Lately, we've been receiving what seems like a lot of submissions from authors who aren't following our submission procedure, one way or another.
Saturday night and Sunday morning, for example, we had two submissions in a row that were submitted as email attachments, immediately followed by a new story from an author who's already got a story under consideration with us. Not long after, there was a repeat of a story we'd already considered, plus a cover letter from the author letting us know that our guidelines don't say anything about not sending multiple stories at once. That author also sent a Word .doc file email attachment, on the grounds that they felt our system was unlikely to be able to handle RTF files generated on a Mac.
(As I've probably noted here before, there are few things I find more frustrating about the submission process than authors who tell us that our guidelines don't cover something that they do cover. But at least this time the author wasn't smug or self-righteous about it, as such notes usually are. In this case, the author clearly meant well.)
The thing that I really really don't get about all of this is that in this latest spate of problem stories, most of the authors had successfully submitted to us in the past using our submission form, and/or had received notes from me in the past asking them not to do whatever it was they were doing again.
Later on Sunday and then again today, there was more of the same kind of thing, culminating in an author attempting to submit via an email attachment for the fourth time in the past year, despite three previous notes explaining that we can't consider email attachments.
I'm afraid I was not as polite with some of these authors as I generally strive to be. After several of this kind of thing in a row, my patience starts to wear thin.
(Digression into other areas of my life: It was also, I should note, a frustrating day today in a bunch of other ways. I continued to be sick--the sore throat and cough and runny nose come and go every eight to twelve hours or so--and I haven't slept well lately, so all morning and afternoon it felt like I was trying to think through a thick cloud of cotton. I was going to work from home again, but it turned out there was a utility that I couldn't access from home; so, trying to meet my noon deadline, I rushed in to work to use it there, only to discover that it was broken. I did several final steps to check in my files, only to be told that I shouldn't have checked them in after all, resulting in a couple hours' worth of shenanigans and confusions involving the checkin system.
I eventually left work early--though since I'd started early, I did put in about eight hours--because (a) I couldn't think coherently, and (b) I had barely restrained myself from sending an unnecessarily snippy email to the executive in charge of our division (whom I haven't even met) and several other unnecessarily snippy emails to anyone else who contacted me about anything, no matter how innocuous. Also, I discovered that an invitation I'd sent out using Google Calendar had gone horribly awry. I ended up coming home and lying on the lawn in the sun and reading an Eleanor Arnason book and my LiveJournal friends list, and then chatting a bit with Twig, all of which calmed me down considerably though it didn't help with the huge backlog of magazine work I've got waiting for me, nor with my other work deadline tomorrow. End digression.)
The first time an author sends us a story as an email attachment, I'm pretty forgiving. I'll admit that even the first time, I get mildly frustrated, because nowhere in our guidelines does it even hint that that's okay, and the guidelines explicitly say that it's not okay, and I can't figure out what it is that makes authors assume that it must be okay; and I can't figure out how they get our email address to send a submission to without also seeing the part that tells them to use the form. (Is there some site or market list out there that says "Strange Horizons takes RTF submissions" but doesn't explain about the submission form? If there is, and you know about it, please either tell them to change their description or point me to their description so I can tell them to change it.) But, y'know, everyone makes mistakes; the first time an author does this, I just send them a copy of our polite standard letter telling them not to do it, and telling them that the story's being deleted unread, and telling them to read our guidelines before submitting again. Doesn't take much of my time or energy.
But when an author does it again after being told not to, perhaps especially after they've successfully used our form in the past, it really annoys me. It makes me suspect that the author is just not paying any attention. It doesn't take much more of my time to deal with it than the first time, but it takes a lot more of my emotional energy. I know that I ought to just send the standard letter and move on, and most of the time that's what I do, but it seems like this has been happening a lot lately. I think part of my reaction is that it seems disrespectful--as if the author just couldn't be bothered to follow our extraordinarily simple and straightforward submission process (among the easiest in the field), or even to take the five extra minutes that it would've taken them to learn (or remember) what that process is.
Sigh. I suppose this is really just another version of the age-old editorial rant about authors not reading submission guidelines.
I imagine that some editors are going to read this entry and smugly think "That's what comes of taking online submissions," so I should note that taking online submissions is what makes this process bearable for me. Firstly because the vast majority of submissions do use the form, and are therefore correctly formatted and easy to process (which is another reason I shouldn't get as exercised about a small number of problem submissions as I do, even when--as happened these past few days--the number of problem submissions rises to about 10% of the total subs); secondly because sending a standardized and semi-automated "please resubmit using our submission form" email takes me only seconds and doesn't cost me any money.
So really I suppose the real problem is that I get inordinately annoyed at people who don't follow instructions. And that there've been a lot of them lately.
Still, I do wish that people would send queries asking us questions when they have questions about the submission process, rather than making guesses and then submitting as if those guesses were facts.
Also factoring into all this was that I was looking at, and replying to, problem submissions before having breakfast, so my blood sugar was low on Sunday morning when I wrote most of this entry. Things did seem better after food, as usual. But then much of the rest of Sunday and Monday turned out frustrating too.