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The Do’s and Don’ts of Manuscript Submissions: Please Read the Guidelines

Over at the District of Wonders we have a newsletter called The Submissions Desk. We recently ran an article from StarShipSofa’s Assistant Editor, Jeremy Szal and his thoughts on reading those dreaded guidelines. It proved very popular so I thought I’d share it here. Hopefully to give you all a heads-up to what we and other publishers might be thinking of! If you want to join the Submission Desk Newsletter then you’re a mere click away.

It’s rightly entitled….

Please Read the Guidelines

Welcome all to this newsletter which is about getting your story published. With being the publisher and host of StarShipSofa I have the pleasure of working with Jeremy Szal who is the assistant editor. I hear back from Jeremy so many times about people’s total disrepect for not bothering to read guidlines. So I thought I would ask Jeremy just to clarify what is happing and what people are doing when they submit their work to an editor’s desk. Over to Jeremy…


Hi All,
Jeremy here…

Doing slush for StarShipSofa was my first foray into the practice. I wanted to expand our author pool and give people an opportunity to get a story on the Sofa, since we’ve almost always solicited stories from big name authors. So I wanted to try it.

And it was one hell of an experience. So many of the stories were truly amazing, and it made it so hard to tear myself apart from them. My inbox was filled with hundreds of amazing stories. Seriously, you lot are awesome.

But there were some bad eggs, too. Oh boy, were there some bad ones. But doing slush was an interesting experience. Here are the highlights from it and things that I noticed. These are mostly not blanket criticisms, merely observations that I found to be true in my case.

Guidelines:
You knew this was coming, right?

While most people followed the guidelines more or less to a tee, there was a whole bunch of submissions that completely and utterly disregarded most, or sometimes everything that the guidelines asked for. I’ll give you an example.

I asked for stories to be sent in within a certain timeframe. These stories were sent outside this timeframe.

I said no self-published/vanity press reprints. I got self-published vanity press reprints.

I said give a short bio. I got entire life stories, including the life stories of alter-ego(s) and personas that “co-wrote” the story.

I asked for science-fiction. I got pagan faux-Bible body horror. I got magical realism. I got non-genre fic.

I asked for the stories to be attached. I got them pasted in the email.

I asked for submissions in separate emails. I got them lumped in a single email.

I asked for max of five total submissions. I got ten submissions.

I asked for finished stories. I got files that had unfinished line-edits, red strikes, warped formatting, etc.

Now, what’s the likelihood of me accepting submissions like these? And the case I described came from one submission. One person managed to compile all of these transgressions into a nice little bundle.

No one is perfect. But everyone’s time is limited. While I was trawling through these submissions, I was working with an author on re-arranging his bio, I was sending stories to audio narrators (who narrate for a living), and I working with Peter F. Hamilton and Karen Lord on soliciting stories form them. This takes time, and if people can’t be bothered to spend half a minute reading the guidelines, it shows a strong lack of disrespect to me and the podcast, but more importantly too the dozens and dozens of other authors in the slush and who I’m working with.

I want to like your stories and I want to work with you. But I can’t do that if you can’t follow the rules.

Thank you Jeremy – Tony back now to wrap this up.

So… not just for StarShipSofa, not just Tales or Far Fetched but for every magazine out there that you would like to send your work. You’ve got to do it. Read them and read them again and just before you click send… read them one more time just to make sure you are all ship-shape and in with a good fighting chance.

In the next newsletter I’ll talk about what gets me angry!

Until then…

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