Why Submission Guidelines and Requirements Matter

As creatives, often we don’t like following “rules”, although many of the places we want to submit our writing have very strict guidelines.

Agents and publishers have guidelines posted as requirements, sometimes down to fonts, spacing, and particularly length and topic.

These must be adhered to if we want to be considered by them. They often get thousands of submissions each month, and these guidelines help them to provide consistency for their job. When we can format our submissions how they require, it avoids our work being tossed in the dreaded “slush” pile of no return. We actually have a chance to be noticed, and afterall, that’s why we are submitting in the first place!

Deadlines are extremely important to be mindful of because if you don’t meet them, there are plenty of others who will. Often there are requirements for a cover letter, synopsis, bio or other items that must be included, in order to be considered. Following all the guidelines ensures your relationship with them can get off on the right foot.

Queries have their own set of requirements and there are many, many templates available online. Some agents and publishers even have their own style they would like. Please make sure you are taking these into consideration.

Ensure that you are writing individual queries tailored to each place you are submitting to. The amount of effort you put in, will translate to the amount of success you receive. These processes are no different than submitting a cover letter and resume to a potential employer, you must do your best to shine and convey why you are the best choice.

Marketing and copywriting skills come into play with many of these submission documents. They will not be your standard creative writing like the piece you are submitting because you must convey your ideas and convince them why your submission is worth reading and worth considering for their contest, company, roster, catalogue.

There are many stories of famous authors who were rejected multiple times before getting their big break. There are also stories of authors hanging up their rejections on the wall to inspire them to keep going. Remember, if you are getting rejections, you are still further ahead than the person not even trying.

Writing is a very vulnerable process, as we often put our hearts on the page. But when you get to the step of submitting, you must detach some from your words and develop a thicker skin. Your writing won’t be for everyone, and that’s okay. It will be for the one it’s meant to be for. And, it’s good practice, because once your manuscript gets in the hands of the publisher and final editor, there will likely be many many changes before it is sent out to the world for printing. If you aren’t prepared for that, make sure you choose the self-publishing route instead. It is also a very valuable option, which I will write more about in another article.

I have no doubt your work is well worth it, and I do not want you to get lost in the masses. Doing a bit of homework to find out exactly what you need to stand the best chance, is well worth the time, if you are serious about making your writing career take off.

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