Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Going By Way of the Dodo

Today I welcome Kerrie Flanagan to Terry's Place. She's reflecting on a simpler time as a freelancer and sometimes secretly wishes for those days again.

I long for trips to the mailbox to see if a magazine editor responded to a query. But alas, those days are gone.
I must admit, I jumped on the email bandwagon as soon as I could. I pushed the envelope and called editors to see if they would accept an e-query. I felt I uncovered a hidden gem. I marveled at its ease and efficiency.

Then magazines started putting their issues online. We no longer had to order sample copies or spend hours at the library looking through past issues. I was giddy with excitement. The magazine world was now at my fingertips.

I remember shooting off query after query into cyber-space. No longer did I campout by my mailbox, I now compulsively checked my email every 17 minutes to see if an editor responded. At least with the mailbox, I got a little exercise. Now my eyes became red and glassy.

It took a couple of years, but the novelty of email wore off. I realized editor’s inboxes were on overload. I wondered if email queries lowered the bar. People no longer had to invest in their magazine writing. There were no stamps or envelopes to buy. Anyone could send an email without much thought, making it more of a challenge for those of us who took this seriously.

Editors rarely responded anymore unless they were interested in something. At least with a SASE I could count on a nice form letter.

After years of walking the magazine beat, I better understand how it works. Although it is at my fingertips now, at times it seems daunting and overwhelming. Thousands and thousands of print magazines have their content on the Internet and online magazines pop up everyday. My life as a freelance writer is more time consuming and complicated.

Finding the perfect markets for my ideas used to be an art form in itself; a quest. I looked forward to perusing Writers Market for publications, then going to the library to look through past issues. The feel of the magazine, the smell of the paper, and the knowledge I gained with every turn of the page, kept me in the game. By the time I sat down to write the query, I knew I had done my homework.

Something is missing now. Gone are the days of carefully crafting a query to fit on one printed page. The sound of the printer spitting ink on the page, making my thoughts and ideas come to life on paper is just a memory. There are no more SASE’s to address and no more trips to the mailbox.

Now all we have to do is sit at the computer all day, trying not to get lost in the immense sea of information found on the Internet, while reading online copies of a magazine and searching for an editor’s email address.

Maybe it is more efficient. Maybe it is quicker. -- but there is something to be said for the journey.

I long for the good ol’ days.

Kerrie Flanagan is a freelance writer and the Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Her 120+ articles have appeared in various national and regional publications. Visit http://www.NorthernColoradoWriters to learn more about her and NCW


Mason Canyon said...

Technology is a wonderful thing, but we do lose some wonderful things too by using it. Great post.

Thoughts in Progress

Anonymous said...

Obsessively check email for responses from editors? Who does that?

*peeks back at email*

*doesn't see any editor responses*

*becomes disgruntled*

Well said, good lady. Some markets still don't take e-subs, though. The Boston Review and Zoetrope All-Story come to mind. It's a pain, but I kind of like the process of submitting that way. Makes it a bit more real.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I know what you mean. Intersting what you said about email queries lowering the bar and making things more difficult. Makes sense that it would.

Thoughtful post.

Debra St. John said...

I can totally relate to checking e-mail every seventeen minutes when I'm waiting to hear back from someone!

Kerrie said...

I am glad you all enjoyed the post.

Mason-Thanks for stopping by. :-)

Simon-I didn't know there were still markets only excepting snail mail submissions. I might have to send them something just because of that.

Terry-I am not sure everyone would agree with me that it lowers the bar...but I think it is true.

Debra-I just sent something out today and have already checked email 39 times--as if they are going to answer that quickly. :-)

Sheila Deeth said...

I used to check the email. Then I gave up. Black holes in cyberspace.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

The bad thing about checking email is that we might feel like checking Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments at the same time! :) It's easy to get off-track.

Cleo Coyle said...

Change is the constant, isn't it? As an author of fiction, I find myself wondering where the traditional book will be a decade from now (not to mention the institution of traditional publishing). I do fear I'll find myself joining you -- in longing for the crisp turn of the page in a newly printed book. On the other hand, when God closes one door...