Guest Bloggers

Why Follow Submission Guidelines?

Guest Blogger Tish Davidson writes:

Don’t Sabotage Your Submissions

What is the first thing you do when you cook a new recipe? Read the directions to determine if you have the necessary ingredients. What is the first thing you do when you assemble a piece of Ikea furniture? Read the directions. So why do so many writers seem unable to read and follow the directions when submitting to a journal or contest?

I’ve judged a lot of writing from independently published books to high school writing contests. I was an editor of the 2019 CWC Literary Review with responsibility submission intake as well as judging. What I’ve learned is how few supposedly literate people read and follow the submission directions. Maybe because they are called “guidelines” people consider them optional. Or perhaps the requirements seem overly picky or silly. Take fonts. Why use Courier as requested when your work will stand out from the crowd in Verdana? Well, one reason for a specified font is that all fonts are not equal. New Times Roman, for example, is proportional. Each letter takes up a different amount of space depending on its shape. Some fonts like Courier are nonproportional, meaning that each letter, like an “i” and an “m,” take up the same amount of space. Using the requested font helps the journal editor figure out how much space the work will take up on the page.

Names are another issue. Some contests request the name only in the body of the email, not on the submission itself. Apparently many writers either 1) don’t read the directions; 2) forget to remove their name from the piece; or 3) are afraid the submission editor is incapable of keeping straight which submission goes with which person, so to feel secure, they include their name.

Exceeding word lengths, block paragraphing rather than indenting (or vice versa as requested), using another person’s copyrighted song lyrics, subject matter inappropriate to the journal or contest, failing to observe the deadline or contest limitations such as age, or state/country of residence—all these will get your submission sent to the trash without being read, and as a judge evaluating a hundred or more submissions, less work is always welcome.

Read and follow submission guidelines Don’t sabotage your work.

Originally published in the Fremont Area Writers newsletter. Fremont Area Writers is a branch of the California Writers Club.

Tish Davidson has published ten nonfiction books for children with Scholastic and Mason Crest and eight for adults published by Bloomsbury. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in collections published by Harlequin, Adams Media, and Scribe Press. She is a member of the Fremont branch of California Writers Club and was on the editorial team of the 2019 CWC Literary Review.

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