We see you’ve just written a novel, a short story, or flash fiction. We know you are eager to find a home for your work, you’ve looked at markets and found us.
While we are honored to have you submit to us, please do your homework and follow the instructions listed on our submission page. Please note: our submission guidelines are not optional fields.
1. We want to see your best work. While a few writers can write cleanly enough to submit a first draft, most writers really should set a manuscript aside at least for a few days (while working on something else) and then edit it. If you have beta readers, please seek their assistance in refining your work. Read the story out loud and look for misused or missing words. Check for plot pacing, flat characters and continuity errors. Take the time to create the best story you can. Sure, it might mean missing a submission window, but it might make enough of a difference between an A or and R later on.
2. Please check the dates on the submission window. Not all publishers are open to submissions year round. Sure your story might be a perfect fit, but if we aren’t open, your submission will be deleted unread. The only reason you should ever submit outside of the window is because you have permission from someone in that publishing company. If so, then in the cover letter, you should state details of why you are submitting outside of the regular window, who you spoke with and where.
3. A properly formatted manuscript is like looking at someone who is dressed appropriately for an important meeting. The slush readers and editors can’t look at you face to face, but they can look directly at your work. Formatting your manuscript in the style a publisher wants gives them an indication of how you work with instruction. While some publishers require specific formatting most use the William Shunn method. Free advice: Learn to format every manuscript this way. It will save you many headaches later.
4. We do not want fancy fonts. First of all they are distracting and difficult to read. Second, they may not show up properly on our computers. Generally, Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier in a 12 point type are best. If we need to you to format in another font, we will have instructions on what one to use. Use of other fonts such as Papyrus, Curlz, or Comic Sans MS will result in rejections. Also, trying to use a tiny font to conserve paper is commendable, but with electronic submissions not necessary. Double also, use only a black font on a white background. Anything else kills our eyes and will kill your chances at publication.
5. Please, for the love of Pete, use paragraphs. Because our readers and editors enjoy reading and not having headaches, big blocks of texts is not preferred. A page full of text where there’s no relief is very intimidating to many people, and when a writer doesn’t use paragraphs, the lines tend to blur causing eye strain and stress. Break things down some. When there’s a new thought, or if someone else is doing something, start a new paragraph. Don’t worry the reader will not get lost.
6. Read the guidelines as to what type of spacing the publication requires. A publisher might request double or even triple spacing of a manuscript. Conversely, they might not want that extra space at all. Some want a double return after a paragraph. If a publisher does not specify, use of the Shunn manuscript format is always appreciated.
7. In some cases such as flash or micro fiction, headers and footers are not necessary, but for most manuscripts it’s pretty useful in determining if a manuscript is yours and to have an area where your pages are numbered. This is really important when an editor or publisher has a pile of manuscripts on their desk and the cat decides to teleport suddenly in the middle of it. If your manuscript is numbered and identified, it’s much easier to put it all back together. Please read the guidelines as to if the publisher wants headers and or footers on the submission.
8. Now we come to the final pieces of a submission. Your cover letter should be less than a page long. For novels, a synopsis may be required but for most short stories, please leave it off. We also do not need to hear your life story--interesting as it may be. Two hundred words (or less) that say a little about you is fine. We also do not need your entire list of publishing credentials. Your most recent or most important three are just fine. If you have a tiny bit of information relevant to the story or publisher you may add that too but please be very brief.
9. This last step is very important. Take notes if necessary. Make sure you attach the right file to the submission. If you’ve taken the time to properly format your work, go ahead and save it as a separate file with your last name, title and market. This way you’ve got the right file going to the right place. You’d be surprised how many submission are received without a story or how many emails have been received stating that they sent the wrong file.
So if you feel as though you can follow these steps, we welcome you to submit your work to any publication we are in charge of. While we love the variations in stories, having guidelines helps us read and critique the work we receive. We want to give everyone a fair chance so here’s your sign.
Follow the Instructions.
Slush readers, Editors and Publishers