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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?