A Week of Writing: 2/3/20 to 2/9/20

One more week down, and it was a fairly productive one. Let’s take a look.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist Jane Smiley.

“Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

― Jane Smiley

This week I’ll start writing the first draft of a new novel, and I think the quote above is a great way to look at the process. The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to BE. So my goal now is to take outline and ideas and turn them into a thing that vaguely resembles a novel. I’ll try to keep Jane Smiley’s quote in mind when I’m writing and focus on getting words on the page, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter. Then, when it’s done, you’ll start seeing quotes about the horror and pain of revision. 🙂

The (New) Novel

The outline is finished, and I’m fairly happy with it. It clocks in at about 8,000 words, covers thirty chapters, and contains background details on five principal characters. This is all subject to change of course, and my outlines are kind of like bad GPS. I know generally where I’m going, but I’m likely to make a few wrong turns here and there before I get to my destination. I’ll likely tinker with the outline a tad more today and tomorrow and then start writing the first draft Wednesday. Then I’ll shoot for about 10,000 words a week until it’s done.

Short Story Submissions

Another solid week of submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 3
  • Rejections: 3
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Three submission last week, and that keeps me on pace for my goal of one-hundred subs for the year. I have four submissions total in February, and I’d like to get another five or so by month’s end. That’s very doable, especially since I’ve finished three new stories in the last couple of weeks and I’m on pace to finish two more. More stories always means more submissions. Three rejections last week, all form rejections. That said, I do want to talk about one of them in a Spotlight Rejection this week. Take a look below.

Spotlight Rejection

The following rejection is what I call a no-frills form rejection.

Dear Aeryn Rudel,

Thank you for submitting your story, [story title].

Unfortunately, we are choosing not to use this story.

Please feel free to submit another story that you would like us to consider for publication when we are next open for submissions.

I’m at the point now where I don’t need much from a form rejection. Just a simple no will do, and that’s what this rejection is. This is an efficient and perfectly acceptable way to say “not for us.” It’s a boilerplate copy/paste rejection, which is an unavoidable reality when you submit work to big markets receiving hundreds of submissions every month, and I’m fine with that. It’s easy to move on from a rejection like this because it doesn’t say anything other than they’re not publishing your story.

Microfiction

More #vss365 microfiction. I think I did better last week than the week before, but you be the judge. If you want to read my microfiction in real time, follow me on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.

February 3rd, 2020

My #fantasies aren’t much these days. I don’t wish for money or fame or anything so grandiose. No, I sit in the park when it’s sunny and listen to the wind in the trees. Then I dream of you beside me, the warmth of your hand in mine, and the quiet pleasure of your company. 

February 4th, 2020

I imagine my anxieties as a bunch of #frantic school children running amok in my head. To calm myself I name each one and imagine them quietly taking a seat at their desks. There’s always one that won’t sit down, though. Impostor syndrome Peter is a stubborn little shit.

February 5th, 2020

The #atlas we found in Grandpa’s study contained maps that corresponded to no place on Earth. All save one. The first was clearly South America, and someone had circled a location deep in the Amazon jungle. Attached to the map was a sticky note that read, “Start here.”

February 6th, 2020

“Why does Susie arrange her presents in a star like that?” Dave asked.

Molly smiled. “Oh, it’s her little Christmas #ritual. She’s been doing that for years.”

Dave sipped his tea. “You know she misspelled SANTA, right?”

“Um, it’s best not to think about that, dear.”

February 7th, 2020

Aoife moved through the party, ignoring longing glances and offered drinks. When she reached Senator McNeil, she offered her hand. “Senator, I’m Aoife Byrne.” He held her fingers for a moment. “#Enchanted to meet you, Miss Byrne.” The leanan sidhe smiled. “Yes, you are.”

February 8th, 2020

“These shoes give you superpowers, huh?” Amy said.

The salesperson nodded. “The wedges make you an acrobat, the stiletto sandals convey expert swordsmanship, and the slingbacks grant super strength.”

“And the #mules?”

“Oh, they’re just comfortable.”

“I’ll take them.” 

February 9th, 2020

I love without lust, eat without gluttony, spurn greed with charity, exercise through sloth, meditate over wrath, and pursue contentedness instead of envy. The problem? I can’t help taking #pride in the enlightened human I’ve become. Six out of seven ain’t bad, I guess.

Goals

This week I want to complete the last-minute tinkering with the outline and start writing the first draft. I also need to keep sending out those submissions and completing stories so I can, uh, send out more submissions. 🙂


That was my week. How was yours?

Reprints: Easy or Hard Sell?

Reprints are a great way to get extra mileage (and maybe a little extra cash) out of your stories, and there are a lot of markets that take them, even some that prefer them. But are they easier or more difficult to sell/place than standard story submissions? I think a lot of that depends on the publisher, but let’s see if we can’t dig a little a deeper and put some numbers on the question.

