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Please don't send us revisions of stories we've rejected before

By Jed Hartman

We've recently seen a bunch of revisions of old stories.

The new stories have the same title as the old ones (or similar), and are usually the same wordcount. They almost never say in the cover letter that they're revisions. We get a lot of repeat submissions, due usually to author recordkeeping mistakes, so I send my standard form letter that says we rejected this story on such-and-such date.

About half the time when I send that, I get back a note from the author saying “Actually, I've made big changes to the story since then.”

And our response is always the same: we don't consider unsolicited revisions of stories we've rejected. I go into more detail than that in email, but that's the gist of it.

And most of the time, the author responds with a polite apology. And if that were the end of it, I wouldn't be posting this note.

But most of the time the author also says that they weren't aware of our policy.

So, any of you who are planning to submit to SH, I strongly urge you to read the red boldface notice at the top of our submission form. It starts out with a heading that says “Important notes (please read),” and then it lists four important notes. It's as prominent as I can make it: it's in red and bold, and it's right there at the top of the submission-form page. It's very brief (26 red boldface words, plus 45 clarifying non-boldface words) and I think it's pretty easy to scan.

But a lot of authors either aren't reading it or aren't understanding it. It's not just the revisions; authors regularly do all of the specific things we say not to do there, and then they tell us (sometimes politely, sometimes angrily) that they didn't know about our policy.

It happens often enough that I'm willing to concede that it must be partly something about the presentation. I've been trying to make the presentation easier and briefer and cleaner and more obvious, but I'm not sure whether it's helping or not.

So here's a question that I forget whether I've asked before:

If you've submitted but you haven't noticed or haven't read the notices at the top of the submission form, I'm interested in hearing about what led to your not seeing/reading those notices. Is there some other presentation that would make it clearer or more obvious? Is there something about the current presentation that makes it easy to miss or skip?

Those aren't rhetorical questions; I'm honestly interested in making those notes easier to read and harder to miss, because people not reading them costs me time and energy.

I've contemplated changing the submission page so you can't submit without answering a couple of questions about your submission (like whether it's under consideration elsewhere). Might still do something along those lines, if I can find a way to do it that won't be annoying and/or offensive to submitters.

But in the meantime, if any of you see a way to make the existing notices clearer or more prominent or more likely to be read, let me know.