Writing Life: Submissions and How to Play by the Rules

I really just couldn’t come up with a better title, but that’s the gist of this post.

Manuscript © sidewalk flying on Flickr

Today, we’re going to run through a few of the rules you need to follow when you submit a piece of fiction.  It’s a short list, but I think that any new author really needs to be aware of these points.

  1. Read the submissions guidelines.  That’s where the magazine, publishing house, etc. is going to tell you whether they’re accepting submissions.  Sometimes they’ll be open to a certain theme for an anthology, sometimes they’ll only be open to a specific genre or sub-genre.  Just because they are accepting for one genre does not mean that it’s okay for you to submit for any genre.  In fact, it’s the opposite of okay.
  2. Pay attention to formatting preferences.  Popular formatting guidelines can be found in ‘how-tos’ all over the internet, and every one of them is going to be different.  The bulk of publications and publishing houses will have a section in their submissions guidelines about formatting, even if it’s just a link to ‘how-to’ that they prefer.  Follow these formatting guidelines to a T!  Do you want your work to be tossed into the shredder or deleted off of their hard drive?  I swear to you, if you don’t following formatting guidelines, they won’t even read your submission before they toss it out.  They have enough to do without struggling through a manuscript by someone who didn’t take the time to format to their specifications.  No one cares how amazing your work is if you can’t follow simple instructions.
  3. When it says “do not contact before 90 days,” do not contact before 90 days!  Seriously.  They have your manuscript, and it takes time to read.  In fact, the hundreds that they have in their inboxes take time to read.  Relax, write something else while you’re waiting.  When the 90 days (or whatever grace period they stipulate) is over, then feel free to shoot them a polite email inquiring as to the status of your manuscript.  Do not be a dick and chastise them for their lack of a timely response.  You will only hurt your chances of being read at all.  Remember, this is a business.  Be professional.
  4. Be positive.  It’s not a rule, but try to keep your head up.  Rejections suck and they can tear you down after awhile.  Just remember that the more you write, the better you’ll get.  In fact, the more you read the better you’ll write, so don’t forget to pick up a book now and again.  I know some of you hate reading because it ‘influences’ your writing voice.  Eventually, your writing will get to the point where it has its own voice.  Reading might give it a nudge now and then, but your voice will have a strength that will always come through.  Keep writing, keep submitting, and don’t let rejection tear you up.

If the thought of traditional publishing doesn’t work for you, then you can always go through a service like Create Space, Smashwords, Lulu, or XLibris.  Which brings me to next week’s post: Don’t Self-Publish Without a Beta Reader!  Stay tuned!



Filed under Writing Life

8 responses to “Writing Life: Submissions and How to Play by the Rules

  1. Jasper Gazeat

    Lovely post as usual, Kit! :D

  2. Reblogged this on A. Wrighton and commented:
    A great blog about submitting. Important to read? Methinks, yes!

  3. I love you for writing this post. It’s necessary for my existence.

  4. Very concisely said, and pertinent.
    Appropriately enough, I was listening to the Writing Excuses guys covering something like this earlier today…

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