FOR WRITERS: Five Emails You Should Avoid Sending to an Editor

Quill and InkHere are five common emails that you should avoid sending to an editor. I do believe I’ve received variations on each of these at least twenty-five times a year. Just by a little research, or using a smattering of common sense, you can help an editor stay just on the right side of sane.

1) Where are your guidelines?
Undoubtedly, this is the most common email I receive from writers on a day-to-day basis. I don’t believe I’m hiding our guidelines (as of this writing, they’re posted conspicuously at the top right-hand side of the site—both the book and magazine sites). Though, come to think of it, it might be amusing to make the link to the submissions page ‘jump’ whenever the mouse pointer floats over it.

2) Mass submission email.
These are emails where the writer has sent his submission to ten different publishers at the same time. I can’t help but find this practice to be rather obnoxious. The author of the email scores double tacky points if they leave the other editors’ email addresses in the CC field with mine. At the very least, be polite enough to dump all our addresses into the BCC field so that others won’t know that I was also unlucky enough to receive the same spam.

The irony here is that many publications don’t like sim-subs (particularly for short fiction).

3) The “Please Withdraw My Story I’ve Sold It Somewhere Better, Somewhere Bigger” email.
Here’s another that’s especially annoying. First, remember, there’s that whole ‘No Simultaneous Submissions” rule that Apex has (and most others, as well). Second, these emails are invariably snide, neener-neener-neener affairs.

“Dear Mr. Sizemore,

Since Apex neglected to review or publish my story in a timely fashion, another publication has picked it up. It will be published in Wanker SF 4TheLuvZine. I’m sorry you missed an opportunity to publish my work.


Crankypants McGee”

4) The “Why Did You Reject My Story, My Writer Friend Says the Story is AWESOME?” email.
Sometimes our friends can be our worst enemies, telling us only what we want to hear. And if your friend hasn’t been published at least once or twice in professional-level publications, then they probably don’t have the aptitude to accurately judge your work (and that’s assuming they can distance themselves from the work on a personal, friendship level).

Also, if you’re thinking of composing one of these emails, you have to ask yourself the question: If you don’t value or trust the judgment of the editor, why send him/her your work? Do you think an editor who has read thousands of submissions and headed a publication for five years will have a better grip on what works in their publication better than your friend? Eh, probably not. What about an editor who is putting together an anthology with a specific vision in mind? Eh, probably not.

Though I won’t lie… despite being an editor and publisher, I can’t help but ALWAYS disagree when another editor rejects my work! 🙂

5) The Big Publishing Sucks emails.
This is one of my least favorite types of email to receive. It goes something like this:

“Dear Mr. Sizemore,

I am sending you a synopsis and three-chapter sample of my SF novel Space Vixens in Space. I’m tired of waiting for the “big publishers in New York” while they publish the same tired shit over and over at the same time neglecting the genius of independent spirits such as myself.


Knickers-n-a-Knot McGee”

If you’re going to submit something to me, don’t be whiny. I hate whiny. Most others hate whiny. You’re also showing your conspiratorial ignorance believing that being published requires membership into a special club, or that your work is too special to be included with that of other successful writers. I’ve found that being published requires talent, blind luck, and being ready to seize the moment when blind luck happens. There are always exceptions to the rule, but this is how most of my writing friends did it.

There are many more emails that I see over and over. But a guy has to have content for a blog, so the love needs to be spread over time…


15 responses to “FOR WRITERS: Five Emails You Should Avoid Sending to an Editor”

  1. Danny Adams Avatar

    OK, I’ll admit that #1 is new to me. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about how badly guidelines were not followed, though…so maybe instead of ignoring the GLs, the writer was just not, erm, perspicacious enough to find them in the first place.

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      Well… I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when you go to a publisher site you’re looking for guidelines, and ours is quite easy to find. So I find it hard to excuse people because, in truth, they’re being lazy.

  2. Christine Purcell Avatar

    This made my day. One of my favorites: “I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of things you publish.”

    Answer: Whatever you’re not writing.

    Okay, that was cruel, but I seriously wonder if anyone ever bothers to read our website.

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      Glad you enjoyed. I hope posts like this the good writers a reason to smile and keep trying.

  3. Maggie Slater Avatar
    Maggie Slater

    HA! I got a #2 from an agent once. She clearly hadn’t read our guidelines either, because she submitted a YA romance to us. 😛

    Also, I probably need to get a little snarkier on the #3’s–we get those a lot.

  4. Debbie Moorhouse Avatar

    Only ten cc’s? I had an email at GUD where it was cc’d to 100 different email addresses. Yes, I counted them. No, GUD doesn’t accept email submissions. Eh.

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      100. Aren’t you lucky. Goodness.

  5. Bob Nailor Avatar

    I ‘love’ the emails when you ACCEPT the story and the author is belligerent of edits. Case #1: We wanted to make 2 minor changes. He yanked the story… NOBODY edits his work, it is perfection and correct, he is a professor of English. Well, ‘they’re house’ was definitely wrong! Case #2: We wanted to remove approximately 118 FU’s (and its deriviatives) from the 572 word short story. The response back was “altho you didn’t state it, you’re obviously a Christian venue and…” He called us controlling, Christians who had no idea of how to promote angst and anger in writing. The fact we’d left approximately 15 FUs and another 30+ other expletives in the story seemed lost on him from us ‘Christians’ at the small ezine. We communicated w/ this writer for about 3 emails and finally yanked his story and ignored all other emails from him. He was a ranting lunatic about censorship and big press control – uh, our readership was only about 1200 but thanks for thinking of us as big press. We’ve since closed our doors. BTW, I love to call the above scenarios – Accepted Rejections. I’ve never had the opportunity to pull or yank a submission. Consider the power. LOL.

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      This comment. This is worthy of a series of future blog posts. I feel your pain.

    2. Melissa Gay Avatar

      A very wise artist once told me, “I’ve always thought eating was more important than ego.” 🙂 Too many people looking to be creative professionals shoot themselves in the foot by ignoring this basic principle.

      1. jasonb57 Avatar

        Oddly, your comment parallels nicely with some thoughts I’ve been having lately about professionalism. I’m just trying to decide if writing that post is worth it because I’m certain it will upset a small group of people…

  6. David Avatar

    I always assume that anything I write isn’t quite good enough, and that I have made at least one major business goof or breech of etiquette.

    It hasn’t gotten me published, but at least my name isn’t the subject of nasty publishers’ gossip.

    1. jasonb57 Avatar

      Oh, come on. My publishing cronies and I need more good gossip! 😉

  7. E. Catherine Tobler Avatar

    Yes, this. So much.

  8. […] And publisher/editor Jason Sizemore clues hopeful authors in on the Five Emails You Should Avoid Sending to Editors. […]

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