Submission Protocol: You Are Not Special

Sending your work out for consideration to magazines and book publishers can be a daunting process. There are a lot of rules, and those rules can and do change from publisher to publisher. Fortunately, every publisher’s website lists their submission guidelines, and for the most part, they are easy to follow.

The number one most important rule when submitting your work is to follow the submission guidelines. Not a little bit, not mostly, not with this or that exception, but all the fucking way, every fucking time. Why? Because, as Tyler Durden said:

“‘You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.'”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Get it? Unless your name is George R. R. Martin or J.K. Rowling, you have to follow the rules. You may be talented, but you are not special. Your work may be good, but it isn’t special either. You need every single advantage you can get, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot before your story even leaves your inbox. Follow the guidelines.

There’s a very important reason to follow submission guidelines beyond acting like a responsible adult human being. Editors who work at small publishing houses, magazines, and webzines are an overworked lot. Many of them are reviewing hundreds if not thousands of stories, and like all of us, they look for ways to lighten their workloads. One of the easiest ways to do that is to shit-can stories that don’t follow the rules. Instead of reading one more vampire romance story, it’s much easier to flush it unread because the author thought it would be atmospheric to use a gothic font when the guidelines ask for Courier. Instead of reading yet another zombie apocalypse story, it’s much easier to circular-file it because it’s 3,200 words in length when the guidelines clearly state the maximum accepted length is a firm 3,000 words.

Don’t give editors reasons to not read your story. It’s hard enough getting published when they do read them.

In this series of posts, I’ll cover the basic elements you’re going to see in almost any set of submission guidelines. Most of these fall into the hard-number, do-it-exactly-like-this, totally-spelled-out-for-you category, and your story will absolutely earn a one-way trip to flushville if you don’t follow them.

You’ll notice you don’t gain any rejectomancy points for adhering to submission guidelines, but you definitely lose them for failure to follow fucking directions (FTFFD for short) or, even worse, for succumbing to special snowflake disorder (SSD for short).

What is special snowflake disorder?

It is the erroneous belief that submission guidelines are for mere mortals grubbing in the dirt beneath you; that your work transcends the stifling concepts of genre, proper manuscript formatting, or even punctuation; and that editors will ignore the fact you have violated their rules because your work is just that mind-blowingly awesome. In other words, succumbing to SSD can make you look both amateurish and delusional in the eyes of the editor. You don’t want that.

Check back soon for part one in the series, Submission Protocol: What We Want.

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