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james_nicoll
Will Entrekin on professionalism issues related to editor/writer correspondence.

Wil Shetterly links to the article and offers his views.

A discussion follows.

Nicked from slapfights, your online source of energetic discourse.

I am a little baffled by "If an editor rejects you, the only proper response is to send that editor another submission." That's a response but what if it's clear that that the set of things you will ever write does not overlap with the set of things the editor will ever buy? What are you accomplishing by sending them more work? It just ties the material up for the duration of a rejection cycle.

Digression: How does ownership of the words in letters work again? IIRC the physical document belongs to the person who receives it but who owns the actual words? I know how it works in the UK because of the Diana letters but not how it works in Canada or the US.

[Added later: and how does this apply to email, where there's not really anything physical involved, aside from the medium on which the email is stored?]

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I am pretty sure that the actual words belong to the person who wrote them, and publishing them without permission technically violates their copyright. Someone with actual legal knowledge may wish to correct me, though. (As you say, the letters as physical objects belong to whoever the letters were sent to. Things might get a little dicy if the letter was sent electronically.)

Of course, if anyone wanted to complain about their letter being published, they could send a DMCA takedown notice. Hasn't happened yet, and there is a fair-use argument that could be made (the publication is non-commercial, generally speaking partial, and serves a critical/educational purpose).

That said, while people have been plenty happy to send me death threats and lawsuit threats, nobody ever told me, "Hey, take down my letter." (Which of course I would have, even if the correspondence was Burtian in its sloppiness.) Working assumption: some people love any sort of attention.

Do you know that the people whose letters you use read your LJ? Or if the ones who do are aware of their legal rights?

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The 'diciness' I was thinking of in that last comment was along the lines of whether you're allowed to print out copies of the email (which I would imagine would be OK) and what you can do with those printed-out copies (which I guess would be whatever you can legally do with a letter mailed to you). So, maybe not so dicy after all.

In my uninformed opinion...

A rejection is nothing more or less than communication. Same as a customer in a restaurant rejecting an offer of more iced tea.

The offering may have been something the editor never wants, it might have been something the editor does not want at this time, or it may be something the editor might want after it has been modified.

If it is the first, then there is no point in submitting something similar to that editor again. If the second, then similar things should be submitted.

The third case is the complex one. Is the submission the wrong length? The wrong tone? Too similar to other things? Too different? Contains too much or too little adult language? Poorly written? Something else?

Re: In my uninformed opinion...

Shetterly doesn't seem to allow that there could be a variety of responses, although now that I think about it "'No' means 'keep trying,'" does explain why he kept pestering rasf* with ads for his writing class back when, even when it was explained to him why he should not do this.

Re: In my uninformed opinion...

Oversimplification leads to poor debate.

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That's a response but what if it's clear that that the set of things you will ever write does not overlap with the set of things the editor will ever buy?

There's some good general advice -- "Don't reject your own story, let the editor do it for you" -- that is often taken to the ridiculous extreme implied here. It's an undercurrent in those occasional long online discussions about whether or not Gordon van Gelder has a "gender bias" in his submissions as well, with the side that considers itself the most righteous squaring its collective jaw and saying, "If van Gelder doesn't like stories about mothers and daughters, I'll just have to write one sooo good that he must buy it."

Ah, the "You don't like Brussel sprouts? You haven't had MY brussel sprouts!" argument.

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You should have a ranked list of editors to send a given work to. The ones most likely to accept it (and the ones who pay the most) ought to be at the top. The ones less likely to accept it get it much later, when the choice is between sending it to them or leaving it in a drawer.

If an editor rejects everything you've sent so far, that isn't a reason never to send him anything else. It is a reason not to send him stuff first.

If you can estimate the probabilities accurately, that approach gives the least time to sale. Especially for newer writers, and especially with the newer editors, I'm doubtful how accurate the estimates will be

On the other hand, it was widely suggested in the magazine era, and from various memoirs it sounds like the advice was widely used, to send things to markets in order of decreasing payment scale. At least you know the payment scales accurately. This would result in the highest achievable price, but probably a longer time to sale. Clearly there was *some* "who might buy this" factor in place, since not everybody always started with the Saturday Evening Post; they started with Campbell.

Under US copyright law, the default is that you hold the copyright your own words. It is vastly unlikely that any of the exceptions would come up in correspondence.

I was actually thinking about this last week: if someone sends me a long email, could it be fair use to include a sentence or two in a public discussion of my interactions with that person, or a discussion of some aspect of email generally. (E.g., as an illustration of different styles/levels of formality, or of whether people would put things in email that they wouldn't say in person or on paper.)

I realize that even if it could be, the length of the letter would be one of the relevant factors.

[To state the obvious, you are under no obligation to give a professional opinion here.]

Oh, as you know Redbird-Bob, I was only talking about who holds copyright, not whether subsequent use of copyrighted work would be permissible.

I hadn't bothered to follow the links and have no opinion on the broader context here.

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