What follows is a list of all my reprints submissions and their outcome. I send out a reasonable amount of reprint submissions, though it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to my normal subs. So, this is the very definition of sample size, but let’s see if the numbers show us anything.

Story Submissions Rejections Acceptances Pending
Beyond the Block 2 2
Big Problems 2 1 1
Caroline 4 4
Masks 1 1
Night Games 1 1
Night Walk 2 1 1
One Last Spell, My Love 4 4
Paint-Eater 1 1
Paper Cut 2 2
Scare Tactics 2 2
Shadow Can 2 1 1
The Father of Terror 3 2 1
The Food Bank 1 1
The Rarest Cut 1 1
The Sitting Room 1 1
Time Waits for One Man 2 1 1
Where They Belong 2 1 1
Total 33 21 9 3

I’ve sent 33 reprint submissions over the last eight years or so, and I received 9 acceptances. That’s an acceptance rate of around 27%, which is higher than my overall acceptance rate of 16%. Again, this is a small sample of my overall submissions, but I do seem to have fairly good luck with reprints. Why is that? I can think of two possible reasons.

  1. Publisher confidence. A reprint says something that a standard submission doesn’t. It says another editor/publisher liked this story enough to publish it. That might hold some small weight with some editors, especially if the reprint’s original publisher is one the current market recognizes and has similar taste/style. I said small weight because the reprint story still has to be a good fit for the new publisher, and, in fact, some publishers might give less consideration to reprints simply out of a desire to publish more original work.
  2. Reprint-friendly markets. There are certain publishers, primarily audio markets and anthologies, that seem to be more disposed to the reprint or even prefer them. Five of my reprint acceptances are with publishers I’d consider reprint-friendly, and I generally try to target these markets with my reprint submissions.

Reprints still live and die by two unwavering truths of submissions and publishing. One, you have to put the right story in front of the right editor at the right time, and, two, good stories (and reprints can likely lay claim to that title more than general submissions) still get rejected all the time. That said, in my experience, they are a bit easier to sell, and a reprint acceptance can be a welcome infusion of confidence and allow you to crack new markets and reach new readers. So get ’em out there.


What are your experience with reprints? Easier to sell? Harder? Tell me about it in the comments.

A Week of Writing: 1/27/20 to 2/2/20

Well, I got the lead out last week and managed to make progress in a number of areas. Here’s how I did.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from novelist E. L. Doctorow.

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.

-E. L. Doctorow

I think there’s something quite valuable in this quote by E. L. Doctorow. What I take from it is a warning against a very specific and subtle form of procrastination: overplanning. You can fall down a rabbit hole of research and outlining that while valuable (and I say this as a strict outliner) must give way at some point to, you know, actually writing the book. For me outlining is a crucial step that reveals much of the story before I start plodding away at the first draft, but I can get caught up in a kind of tinkering that’s probably best done in the draft. In other words, it’s easy to tell myself I need to keep preparing rather than committing myself to the terrifying task of writing.

The (New) Novel

Finished off the second act in the outline last week, and I’ll compete the third act and the outline this week. I have a plot issues to work out in the transition from act two to three, and that’s why I’m not finished outlining yet. I think I know how to resolved it, though, and I’ll see how that resolution looks on the page in the next couple of days.

Short Stories

Finally got motivation in the ol’ short story department and sent out some submissions.

  • Submissions Sent: 4
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

Four submissions is a solid week, and I ended up with nine for January, which is on pace for one-hundred subs for the year. I have so far sent one submission in February, but there a couple of flash contests this month that’ll push that total up. I also have a brand new story making the rounds and collecting rejections, and that’ll swell my February submission total as well. Only one rejection last week, but I’ve got a bunch pending that are past the standard response time for the publisher, so I expect a deluge of responses soon.

Microfiction

Here’s another batch of #vss365 microfiction. I struggled with a few of the prompts, and, well, this ain’t my best work. Still, it’s a good exercise, and that’s really the point.

January 27th, 2020

“What is this one, Sam? Nine?”

The old hitman sipped his scotch. “You wound me, Rico. This is our tenth.”

“Apologies.” Rico lifted his martini. “To another year of trying to kill each other.”

Sam clinked his longtime foe’s glass with his own. “Happy #adversary, Rico.”

January 28th, 2020

After each one I tell myself I’m in control and not the thing that lives in my head. I clean up the blood, destroy the evidence, cover my tracks. Then I dig a hole, and with each shovelful of dirt over yet another body I repeat my mantra. I #could stop if I wanted to.

January 29th, 2020

“How big you think Tony the Giant is?” Sal asked.

