Monday, June 07, 2010

Number One Rule when sending a submission

I have had the fortune this past spring to be the co-ordinator of not one but two short story competitions. Basically that means that I am not a judge, but the stories all come to me and I remove the cover page, keep a record of who wrote what, and send the stories off to the judges. I will then be responsible for accepting the judges' verdict and announcing the happy news to the talented winners.

One thing occurred to me during the process, which also reminded me of when people ask for my advice on submitting their novels or stories to editors or publishers.

Number one rule? DO WHAT THEY SAY.


For Contest 1, which was paper submissions, several entries went to the address of the convention registration, whereas my address was the one on the bottom of the form, in big letters, as the place to send the stories. We asked for three copies. I got one copy from some writers. Some people sent registered letters. That meant a drive to the post office.

For Contest 2, which is electronic submissions, a couple of entries could not be read by my computer – although we had specified the format they were to be in.
I was surprised at the number of electronic entries that didn’t have a page heading. Here’s an idea: even if you are not to put your name on the page (for blind judging) at least put the name of the work and the page numbers on it. Imagine the judge carrying out a stack of twenty or more stories to read on his deck. Imagine a big wind comes up. Imagine gathering up a hundred pages of paper from all across the lawn and in the branches of trees. Then imagine trying to put them all back in order. And finding some without any sort of header.

Some stories had different names than the computer file. Eg. Long Night vs night.doc. What that means is that if I am searching for your story in my computer files and they are in alphabetical order I will be looking under L, not N. And if I have another story called Night Dreams, I might get them mixed up. (Note that names are hypothetical.)

Some had the name of the competition as the file name. Huh? How many copies of XXStoryContest.doc do you think my computer will hold?


In all of these cases I took the time and trouble to make the stories match our guidelines. I photocopied paper, I wrote back and asked for the correct format, I added page numbers and titles, and stored the files under better names.
You may think that’s not a big deal. And it wasn’t. I am not complaining, but I am asking you to think.

If I was a publishing house or an agent who gets a couple of hundred submissions a month – how much trouble do you think I would go to to make your submission readable?
None – straight into the garbage.

Next time you’re submitting anything, to anyone, read the instructions carefully. Follow them. And use common sense.


peter_may said...

Great advice, Vicki - and I admire your patience. Those who didn't follow the instructions were very fortunate to have you at the receiving end.

Lynn Stadel Paterson said...

You would think that people who are submitting stories would follow the guide lines carefully. I would have sent it back with a note to try again. lol

Rick Blechta said...

I've found that most people don't read things all the way through, whether they be directions or just simple emails, and I think that's where the problem lies. I'm guilty of it sometimes and I'm certain everyone else is.

And with our diminishing attention spans, it will only get worse...

Charlotte Hinger said...

After serving as the Spur Awards chairman for Western Writers I was amazed at the ways people can screw things up. Everything from insulting judges in advance to entering stuff in the wrong category. After talking with one publisher, I literally had to wipe the froth off my mouth.

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