Am I Missing Something Here?

From the cover letter guidelines off the submission guidelines for Strange Horizons:

Address your cover letter to all of the current fiction editors rather than just one of us, and don’t imply that we’re all male. In particular, don’t use “Dear Mr. Hartman” or “Dear Sirs” as a salutation. Also, don’t address your cover letter to Niall Harrison, who is not a fiction editor. And remember that chances are good that your story will be read by a First Reader instead of an editor. The following salutations (among others) are fine:

  • “Dear Editors” (this is the one we prefer)
  • “To Whom It May Concern”
  • “Dear Brit Mandelo, Julia Rios, and Jed Hartman”
  • “Dear Ms. Mandelo, Ms. Rios, and Mr. Hartman”.
  • “Greetings”
  • There are plenty of other acceptable options.
  • It’s also fine to leave off the salutation entirely.

So…after reading that first bullet, why exactly would anyone keep reading along there and pick one of the other salutations?  I mean, they do say they prefer that one, right?  Now, I know what you’re going to say, and no, I read all the way to the end and there is no final entry that says “congratulations on passing the test and reading all the guidelines, author!  What we really want you to do is ignore all the previous guidelines and start off with ‘Yo, Horizons:’ – that will move you to the top of the list.”  That was my first thought, too, but as near as I can tell they are playing this straight (unless they are using that old trick of concealing text by making it the background color.  Hang on…nope.)

Strange Horizons may be the most striking example, and they may stand out for telling you exactly what they want before providing several examples of other things you could do, but there are many magazines that point out the obvious, and they make me weep for magazine editors.  Because you know they wouldn’t write out 4,000 words of submission guidelines that reiterate points over and over and mention obvious things like suggesting you proofread your story if they hadn’t encountered everything they mention many times.

Of course, as much as magazines like this get me down when I start thinking about the hard lives of their editors, I prefer them to the places that are just vague in their guidelines, since I always have a sense they are not vague at all about what they want to see.  “How dare they start with ‘Dear Editor:’?” I can see them thundering, pounding their desk hard enough to make their coffee splash on to the the day’s stack of rejection notices, “Can’t these lazy bums look up the names of the editorial staff on our website?”

~ by smwilliams on July 12, 2012.