Thursday, January 24, 2008

Following the Rules

By Nichole Giles

Whenever I go to a conference or read writing tips from editors, there is one piece of advice I hear consistently over and over again. The editors always suggest reading back issues—for magazine’s you’re submitting to—or books on the publisher’s list. This advice is always followed by an admonition to read and strictly follow submission guidelines.

Submission guidelines are instructions for writers. Sometimes they even offer topic ideas and editor wish lists. Sometimes guidelines are hard to find, or when we do find them we don’t understand why we have to use a certain font, or double space, or submit by mail rather than online. I used to wonder why magazines were so strict with their word counts. But I have learned that there are reasons for all of these things and that a great majority of editors won’t look at submissions that don’t follow their simple, but strict guidelines.

Every editor I’ve heard speak has touched on the subject of following guidelines. Why? Because, let’s face it, if an author can’t follow the written instructions on the publisher’s website, how will they ever be able to follow editing instructions? Or promotional instructions?

So I ask, my dear friends, how can we writers not heed and acknowledge this advice? From word count restrictions to page format, and even to sending your work to the correct editor—we cannot minimize the importance of following directions.

After all, if you were an editor, would you look at submissions by an author who believed himself above the rules?

Luckily, these guidelines are readily available for all of us, if we just know where to look. Most publishing companies have a website that offers guidelines at the stroke of a few keys. Another excellent way to find out what a publisher expects is by writing a short note requesting guidelines and then sending it to the company with a self addressed stamped envelope. That way, all they have to do is stuff your envelope and send it back to you. Easy as pie.

Whatever your genre, and wherever you submit, don’t forget to check the guidelines. It could mean the difference between rejection and acceptance.


Tristi Pinkston said...

I've heard LDSP talk about this too -- she says she has a greater tendency to reject when the manuscript doesn't follow the rules. Great advice, Nichole!

Nichole Giles said...

I've heard this from a lot of publishers, and know it's really important.

Thanks for commenting!