I originally started talking about this on Twitter, but as comments came in, I thought perhaps having a more permanent home for this would be a good idea. The tweet that started it all was:
Another day, another profanity-laced email (with veiled threat) in response to a rejection letter. Filed for future reference.
Here’s the thing about short story submissions at Clarkesworld, we see so many–nearly 1200/month–that it is unlikely we’ll remember one we didn’t like. Each story gets considered on its own merits, regardless of how good or bad the previous one was. It doesn’t matter if you are an established pro or a newcomer, all stories are considered equally. This is even the case on those rare occasions that we ask an author to send us a story. I know some markets solicit stories–meaning they promise to buy an invited submission–but we don’t.
If you happen to send a rude/obnoxious response to a rejection letter, we’ll keep it on file. I receive anywhere from one to four of those each month. (There’s one author who has sent me over two hundred.) In eleven years, I’ve only received one apology, and that was from a professional author–yes, they can cross the line too.
Before I send out an acceptance letter to someone I haven’t worked with before, I’ll do a quick search through my email history. None of the authors who’ve sent me those emails have ever made it that far, but should they, I’d have to seriously reconsider working with them. Why would I want to work with someone who is disrespectful and likely difficult? It’s no different than sending rude and obnoxious emails to a potential employer before your interview.
Do editor’s talk to one another about this stuff? Sure, it happens. Misery loves company and together we can laugh about it. However, it is highly unusual for names to be shared. The only cases I’m aware of involved authors who could be considered a serious danger to others. Authorities were involved and fortunately nothing further happened, but those actions led to the author’s name being known to a few editors.
In that Twitter conversation, one person asked if I ever go back and read an author’s older submissions before sending an acceptance. Admittedly, I’ll do that on occasion, but more to see if I missed something in earlier story. More often than not, what I’ll find is a visible evolution in the author’s work or a spiraling in on what we like, which is pretty cool. As I said at the start, each story gets considered on its own merits, regardless of how good or bad the previous one was. So long as you haven’t been an ass in your prior dealings with us, we’re good. Oh and that author who apologized, we’re good too.
[A follow-up that addresses author rejection comments made on blogs, forums, etc. is here.]