About two months ago I queried whether a story I had sent had been received by a barely-paying market. The answer was yes. The signs were good. That means it's on a holding pile.
I waited a couple of months. Then queried again. Er, no, we have no record of your story, so we must assume it's been rejected.
What a lovely assumption. Thanks, Editors.
The following may be biased:
Let's take five examples of people I think do the job well. With class, respect for the writers contributing and professionalism.
Djibril, at FutureFire, publishes probably a comparable site to the one that got back to me as above. I doubt he would ever dream of doing something similar: FutureFire pays its contributors a token (I'm sure he won't mind me saying that. Course, it probably doesn't feel like a token to him having to continue forking out), but edits contributor stories in a professional way and presents them in a manner befitting the audience. Hopefully much like Serendipity, FutureFire does small press with a level of professionalism sadly missing in the field. I have had similar positive experiences with Electric Velocipede and Trunk Stories. Going one further, favourites Apex Digest take this to another level, but that's to be expected as the mag is knocking on the door of the professionals and threatening them with a big stick.
Of the places that have rejected stories, it's the larger--and I assume busier (ie, need more editorial work, have lots more submissions to read) publications that have the best response times and the most polite staff. If you tell an author to expect a form rejection, that's what they'll expect and feel like Gods if they're given a personal response to a submission, even if it's a rejection. Strange Horizons and Clarkesworld Magazine are shiny shinys here, as is Nemonymous.
I have run two no pay or limited pay online magazines and been involved in several print anthologies. Here's the thing: if you have clear guidelines and unless you're paying rates of more than about £50/$100, you just won't get the hundreds of submissions people complain about. For Serendipity, we have a pretty nice hit rate. Believe it or not we publish about forty per cent of stories submitted. I don't know if that's because the stories we look for are of a particular quirk that no self-respecting godawful writer is likely to submit to (of the sixty per cent we don't publish, maybe twenty per cent fall into the godawful or haven't-read-the-guidelines-we don't publish-Power Rangers-slash fiction categories. It's certainly not for a lack of people knowing about the magazine. We get between 30,000 (for a sketchy issue) to 60,000 page impressions a month.
So, in brief, editors. You who pay little or no money, unless you are very special (Elastic Press notwithstanding), neither I--nor Aliya--will send you our near-unpublishable stories. Editors, if your response times are over six months and you're not Albedo 1 (just coz they've been really nice to me), we won't submit to you either. So there.
Come on writers. Take the fight back to them. Half these people--ie the bad ones--aren't editors anyway. They're just dreadful writers without the staying power to improve their craft so they're trying to get prestige the easy way, by publishing others. I should know, I'm one of them. ;)