Reading Submission Guidelines: Your Gateway to Publication

SUBMISSION CLOUDI’ve had this blog since 2006. And the last few years I’ve opened it up to more guest posts and author interviews.  Two reasons: I love to give other authors exposure, and I often learn useful things from my guests. Another reason is I don’t have to write every single blog. 😊

I want my blog posts to bring value. The same way publishers of magazines and books want their content to. Which is why magazines and blogs have submission guidelines.

Why I added submission guidelines

This past year I created submission guidelines for Jubilee Writer. My goal was to make it easier for guest bloggers to supply me with the things I need. Over the years, I’ve sent additional emails to upcoming guests requesting headshots and cover art or missing bios. My guidelines are intended to eliminate unnecessary emails. Instead, make my needs very clear from the get-go. There’s a list of possible questions in my guidelines for new author interviews. A time saver for both the guest and me.

And yet

There are times I still need to ask for missing items. Authors sometimes send me their media kit, which makes more work at my end. I would need to cut and paste, change fonts and in the end request they resend photos and book covers as attachments because I couldn’t pull the pictures from the word document.

Now that I have guidelines, I’ve stopped doing the extra work. My instructions are clear. Photos must be attached. I ask the guest to do the work and I explain why. For new authors, it’s a learning experience. I’ll take the time to help newbies get the components right. But magazines and book publishers won’t bother. They may not have time to request missing parts of your submission.  It will more than likely end up in the trash file.

But I have a media kit

If a publisher requests a media kit—send it. If not, please don’t. I recall taking pains to create a job resume only to have to fill out a handwritten application. Every blank had to be completed. No “see attached resume” was allowed.  That’s the same philosophy with guidelines. Give them what they want, how they want it.

Many job resumes and submissions are online where every space must be filled in. No attaching a media kit. You can’t cut and paste from your media kit into blanks. If you don’t know what a media kit is and didn’t read Tuesday’s guest post from Paige Boggs on Media Kits, click here.

I repeat

Always send what the publisher, editor, or agent wants IN THE FORMAT they want it. I was surprised when Women’s World magazine’s guidelines required a hard copy of a short story mailed with an SASE. They refused to take emailed versions. Chicken Soup for the Soul is an online submission form only.

Most guidelines contain a disclaimer like: “if you do this instead of that, we will delete your email without opening it”. A retired literary agent told a story at a conference I attended about a persistent author. Guidelines on the agent’s website clearly stated he only took proposals and manuscripts via email. He had very specific steps involved in creating the kind of proposal he wanted. This particular author hand delivered his manuscript to the agent’s door. Without skipping a beat, the agent wrote across the manuscript a rejection note and handed it back.

And Again, I Say

Read the guidelines, then read them again. Follow every step. If you aren’t computer savvy when it comes to attachments, ask someone to teach you. Unless a publisher states they want your submission in the body of an email—always send it as an attachment. (Side note: clearly title the attachment i.e. Short Story Title, by Authors name and make sure your email subject line is clear as well.) When you think you have all your ducks in a row, count them again. It’s embarrassing to send off your email and forget to attach your manuscript, catch the mistake and send another email. Some publishers may glance at the subject line and think you are violating the guidelines of not sending a corrected manuscript after submitting. They may push the delete button without opening the email and miss your cute “Oops! I forgot to add the attachment.”

Get in the habit of reading submission guidelines thoroughly even for lowly blogs like mine. That habit will improve your publishing chances and show you as a professional even if it is your first ever submission.

What are some unusual submission guidelines you’ve run into as an author?

 

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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?