Lucky rubbed his chin. “Well, you’re large, I’m huge, and, you know Cossack Carl?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d say he’s gigantic.”

“Tony’s bigger than all of us,” Sal said.

Lucky nodded. “I’d put him at #tremendous at least.”

January 30th, 2020

My parents only wanted one child, but they had twins. Ever the pragmatic scientist, my father put my brother in a nutrient vat and let him grow. On my 18th birthday we were introduced. Dad said, “He’s an insurance policy. You never know when you’ll need an #extra part.” 

January 31st, 2020

When Max was born he had #rosy cheeks, chubby little legs, and a mouthful of shark-like teeth. He’s six now, and I tell him he’s a good boy. I also ignore the missing pets in the neighborhood or how he watches the other kids play, clacking his teeth together and drooling.

February 1st, 2020

“You remember the #script?” Sal asked.

Lucky snorted. “Yeah, it’s one line.”

“So say it like we practiced. It’s a branding thing.”

“I got it. No sweat.”

#

Lucky kicked open the door and pointed his pistol. “Mr. Ranello, I’m kill to here you!”

“Goddamnit, Lucky.”

February 2nd, 2020

Max Sims killed five people with a claw hammer. Through the one-way glass he looks normal, like a man in full possession of his #sanity. I know the type. When I sit down to question him, he’ll pick at the blood beneath his fingernails and act like I’m the one who’s crazy.

Goals

Once again, I aim to finish the outline for the new novel and send more submissions out. I’m shooting for three submissions at a minimum, and I think that’s doable.


That was my week. How was yours?

A Week of Writing: 1/6/20 to 1/12/20

Well, it’s a new year, so it’s time to start accounting for my writing and submission endeavors again. Here we go.

Words to Write By

This week’s quote comes from Vincent van Gogh.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

– Vincent van Gogh

This one resonates with me at the moment as I start writing another novel. Long-form fiction can be overwhelming, especially if you look at it as a single monolithic piece of work. I finish novels by breaking them down into smaller tasks, manageable bits and pieces, that once assembled create something greater than the component parts. Of course, this is oversimplifying to some extent, but I think the sentiment is sound. I approach a novel in terms of what can I can accomplish today, usually that’s a single chapter or somewhere around 2,500 words. That’s served me well in the past, and I hope it continues to for the foreseeable future.

The (New) Novel

I’ve started a new novel, yet untitled, based around characters from an existing short story. The story in question is one I’ve sold more than any other, and I think it may be the most quintessentially me of all the pieces I’ve written. I’m deep into outlining at the moment, putting together my typical three-act thirty-chapter roadmap for the story. That’ll probably take me most of the week and maybe part of next. Then it’s on to the first draft, which I’ll write at 2.000 to 2,500 words a day, five days a week, until I have a complete novel.

Short Stories

Last year I fell short of my goal of one-hundred submissions by nineteen subs. This year, I plan to stay on track. Here’s how I did last week.

  • Submissions Sent: 6
  • Rejections: 1
  • Acceptances: 1
  • Publications: 0
  • Shortlist: 0

In truth, one of those six submissions was sent the week prior, but I’ll just count it here. So that’s five submission this week, and one last, which puts me on a very nice pace. I need to be around nine submissions a month to hit my goal of one-hundred. The rejection was your typical, garden variety form rejection, but the acceptance was a good one. It’s a story I shopped quite a bit, and it was even shortlisted at Flash Fiction Online and NewMyths. It’s nice to finally find a home for it. More on that acceptance when it’s published.

Microfiction

I’m writing microfiction everyday over on Twitter based on the #vss365 prompts. Here’s this week’s batch. If you’re unfamiliar with vss365, the hashtagged word in each micro is the prompt word for the day. You can click the link on each date if you wanna throw me a like or a retweet. 🙂

January 6th, 2020

I drag my busted leg behind me. It’s gone numb, but at least I can’t feel the bone grinding into the sand anymore. That’s the least of my worries, though. The excited #yips and howls have grown closer. They smell the blood, the sickness, the meat. I used to think coyotes were cute.

January 7th, 2020

“My shotgun #obviates the need for the .45,” Lucky said and hefted his Remington 870. “Leave it.”

Sal blinked and set down his 1911. “It does what to the .45?”

“You know, obviate. Removes.”

“Those word-a-day shit tickets are really workin’ out for you, huh, Lucky?”

January 8th, 2020

Gary stared up at the new girl, eyes wide, nose gushing blood. At 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, he had ruled the 6th-grade playground, hurting any who resisted his bullying. His #usurper was half his size but had a boxer’s grace and a roll of quarters in each clenched fist.

