In the latest Poets & Writers, Kevin Larimer writes about “the x-factor: the percentage of submissions received that are…far off the mark” as something that all publications have to deal with. Larimer suggests that these submissions should be removed from a publication’s total submission tally, “because knowing it, one could calculate the number of misfires, subtract it from the total number of submissions received, and get a truer sense of the scale of the playing field.”
Generally I leap right into any discussion that involves crunching numbers on submissions, because we have fourteen months of really rich data, a result of our gradual transition to an electronic submission system. On this matter, though, I’ve got nothin’; we simply have no record of what’s rejected for being totally and utterly wrong for us. Frankly, though, it’s a good idea – we may need to get in the habit. After all, we certainly get more than our fair share of bizarrely inappropriate submissions from authors who have clearly never read VQR. We get everything from science fiction to plays, and a good number of what might best be described as “rants.”
VQR’s circulation manager once worked at a literary magazine that employed a clever process for rooting out totally inappropriate work. They informed a mass market writing guide that their submission address should now specify “Drawer Q,” as it was subsequently listed in future market listings. All submissions originating from that guide could thus be identified and become a part of the x-factor. Perhaps an online equivalent would help Larimer put his finger on that number.