Six ways your manuscript gets buried in slush piles and rejected

Recently, I got another author submission for this blog with the title Cindy Ervin Huff’s interview on the attachment. I usually download it to Word and rename it with the writer’s name and subject. I don’t get hundreds of submissions a day. I have time to download and rename. Editors don’t. This led me to the list of reminders I’ve seen repeated at conferences and in articles that bear repeating.

Manuscripts get reject and lost faster than fast and this can often be avoided if you follow these familiar guidelines.

  1. Pubs don’t pub that

There are still authors who use the shotgun method they shot their manuscripts out to several publishers or magazines without doing the research to find out what they publish. Just because the magazine is called Muscle Cars doesn’t mean you can send a random article about cars to them. Most magazines have a theme page. Each month is a different theme with suggestions of what they are looking for.

I write Historical Romance and there are several publishers who don’t accept anything by Contemporary Romance. They have specific guidelines that must be followed about content. In some cases, the structure of the story needs to follow a certain outline. I would be wasting those publisher’s time if I submitted it there. Go to their website and read the blubs about their books. Order a few of their best sellers to see what they publish before submitting your manuscript.

  1. Bad Titles for Attachments

You title your manuscript Gone with The Wind final draft. But if you leave that title when you added it as an attachment the editor may not be able to find it later. A better title is Margaret Mitchell manuscript Gone with The Wind. Even the title on your email should be Margaret Mitchell’s submission you requested Gone with The Wind. Submission requests mirror so many other emails. So be sure your name is clearly in the email subject line. This is also true for articles.

  1. Wrong formatting

Times New Roman 12-point font double spaced is the industry standard for manuscripts of any kind. A few publishers prefer single-spaced. Some asked for your scene breaks to be notated differently. And although this can be an easy fix, it is time that the publisher doesn’t want to take. Again, read submission guidelines and be sure your formatting is correct. A big problem can occur if you make corrections in your novel and it skewers the formatting or there are additional spaces between paragraphs and sentences. Copy/paste can create issues as well. Use find and replace to fix those yourself. Clean formatting shows professionalism. Ask for help if you don’t know how to fix it.

  1. Typos and grammar issues

A great story will often get rejected if there are typos and grammar errors. Publishers get great submission clean of errors. Why bother to correct yours? Even the best of us don’t see our own mistakes. The spell check on your Word program is limited- if it’s a word but not the word you want, it doesn’t know that. Use Grammarly or ProWritingAid to comb your manuscript. Then ask someone else to read through it. Fresh eyes catch typos so easily. Be especially careful that the first page is error-free. Editors are busy people and they read manuscripts all day long. Typos and grammar errors distract them so much they can’t focus on content. Rejection will be inevitable.

  1. Not reading submission guidelines

I’ve already mentioned this. But it bears repeating. If your manuscript is formatted, clean and fits the theme of the publisher, it can still get rejected if you miss any points in the guidelines. Women’s World still takes their fiction by snail mail with a SASE. Chicken Soup for the Soul only takes submission attached to the form on their website. A few magazines prefer the article in the body of the email although most prefer them attached. Check submission times. There are publishers who only look at submissions from January to June, for example, others have even shorter windows. They want all their submission for the year in that timeframe. So read the guidelines carefully and read it again.

  1. Mediocre writing

Publishers are looking for great writing. Correct grammar is important but if the story isn’t awesome, it won’t matter if you’ve followed the guidelines to a T. Read best sellers in the genre you want to write. Study what made it a great book. Take classes at conferences or online, read writing books. Keep honing your craft. Make your words shine.

What other things get manuscripts rejected or buried in the slush pile?

Navigating Submission Guideline

magazines-609359_640

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?