple portfolios isn’t okay. I have a form letter for that, too, if you’d like it:

“Thank you for your interest in our magazine. Please visit this page for complete submission guidelines and instructions:”


When an editor takes the time to write down specific and detailed submission guidelines and instructions, there’s a reason. It’s so contributors know what work to send and how to send it. For example, I recently received a submission of political and 9/11 tribute poetry in response to a call for love poems, with the poems in the body of an email after I had specifically requested they be sent as an attachment in .doc or .rtf format. And the contributor got rather belligerent when the poems were not accepted, because he hadn’t read that we weren’t looking for political and 9/11 tribute poetry.

Editors ask that things be done certain ways for a reason. And that reason is usually because doing things that way allows them to review a greater number of submissions in the time they have to review things. A lot of magazines won’t even bother looking at your submission if it isn’t sent in the way they’ve asked for things to be sent in. So do yourself a favor, read the guidelines and FOLLOW them, you will stand a much better chance of your work being accepted. And if you have questions, ask them before you send your work in. The people who write guidelines aren’t any more perfect than anyone else, if you have a question it’s probably because they forgot to specify something in their instructions, and they need to fix that. So you’re doing everyone a favor by asking those questions upfront.

Okay, there’s my rant. Anyone have anything to add?
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