HorrorAddictsCon: The Wicked’s, Are Submission Guidelines Important?

Are Submission Guidelines Important?

by Emerian Rich

“Writers who don’t follow the rules aren’t worth our time.”

This is what most editors think and you should listen to them. Why? Because you’ll never get past the submission pile into the pile of stories they are seriously considering for publication.

I’ve heard editors say that they won’t even consider a story if the author hasn’t submitted it according to their guidelines. Writers think this sucks. Why should the way it’s presented mean anything? If it’s a good story, it should be considered on the plot merit, right? Being a writer I tend to agree, but we have to look at it as a job. If you were going to a job interview, you wouldn’t wear stained pajama pants and a bleach-spotted Kama Sutra t-shirt, even if you were a Harvard grad with excellent references. Think of the submission formatting as your foot in the door. Once you’ve dressed it up, then it’s up to your writing to break out of the pile and wow them.

Now, I am by no means a pro editor and I am still stuck some of the same piles you are. However, I did run a ‘zine called DarkLives for ten years. Nowadays, I receive on an average, 20-30 pieces of work a month from various collaborations, critique groups, and for my podcast HorrorAddicts.net. Having read hundreds of submissions I can tell you some things that make them difficult to handle.

First, always read the publishers website to see what their guidelines are and follow them precisely. Yes, they will notice if they asked for an outline and you give them a synopsis instead.

Second, don’t email them the next day to find out how they liked it. Especially if you are emailing another writer or a small publication, they probably have a “real job” and family that they have to work their writing dream around.

Third, if no guidelines are listed on their site or you are sending a manuscript to someone in the industry who doesn’t have submission guidelines (like another writer), PLEASE follow the standard submission format. I always change stories I receive into the proper format before I print or crit them. Mostly because someone will send me a twenty page story with no page numbers on it. If I drop the story, I’m in trouble. Trying to piece together someone else’s rough draft is insane. The author’s name and story title should also be in the header of each page for this reason.

So what is the “standard manuscript format”? Let me reiterate that you always need to follow the submission guidelines for the publication you are submitting to. If none are stated, go with these guidelines below:

  • Number pages in header or footer. It’s also nice to put the number of pages like so: 1/13
  • Courier font, 12 point, never in italics or bold
  • 1 inch margins all around
  • Double spaced
  • Use the # sign (centered) to indicate viewpoint change
  • Use left paragraph text (never justified)
  • Include your name and story name in the header of every page.
  • On the first page, list your name and a way to contact you. I don’t feel you have to include the info below if you are sending it to a critiquer, a simple email address should suffice, but if you are submitting to a publishing house, unless otherwise instructed, you should include: your name, address, phone number, email address, what type of story (Horror Novel or Fantasy Short Story, etc…), and computer word count.

There are more detailed formatting descriptions on publisher’s sites, in writing books, or online. If you are thinking about submitting, I strongly suggest you do your homework first so that you are put in the pile to read and not the recycle bin. If you don’t format it correctly, it won’t be read, and you might as well save yourself the trouble and cost of sending it out in the first place.

One word of encouragement. You’ll never be published if you don’t send it out. So… WRITE, SUBMIT, WRITE, SUBMIT and repeat as often as you can.

Emerian Rich is the author of Night’s Knights vampire series and Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series. She’s also been published in a handful of anthologies and written everything from non-fiction reviews to Science Fiction. As a Horror Hostess, she heads the HorrorAddicts.net podcast and attempts to promote the Horror Addicts lifestyle from the fan point of view. For more information on Emerian, go to: http://www.emzbox.com 

5 thoughts on “HorrorAddictsCon: The Wicked’s, Are Submission Guidelines Important?

  1. Emerian love the post and glad you put this out there for people to understand the process when submitting works. I know when I attempted to get a short story out into an anthology or two I took time to research the guidelines before even trying. I did have to make several changes be it artificial, or length, to get the submission to pass the guidelines. In the cases I tried I was not chosen but because I did follow the rules my work was reviewed. In a few cases I got some great feedback on things that may help me with further stories and submissions.

    So as your post stated it is important to read the guidelines.

    I will add that there is one thing I have learned from my attempts and that is to NEVER give up. If you enjoy writing, then well write. If it doesn’t make a publication does it really matter if you are doing something you care about? I think the hardest thing for any writer, from a novice to published, is finding time to write. So plan that into your weeks activities and make it happen. Heck that’s why they have DVR, VCR, On Demand, DVD and Blue Ray.



  2. It’s surprising how so many aspiring writers think they would make it without following the editor’s guidelines. Editors just don’t have the time to read through every single manuscript in their slush pile, and even if the most insigficant guideline is not followed, they will be really inclined to toss it just for that reason and so they can move on to the next of hundreds, sometimes even thousands of submissions.

    I think all aspiring writers should know what an editor has to go through so they’ll understand why they have to follow guidelines to what seems the least signicant detail. I know I understood that well when I found out from an editor the overwhelming number of manuscripts he had to read.


  3. I like what Knightmist said about finding time to write, Time management is an important skill to learn, especially when you have a family and full time job. I find in a regular day I get maybe 1 full hour a day to myself and sometimes if I feel tired its hard to push myself to write.


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