Navigating Submission Guideline

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Submitting to publications is daunting. And if done wrong discouraging. Some of the biggest mistakes for novices are not following basic submission guidelines. Whether you are submitting to a magazine, periodical, blog, book publisher or agent there are basic guidelines everyone needs to know and follow.

We’ve all heard over and over read the submission guidelines before querying a publication. For my purposes today, I am assuming you are doing that.

Sometimes the instructions can be confusing and we wonder if we can do things differently. The answer is a resounding NO! NO! NO!

Your words will get delegated to the bottom of a very large slush pile or deleted.

Attachments

Send your manuscript as an attachment. This means do not put your manuscript in the body of the email. There is usually a paperclip icon or an attach button somewhere in your email template. Click that. Your computer files will pop up. Pick the file you which to attach. Once it is in the box for sending click to open button and it will transfer your file as an attachment to your email.

This also goes for bios and photos.  If it says attach don’t place them in the body of the email. Once they are in the body it is hard to extract them and place them where they are needed on a web page or magazine page. Jpegs for photos and book covers are the easiest to work with. Unless the contact asks for a press release, one sheet or other document that has the photos and bios on the same page send each item separately as an attachment.

Links

If the publisher wants links to your work or social media find the web address for your links and place them where the publisher has requested. Send your URL. Make sure the links work. If you have samples of your writing not on a website. Send samples as attachments.

Correctly title attachments

I may have an article title CC V2. If I send it to a publisher with this title it will never see the light of day. Because that title means nothing to them. But if I rename that file Coffee Caper by Cindy Huff or Flash Fiction Coffee Caper or Cindy Huff Coffee Caper FF it makes it a lot easier for the editor to find my submission in the sea of other manuscripts.

Often publisher’s guidelines state exactly how they want your attached manuscript labeled. Be sure you rename to before attaching and pressing the send button.

Photo sizes

If you are attaching photos, book covers or head shots be sure to check the size requested. Do your best to provide exactly what they needed. A too large photo has to be resized. A too small photo may not be usable if it must be enlarged. The pixilation becomes blurred as it is resized.

Formatting

Most often the formatting of a manuscript of any kind is Times New Roman 12 point font, double spaced. Articles are left margin justified (no indenting) with two spaces between paragraphs. Fiction is first line left justified for first line of chapters while all other paragraphs are indented (Not space bar five times) with tab set at 0.5. Margins all around should be 1.0 all around except a book manuscript where the first page is 3 inches from the top.

Check the publisher’s style guide for specific formatting instructions.

Submitting directly on websites

Some websites such as Chicken Soup for the Soul have a specific page for submissions on their website.  You fill our your personal information and cut and paste your article into the space provided. Some have you attach your manuscript on to their form. If a publisher has a submission page never send your story via email.  They will delete it without reading it.

If you don’t follow the directions provided in the guidelines to the letter your work won’t even be read.

Word count

If the publisher requests 600 words don’t send 601. Often, I have read in the Q & A section of many publisher’s guidelines there is always the question will you take a manuscript that is longer than your acceptable word count. And with rare exceptions it is usually a resounding NO. Be sure your offering doesn’t exceed the word count.

Deadline

Never send anything after the deadline. You are wasting your time and not being professional. Unless the publisher gave you the assignment and you have their permission to submit late, don’t do it. There are periodicals and publishers who only take submissions during specific months. If that submission period for example falls between April and July. Don’t send anything in early either.

Submitting reworked pieces

Some publications will allow you to remove a submission and replace it with a newer version. Don’t even think about changing out your submission unless it is stated in the instructions.

SASE and contact info

Few publications ask for a self-addressed stamped envelope anymore. But if you need to submit by snail mail be sure you include an envelope with appropriate postage for your piece.

Electronic submissions must have your name, email and phone number in the cover letter or wherever the editor requests it be placed. If you fail to do this your words will be rejected because they have no way to contact you. And no they aren’t going to search the web for your identity because they must buy your book. It will never happen.

hook-881443_640Double check

Before you press the send button, or seal the envelope be sure you have followed every step laid out on the website.  Only after you are confident you haven’t missed anything should you press submit or lick the envelope.

A final thought

Whether you are writing for a magazine with a huge subscriber base or a friend’s blog always be professional when submitting. It will make the editor or blog hosts job so much easier.  And the possibility of being published is much greater.

What’s the most confusing thing you have found in submission guidelines?

 

 

 

Accountability Partners vs Mentors : Why writers need them

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Accountability and Mentoring grow your writing career and improve your craft.

Every writer at some point in his career needs an accountability partner and a mentor. Both help grow your career and make you a better writer. Some people get the two terms confused. Let me start by defining terms.

Accountability partners work together to achieve a variety of goals. Accountability isn’t unique to writers. Weight control groups and gyms offer accountability for success in achieving health goals. Partners report their weight loss or number of sit ups on a weekly basis. The end result of a successful partnership is not only achieving their weight loss or exercise goals but developing habits of good health that last a life time.

Mentors have gone before you. They have already achieved their goals. In the case of writers, they are published, know how to market and may even know the ins and outs of social media. They know what it takes to be successful A mentor guides and instructs writers to improve their craft.

Sometimes a mentor can hold a mentee accountable for reaching his goals and ask his mentee to do the same for him.

The one big difference: a mentor is usually farther along in his career. While an accountability partner can be on an equal level or a newbie. The end game is slightly different in each setting.

What to expect from an Accountability Partner

Accountability partners enter into a verbal agreement to report progress on a weekly basis. Each individual sets a goal for the week and then reports his progress at the end of the week. Accountability partners can also be critique partners. You each agree to critique portions of the other’s writing every week. Here’s where it can get sticky. Accountability partners need to be realistic. The burden has to be equally shared. If you want your partner to critique a chapter a week you better be willing and able to do the same for them. If you need your foot held to the fire for completing a certain number of pages or words a day then be sure to do your part.

Don’t abuse your partner. If she critiques your work, but you don’t have time to do the same, don’t bother to enter into this partnership. Hire an editor. It’s not fair to expect more from your partner than you have time to give.

How to best learn from your mentor

Mentors are wonderful things as long as you don’t rely on them too heavily. They’re not your personal editor or manuscript fixer. Don’t take advantage by expecting him or her to introduce you to their agent or open doors for you. It could happen, but that is not their job description. Mentors or coaches may give you assignments to help strengthen weak areas. If they do critiques for you, take full advantage by working hard to make your writing shine. Don’t throw rough drafts at them to fix. Instead present your best work for evaluation. That’s how you learn to improve your craft. Be open to their correction and insights.

 

The value of an accountability partner

Accountability partners are something you can keep throughout your writing career. The partner may change over time for various reasons. Many writers don’t work for a magazine or publisher who give them deadlines. Your partner becomes that deadline. Striving to give an honest report of goals achieved will keep you on track. You can create your own deadlines for creating submissions, editing and reading craft books by setting those goals with your accountability partner.

When you might need a mentor

Writers should continue to grow and improve. A writer can learn much from craft books, conferences and classes. There comes a time you might needed a mentor when one on one counseling and training will help you improve your writing, editing or marketing. Their goal: reproduce new outstanding writers.

Where are you in your career?

Do you need your foot held to the fire to achieve your goals or help perfecting your craft? Or both?

Love to hear your thoughts on mentoring and accountability.

 

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