Cutting the Red Tape

As you all know last week I made a post announcing my new job opportunity. I have received immense support and congratulations from you all and I couldn’t be more appreciative. One thing that is always a part of taking a step to better yourself and your family is the red tape associated with changing locations and jobs. My wife and I currently live around 45 minutes or an hour away from the office I’ll be working from, so we are looking to relocate to make my commute a little shorter and we are definitely seeing the red tape show up with that process. Between trying to get our student loans on a solid repayment plan to getting pre-approved for a mortage, the obstacles are everywhere. When discussing what to blog about today, my wife suggested I discuss a bit about that red tape in a way that is relevant to all of you as well (since it’s pretty much all we can focus on this week due to the mind-numbing stress of it all), and I ran with the idea.

Red tape can come in many forms for an artist, and can be as simple as checking the format on a submission, or it can be as hard as nailing down the best time and place to have a meeting with someone interested in your work. Sometimes the red tape can be easily avoided, and other times it will wrap you up until you’re almost certain you’ll never get free of it. One such instance of this comes in the form of getting your piece ready for a certain venue. For instance, you may have a piece that you have written entirely in Arial Bold, your favorite font, only to find out that the publisher you are looking into will only accept pieces submitted in Times New Roman. This isn’t that big of a deal and is really a simple fix (control + A and change the font, for those of us who don’t do computers). In this case you’ve gotten through the red tape quite simply.

Other cases may find you scrambling a bit to get your work ready. The submission process can be one of these things. Less than a decade ago most journals and publications still worked in hard copy submissions, email submissions unheard of for some of them. Unfortunately  that is no longer the case. Most large publications now only accept online submissions either via email, through Submittable or some other platform. This in itself may not be all that difficult since most of us, even if we don’t write our pieces completely on the computer, will still have a back-up electronic copy ready to go whenever it may be needed. But what can be a problem is when the journal doesn’t specify how best to submit. Most do, granted, but there are those that don’t, and this can be a big issue. If we submit via email they may not get it, or may trash it as many journals who use other platforms tell you they will do with email submissions, or they may just not get it.

One of the worst cases of pre-publishing red tape that I’ve come across recently comes into play when you are using the tactic of simultaneous submissions, which can be both helpful and maddening at the same time. Simultaneous submissions means that you send the same piece with its respective cover letter to multiple venues in order to broaden your possibilities for publication. This isn’t a secret, of course, as most journals will flat out tell you that they accept simultaneous submissions as long as you tell them if the piece has been accepted elsewhere before they get to it. Of course, there are those who say that they don’t accept them, but honestly I don’t think that is going to really stop many of us in the long run, if you’re determined to get the work out there. The complication comes in when you look at the submission guidelines for the venues in question. I occasionally go on submitting sprees where I will look at a dozen or so venues and get pieces ready to send in, and sometimes that process can take hours, even if your work fits the basics of their specifications.

What I mean in this instance is the way you have to submit. The minor, but potentially devastating red tape. In my experience, most journals have their own way they prefer to get submissions. Most of the time this, in some way or another, involves having your piece attached to an email, often with no name or labels other than the title in the piece itself in order to maintain anonymity until chosen, while the body of your email gives you a chance to tell them your name and perhaps give a summary of the piece and why you think it fits, and a small bio. But there are the exceptions. I’ve come across editors who tell those interested in submitting to put their name and submission title in the subject of the email and copy and paste their piece in the body of the email, saying any messages received with attachments will be discarded without being viewed. Now, in the era of the ever hungry computer virus, I can understand that to a point, but when preparing multiple submissions, one little slip-up can result in a rejection or even having your submission overlooked by default.

The same goes with the red tape in life. If we forget to dot an ‘i’ or cross a ‘t’ our whole process could come crashing back down just for us to have to start all over again. Granted, the margin of error in things like a mortage application varies quite a bit than, say, a short story submission to The New Yorker, it’s all relative in its own way. In this day and age we definitely have to make absolutely certain that we have an eye for detail, because the red tape can sometimes be a bit confusing, but with the proper determination and the right amount of preparation you’ll be through it before you know it, sitting in a new house or opening your sample copy of the journal with your story as the center piece. Obviously I haven’t covered all of the possibilities here, so what other forms of red tape have you all encountered in your journeys, and how did you cut through it to make it where you are now?

In the meantime, if any of you have a topic suggestion, I ask that you definitely get it to me. Leave your comments below and happy writing!

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3 thoughts on “Cutting the Red Tape

  1. Yes, I understand all of that.
    You see as a UK Civil Service (retired) I lived in the world of Red Tape.
    The worse Red Tapes are the strands the public doesn’t see; the ones which take the simple decision you have made based on legislation and have you fill in three times are many forms as the member of the public did.
    At least in pre-computer days you could ‘jiggle’ the system to get short-cuts or an equitable result (I won’t go into that in anymore detail). In these days the folk at the desks must defer to the computer programme, normally created by someone who is great at programmes but hasn’t a clue how an office works.
    Then there are the abeyances to the great gods Stats and Improvement Plan both of whom demand one in ten hours of the working time to fulfil their needs; not that either are very clear on how they wish their poor acolytes to fulfil their needs
    Many years ago (think 1968) when I started out in my Civil Service journey, a very senior member of staff brought to my attention the many volumes of instructions based on legislation.
    “See these,” he said in stentorian tones “These are for the guidance of the wise. But adhere to them and you will unhappy,”
    I don’t think the current ranks have that option these days.

    Hope all goes well in your move.
    Best wishes
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely sounds like you’ve been well acquainted with red tape, Roger. In my (albeit moderately limited) experience it’s the red tape handed down by those who have walked the path before you that hold you up the most.
      While working as managing editor for Jimson Weed I basically had to rebuild some elements of the journal from the ground up in order to fix the mistakes of the editors before my predecessor. Same with being head news editor for the Highland Cavalier. I had to rebuild quite a few bridges those before me had burned and cut through a lot of tape in attempt to restore the integrity of the paper.
      Thanks for the comments, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
      Damean

      Liked by 1 person

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