To SASE or not to SASE

Just as every client seems to have a specific invoice they want you to use, every magazine and book publisher has their own highly particular set of submission guidelines to follow. Some welcome electronic submissions; some still specify 8 1/2 x 11 paper, double spaced type, to be packaged in an envelope marked just so, and including a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope).

Having worked on the other side, reading submissions for a well-known Western Canadian book publisher, they can impose all these little rules because even a small publisher or literary magazine receives absolute ton of submissions. They also have small budgets and limited time. And much of what is received is either wholly unpublishable (to put it nicely) or justnotquitegoodenough to fit into one a few slots available.

Which brings me to the SASE. Several markets are still holding out on that SASE requirement, citing the cost it would take to send out letters and return manuscripts.  From the writer’s point of view, including a SASE is a way to pay for your own rejection letter. Talk about insult to injury. I don’t know about you, but getting an envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting sends a little chill through my soul.

So, I’ve stopped sending SASEs, even when the guidelines require them. I don’t care what they do with my rejected manuscripts. Hell, having a little bonfire with the reject pile might be cathartic for the poor souls on the receiving end and save a few bucks on heating. And perchance my story is good enough for publication, I’m sure they can reach me via the e-mail address in my cover letter. And if they don’t want to do that, well…

Now the good news is that several magazines are starting to embrace a fully electronic submission process, letting writers e-mail submissions and responding via e-mail as well. Others are choosing a middle road and requiring paper submissions but making the SASE optional and offering to respond via e-mail.

Interestingly, for the Canadian literary/ideas magazine scene there seems to be a geographical trend in electronic submissions and rejections; the further east you go, the more likely magazines are to be e-mail friendly.

Warning: A highly unscientific sample of submission guidelines from across the land:

  • Montreal: Maisonneuve accepts via e-mail or snail mail, nary a mention of Mr. SASE
  • Toronto: The Walrus welcomes queries via e-mail; again no dreaded SASE mentioned
  • Toronto: Descant doesn’t want e-mail submissions, but will respond via e-mail. They do want a SASE if you want the ms returned, or if you just really really want to be rejected by mail.
  • Winnipeg: Prairie Fire only accepts paper submissions, but they will respond via e-mail if you ask nicely in your cover letter
  • Vancouver: SubTerrain, Geist, and Event all take paper submissions only, and require SASEs for response. None will respond electronically.
  • Vancouver: Memewar accepts e-mail submissions only. They reject you nicely too.

Writers, do you still send SASEs with your submissions?

Publishers – why still require SASEs when e-mail could be much faster and less hassle? Here’s my take: when I was rejecting stuff, I had to drag out the reject box, print up a bunch of form letters, figure out which SASE went with which submission and if they had the correct postage, put the reject letters in the envelopes, seal them, and make sure the postie picked them up or dragged the pile out to the mailbox. The I had to file the strays in case the writer inquired as to why we kept their manuscript, etc. It seems like it would have been much easier to set up a generic e-mail address and form letter, enter the rejectees e-mail address and hit send. The risk of crazy writers responding is one reason I’ve heard for reluctance to reject via e-mail, however.

I’ve focused mainly on the literary side of things here, and I should say that despite all the rules, these folks are the ones most open to receiving material from new writers or writers who aren’t already known to the editors. So even if I won’t pay for my own rejections, I still love you.

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