The Short Story:
As of yesterday, I am trying to give constructive feedback when I decide to pass on a story submission.
The Long Story:
I was a writer before I was an editor, and I want Plan B to be a magazine that is supportive to writers. This is why I’m endeavouring to make the ‘zine a paying market, it’s why I read the stories before I read the cover letters. I don’t want to pre-judge based on experience or credits.
As I’ve been going through the submissions, I’ve struggled with what to say when I decide that a story isn’t right for Plan B. My first inclination was to include some feedback, but then I thought back to my own experience as a short fiction writer. I’ve had plenty of rejections, most of which were essentially form letters. But I have had a few with feedback. And I’ve mostly found the feedback to be less useful. So I decided not to bother.
Then, I was over on the Save the Short community on Google+. (Aside: Google+ has become an amazing source for writers. Seriously. Go over there and start talking to people). I asked the community what they thought and got a great response. It changed my mind, and now I’m going the extra mile to try and give useful, positive feedback along with the rejections.
Writers: if you got a form rejection from me before yesterday and want feedback, let me know. And feel free to comment here about what you think about this policy.
I think it depends on the reason for the feedback. Sometimes, the standard “We’re sorry, your story Y is not a good fit for X at this time,” works fine, especially when as a writer, I wasn’t sure if the venue was a good fit for my story, but what the heck, I gave it a shot anyway. I think more precise feedback is helpful when the story COULD be a good match, “We really liked b, if only it had more z.” However, then you would have to be prepared to receive rewrites, and then if the story was still unsuitable, then that opens a whole other can of worms. On the other hand, if it’s a good story but better suited to a different forum, it might be helpful to guide the writer in that direction (“your story is not a good fit for x, but you might want to consider speculative science fiction publications”). However, If a writer is not ready for publication (to be politely put), the standard response can still hold true. After enough rejection letters, the writer should do some reflection or at least ask him/herself some questions. For me, rejections with feedback made me feel like I was “on my way” enough so that the reader found me worthy of comment. So it boosted my self-esteem a bit. Did I take the feedback to heart? Sometimes.