Never Explain. I mean it. Do not do it.

Hi Miss Snark,

Please sign me up for the idiot post. (sorry that position has been filled by the nitwit who sent me a query letter, then followed up with an email with attachments)

I made my first short-short story submission to a literary magazine in Canada. I sent my cover letter, the properly-formatted manuscript and the SASE like a good little wannabe writer. The problem? I didn't know the Canadian postage gods had upped the basic mail price from $.50 to $.51 on January 16, 2006, so my SASE is short $.01 in postage. (Those Canadians...they have it in for us!)

I know the external envelop had enough postage because it was over the basic weight limit and had to be paid for without lettermail stamps, so they got my submission. The question is, will I get my rejection letter? It's been almost six weeks.

Although I have been blissfully ripping off Canada Post since January, the other envelops I have sent to family and friends in various provinces have made it without hiccup (good thing, too, seeing as one was a 50th anniversary card for my grandparents). So if the journal staff don’t toss the SASE because it has insufficient postage and send it back to me, there's a good chance I'll get it, especially if the Post Office says "insufficient postage" as the return to sender is also me.

Which option do you recommend?
A.- Contact journal and ask whether a) they've noticed or b) I should resend
B. - Assume they junked it and resend
C. - Assume they junked it, resend, and explain why I'm submitting something they may have already rejected and sent back to me and which may or may not be lost in the postal ether

D - Wait another six weeks and see what happens.

What is this thing y'all have with explaining fuck ups? No one cares! Honest! It happens. Even to the great unfuckable Miss Snark...oh wait, that came out wrong I think.

I vote for D, and then B. Leave explanations for your spouse as to why the Chevy has a dent in the fender and the gin pail must surely have sprung a leak.


12 said...

"...the unfuckable Miss Snark" ?

Well, fantasies perish.

Bethany said...

Yupp, Canadians have it in for you. I was actually going to saddle my moose and ride to NY this evening with my fuzzy national animal to watch the ultimate showdown of KY vs Angry Beaver. But now that you seem to be on to our plan, perhaps I shall refrain.

NL Gassert said...

Boy, am I glad I didn’t need a SASE for my Canadian submission. Whew. Had no idea they upped postage. But if they work like the US postal system, they will deliver even with 1 cent missing. There will probably be a note on the return envelope pointing out the rate increase. It’s what happened to me with all those October SASEs I got back in January after the US rate increase.

Anonymous said...

Not for Clooney, I'll bet. That traitorous bastard.

dk said...

I agree with nadja that it will likely get back to you regardless. I've actually received an SASE (sent well before the U.S. increase) on which the lit journal kindly added the extra 2cents postage. For what it's worth, I'm also a reader for a journal and I can't imagine tossing a mss. just because the SASE was a cent shy. (Now, NO SASE is another story!) Better still, you may not even get that SASE back because they'll call or email you with an acceptance!

Anonymous said...

I hope your email-er was submitting from inside Canada, or she won't get her SASE back for 50 or 51 cents. It's 89 Canadian cents to SASE back from, for example, Toronto to New York, since both Canada Post and the USPS have to get their cut.

Annoying page for Canada Post charges to do various wierd things with envelopes and parcels in and out of the country:


Maria said...

We writers explain screw ups because we are actually extremely competent people--right up until we mail queries or manuscripts. It is beyond a writer's comprehension how we can run businesses, households, cars, planes, raise children, hold down decent jobs, and do any myriad of tasks without batting an eye--but the minute we are mailing our prose, well, all hell breaks loose. We put the stamp on upsidedown. We put the address on upsidedown or we forget the address entirely. We spell the agent name correctly, but the company name on the outside of the envelope wrong. Envelopes take on a life of their own--they tear, they wrinkle, they eat the pages as you try to insert them ever-so-carefully into what seemed a large enough space.

Let's keep in mind that we mail or email bill payments--every month without screwing up. We do our taxes. We manage to feed ourselves. But we are unable to mail manuscripts without looking like complete idiots. This is why we write letters trying to explain what we know should be a simple task. "I mailed the wrong postage, but it's not my fault; I weighed the package. TWICE. But three other queries have come back postage due..."

We write good prose, but we manage to forget to sign cover letters, we forget to add the one-line description of the book, we forget to finish sentences because we really meant to go look up the exact title of the book we read that you agented...

Carter said...

Agents and editors are right: we writers are all mouth-breathing morons. Goes with the occupation.

Miss S -- I must receive a $20 bill from you within the week, or I will forward this post to Mr. Clooney and forever dash your hopes. You may e-mail it if you wish.

Kate S. said...

If the submission was from outside of Canada, I second what the anonymous commenter said about the required postage from Canada to the US. Also, for those submitting from the US to Canada, make sure that those SASEs have Canadian stamps on them, otherwise you definitely won't get a reply.

If the only problem is being one cent short on the postage, my guess is that your SASE will make it back to you okay. What do the magazine's sumbission guidelines say about response times? Most of the Canadian literary magazines that I'm familiar with respond within three months. After that time, in my experience, they're generally amenable to a polite e-mail query about the status of your submission.

Anonymous said...

It was sent within Canada.

The journal's submission page says they usually respond within three weeks and that the longer the gap, the more likely the editors are arguing about whether or not to include it in the journal.

I got all giddy when I read that utter crap gets the most immediate SASE-rejection, (it had been four weeks at that point), until I realized my postage mistake. Elation turned to "oooooooh craaaaaaap" in about two seconds.

Roseanne Rosannadanna said...

It's Always Something

Trix said...

If there's a "contact us" email address on the journal's website, I'd email them and just ask.

I was with a Candadian short story mag for 16 years, and it used to drive me crazy that our general editor *always* insisted on adding the extra postage when the rates went up. It drove me even crazier when she'd just smile and shake her head and sweetly put a Canadian stamp on top of the American one the author had put on the SASE.

Not putting enough postage on the SASE? Peanuts, baby. Peanuts. We even replied to handwritten submissions from writers in American prison -- no SASE, no return postage, no email or phone number -- even a handwritten MS. We even bought one.