Follow Submission Guidelines to Maximize the Chance of Publication

I recently discussed “Why Writers Should Follow the Rules of Writing.” Now I’ll focus on submission guidelines. The reason we should follow submission guidelines is simple: It increases our chance of publication.

Here are some tips for successful submissions:

  • Use Standard Formatting Expectations: We start by structuring our writing according to accepted industry practices. Then we tweak it if needed for each specific instance. Though there is no absolute set of formatting rules, start with “How to Format Your Submission.”
  • Follow Stated Guidelines: Virtually every publisher has submission guidelines. Look on their website. Find them, and follow them. Expect variations from one publisher to the next.
  • Send by the Right Method: In most cases, submissions are sent via email. Some will request an attachment. Unless otherwise specified, always attach a Word file; don’t submit work from another word processor, certainly don’t submit a PDF file, and never ask them to click on a link. Others will specify “no attachments”; usually they summarily delete all submissions with attachments. A few still request mailed submissions. Whatever they ask, be sure to comply with their request.
  • Email to the Specified Address: Often a special email address is given for submissions. Use it. Don’t try an end run around their process.
  • Adhere to Their Schedule: Some publishers have specific dates when they will accept submissions. Be sure to hit that window. Don’t be too early or submit too late.
  • Show Respect: Being the squeaky wheel will not gain the attention we want. Being nice will help with our current submission, as well as the next. If they say “no,” they mean it; there’s no room for discussion or second chances.

You’ve likely heard of writers who have ignored these tips and found success because of it. Although this has worked in isolated instances, the general result is they earn the label of a maverick, garner derision, and receive a stern “no.”

In most cases, each departure from a publisher’s submission procedure increases the chance of rejection. They (generally) don’t do this to be mean or to prove they’re in charge. It may be they’re too busy and don’t have time for writers who can’t follow directions. Or perhaps each instance of a writer’s deviation from expectations, subconsciously moves an editor towards rejecting that piece.

We should submit quality work, in the way publishers request, to have the best chance of success.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!