Friday, July 2, 2010

Submission Guidelines & Formatting

Sometimes you'll feel like you've been battling with this guy for the chance at getting noticed.

Submitting stories is one of the many pleasures of writing. I usually look for anthologies that represent horror and a bit of science fiction. One of the most lifting and gratifying experiences a writer can have is to look into a book and find their story. The title, the ‘by’ line, and the author’s name right there in full view.

There are a few things to consider prior to getting to that most uplifting point. One of them is the story itself. Another is a query letter that is hopefully free of any type of errors. Finally that little thing called—format. Yes. Everything has its place in the writer’s world. No one can sell a story if they can’t write a simply letter. No one can get anywhere if they can’t follow simple directions either.

Every publisher who plans on putting together an anthology has what is known as submission guidelines. These guidelines tell the author what font size to use, what font type, what spacing between lines (double or single – usually double spaced), the page setup, which is usually one inch all around with a half inch indent for each paragraph. I find this is true if the book is to be in print form. Some electronic anthologies will request the page setup be in block form with no indents, and the identifiers. That being the author’s name, address, telephone number, email address, all in the proper place. Then there is the word count, title, last name of the author, genre, and page number, once again all in the proper place.

This certainly sounds pretty scary and tough, but it’s fairly simple. Everything will be spelled out in easy to read instructions. Follow them and everything will go along as smooth as a New York cheesecake. Since I write my stories in MS-Word, I use the header – footer to do my formatting. Make sure the ‘different first page’ is selected before formatting the pages. Then format like this:

To the left:

Email Address

To the right and tab directly across form name until you reach the end:

WC=3500/Vamp Girl/Horror/Morrone/Page 1

It should look like this:

Name WC=3500/Vamp Girl/Horror/Morrone/Page 1
Email Address

If there doesn’t seem to be enough room to the right, simply pull the text over to the left until everything can be typed in.

Setting the ‘different first page’ will allow the author to go to the second page and type only what is to the right, starting of course with the word count 3500. Clicking on the page number symbol will put ‘page 2’ in place. The rest of the pages will be exactly as page 2 with the exception of the page number, which will be 3 and so on. I’ve left out a few steps, but anyone who works with MS-Word will know how to do this.

Not ‘all’ publishers will look for this type of formatting. Some may request something totally different. This is where following the submission guidelines becomes very important. There are those who will not ask for double spacing, those who don’t want the ‘header – footer used, some who want Courier New and some who want Times New Roman. Most all will ask for 12 point font size. Some will ask the author to put the name of the anthology, the last name of the author, and the title of the story in the subject line. This is not uncommon. Some publishers will ask for snail mail submissions, and others will ask for electronic only. Most electronic submissions will be requested in either Rich Text Format – RTF, or DOC.

Some publishers will ask the author to underline anything that should appear in italics. Some my ask that the author to simply use the italics. The first page of the story with the story title and author’s name directly beneath, should be almost half way down the page. Below the title and author name and, about four spaces down, starts the story itself. This format is used for those editors who want to write something directly above, such as instructions or any corrections to be made.

Sounds like a lot, huh? It’s really not all that bad. There is an old slogan used for every job that needs to be done. ‘When All Else Fails, Follow Directions.’

As far as query letters are concerned, samples can be found all over the Internet. Find one that suits you and go from there. Make sure your letter is free of any type of error. I mentioned this before, but it’s just that important. An editor or publisher will not even view any stories if the query is full of mistakes in spelling and grammar. They will simply figure that if the author can’t write a simple letter, then how can they possibly write a novel or short story.

Don’t be discouraged with rejections. Most publishers will reject stories because they just don’t suit the story type they’re looking for. A lot of them will actually tell the author how well they story is written. This is a good thing. The old: There’s good news and bad news, right? Don’t take any critiques to heart or become offended. This is what editors are supposed to do. This is their job. I’ve been writing for quite some time now, and I’ve received my share of rejections, but I’ve never received a nasty one.

Here’s a couple of examples I’ve received:

Dear Pat,
Thank you for your submission to (name of anthology). We regret that we will not be able to use your story at this time. It’s just not what we’re looking for. We wish you luck in placing it elsewhere.

Dear Pat,

Thank you for your interest in (name of anthology). I’ve decided not to accept your story at this time. It simply didn’t catch our interest, although it was very well written. I wish you luck with your next submission to another publisher.

These are easy let downs and should actually make the author feel proud of his/her work. I certainly didn’t care for any type of rejections, but I did enjoy any kind words the publisher or editor had to say about my writing in general.

Follow the guidelines and get it right the first time.