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J. Erik Lundberg
Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 07:31 am:   

Practical Advice for Writers Submitting to an Anthology
In Which an Editor Gets a Few Things Off His Chest


1. Read the submission guidelines. Thoroughly. I cannot stress this enough. Don't just skim them. Your editor has laid out their entire list of rules for submission, and if you don't follow them, you risk looking like an idiot. Most of the following is a derivation of this piece of advice. I repeat: read the submission guidelines.

2. Spell the editor's name right. It doesn't matter if you've gotten every other letter right, if you call me Lundbert or Lindborg, I will be less inclined to take you seriously. You wouldn't like it if your own name was misspelled, so do the editor the courtesy of proofreading their name before submitting to them.

3. Don't send your story until the reading period actually opens up. There are good reasons zines and anthologies have reading periods, such as personal things going on in the editor's life -- like vacation, graduate school, taxes, divorce, or all of the above -- and if you send your story early, it won't get read early. Either the editor will put it aside, ignore it, throw it in the wastebin, or light it on fire and do a dance around it, depending on how badly you've pissed them off.

4. When the editor says they are not accepting unsolicited reprints, don't send your unsolicited reprint and then tell the editor why it is perfect for the anthology. Most editors like to have the chance to publish new work, and if they have reprints at all, it is typically by writers they can count on to add some cachet to the project. Unless your story was originally published in a high-profile professional magazine or anthology, there's not much incentive for the editor to reprint it.

5. Similarly, in the cover letter, do not tell the editor what your story is about, and do not tell the editor why they should buy it. This will make the editor want to flush your story down the toilet, page by page, then send attack dogs after you. The editor is most likely a very bright person, and knows what they like. When you describe what happens in the story, the editor is less inclined to read the actual thing; if you can tell the story in a page, why bother spending thousands of words to tell the same story? Slight description is okay in a query letter, but only if the editor asks for it.

6. If the editor tells you they want the text of your story in Times New Roman or Courier New, do not presume that they are completely unobservant and format your fiction in Toxica instead. Any other fonts than the most basic ones are difficult to read, especially on-screen, and the editor might read 200,000 words worth of submissions. Don't give the editor any excuse to automatically reject your story.

7. Similarly, if the editor caps the word limit at 5,000 words, don't send a story at 9,000 words then explain why your story is the sole exception to this rule. Some editors will tell you to query if you have something longer than their limit; if they don't, they really don't want to look at fiction longer than their limit. This may be a practical reason, such as a budget that will only allow a certain amount of payment for each author, or it could have something to do with printing costs. Mostly, the editor is not going to want to gamble so much page space on you, unless you are an author who is recognizable; chances are you're not, and they're more likely to take something from you that is shorter.

8. If you have publication credits, only list the top four or five in your cover letter. Also, make sure that they are venues the editor might be familiar with. If not, don't list them, just say, "I have been published in several small press zines, &c." Remember, the shorter your cover letter, the better. Whether your story is accepted or rejected will have nothing to do with your cover letter, and the sooner the editor can read past it and get to your actual story, the more likely they will pay attention to your submission.

9. After your story has been submitted, don't query the editor a few weeks later to make sure they got it. Chances are they did, and your impatience reveals unprofessionalism. Assume that your submission made it, and the editor is just making up his mind on whether to buy it. If you really need to know, wait until a few weeks before the end of the submission deadline; you're justified then, since if they didn't really receive it, you'll want to get it to them before they stop reading for the anthology. Plus, it shows you have a more patient attention span than a hamster.
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John Klima
Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 08:46 am:   

>>>1. Read the submission guidelines. Thoroughly. I cannot stress this enough. Don't just skim them. Your editor has laid out their entire list of rules for submission, and if you don't follow them, you risk looking like an idiot. Most of the following is a derivation of this piece of advice. I repeat: read the submission guidelines.

Hear, hear! Read the guidelines, follow them. If you don't expect to be rejected.

The editor is in charge, do what he says. This is not a democracy.

JK
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Ben Payne
Posted on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - 03:10 pm:   

Personally I don't mind people misspelling my name as long as it's amusing... same goes for listing little-known zines...

When reading slush I'll take all the laughs I can get...

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J. Erik Lundberg
Posted on Thursday, November 18, 2004 - 07:37 pm:   

Laughs at the beginning are fine. But after dozens of manuscripts, my sense of humor gets severely tested.
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Deborah
Posted on Friday, November 19, 2004 - 06:14 am:   

Amen, Jason!

Good list.

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J. Erik Lundberg
Posted on Friday, November 19, 2004 - 02:56 pm:   

Thanks, Deborah. I compiled it over the three months of reading for the anthology, as I kept seeing the above offenses, not once, but several times.

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