January 9th, 2020

She defied her opponent’s sword, his height and reach, with #kinetic and overwhelming skill. His feet and hands blared his intentions like a neon sign, heralding a clumsy thrust. With a languid turn of her shoulder, she slipped his blade and filled his heart with steel.

January 10th, 2020

I’m not #inquisitive. That’s why I’m still here and all my friends are gone. Jon asked what they were. Amy wanted to know why they’d come. I just worked the jobs they gave us, ate their food, and kept quiet. Now, alone, I do have a question. What’s the point of going on?

January 11th, 2020

“What do you tell people when they ask what you do?” Lucky asked and took a drag from his cigarette.

Sal shrugged. “The truth. I tell ’em I’m a contract killer.”

“And that doesn’t freak people out?”

“Nope,” Sal said and grinned. “Death makes for a #lively discussion.”

January 12th, 2020

After he finished his work, rinsed off the blood, and disposed of the body, he would sink into a quiet #languor and ignore the terrible presence squirming beneath his skin. He’d feed it’s urges eventually, but the blessed peace following a kill made him feel almost human.

Goals

Continue outlining the new novel is priority one, but I need to finish some short stories if I want to keep up my submission pace. I have a number that are half-finished, and I’ll aim to complete at least one this week.


That was my week. How was yours?

Submission Spotlight: The Do Not Send List

Today we’re exploring another potential submission guidelines surprise. This time it’s not about formatting or regional preferences, it’s types of stories publishers would rather not see at all. I call this the Do No Send List  As usual, you should read the guidelines completely and thoroughly so you don’t miss publisher preferences. The Do Not Send List is usually pretty obvious, but not always, so read carefully.

The Do Not Send List is fairly common in submission guidelines and comes in a few different versions. Let’s take a look at them.

1) Send at your own risk. The regular strength version of the Do Not Send List is more suggestion than command, but you should still be aware of the publisher’s preferences when sending them a story. This version usually looks something like this:

Originality demands that you’re better off avoiding vampires, zombies, and other recognizable horror tropes unless you have put a very unique spin on them. 

They’re not saying you can’t send vampire and zombie stories, but you’d better come up with some mind-blowingly original shit if you hope to get one published. You’ll see this kind of thing in guidelines pretty often, and I think it’s because, yes, the publisher is tired of getting Dog Soldiers and Twilight knockoffs, but they still recognize it is possible to make those old tropes fresh and interesting again. So, sure, if you think you’ve got a truly original take on a vampire story, send it to a publisher like this. You never know.

2) Do not send. Like, seriously. For really reals. Some publishers,  tired of seeing the same old tropes again and again and again, take a more aggressive approach to the Do Not Send List, in that it is truly a DO NOT SEND list. Those generally look like this.

We do not accept stories with the following: vampires, zombies, werewolves, serial killers, hitmen, excessive gore or sex.

As you can see, most of your standard horror tropes are included in the guideline above, though hitmen is one I don’t encounter as often (but if they put it in, it’s because they’re getting too many). In this case, absolutely do not send a story containing these tropes. It’ll just make you look like you didn’t read the guidelines, and that, my friend, is a real bad look. Most of what’s on the list is pretty straight forward. If your story contains a vampire, a zombie, a werewolf (or other lycanthrope), a serial killer, or a hitman, just don’t send it. Seriously, don’t. But what about the other stuff? The stuff that has the word excessive in front of it. That’s a tougher call because what’s excessive to one person may not be excessive to another. The best thing to do here is read the publication in question to get an idea where they draw the line is on such subjects. Of course, the question then becomes is the example story right up to the line or a few feet behind it? For me, excessive usually means gratuitous, but even that’s open to interpretation. In the end, you’ll likely have to use your best judgement.

3) A list of hard sells. Some markets expand on the send at your own risk example and give you an entire list of stories and tropes that generally don’t work for them. Like with example one, they aren’t saying don’t send them, but if you do, you better do something very different with that serial killer werewolf story. Below are some markets that have hard sell lists, and I find they’re pretty informative, especially when you’re starting out and you think every idea you have is super original (it’s not).

  • Clarkesworld: This market’s hard-sell list is right in their general guidelines and hard to miss. It’s also pretty exhaustive.
  • Strange Horizons: This list, called Stories We’ve Seen Too Often, is part of Strange Horizons submission guidelines. It’s a long list of cliches and overused tropes compiled over the years, and it’s an informative read.
  • Flash Fiction Online: FFO’s list of hard sells is shorter than the others, but they go into a lot of detail why a certain trope or theme is on their list.

You can learn a lot from these lists, and not just about the preferences of markets that include them in their guidelines. If one publisher considers a trope or plot device to be overused and cliched, well, then others might too. Keep in mind, though, that just because you write a story that includes an element that’s on these lists doesn’t mean it’s a bad story or unsellable, just that it probably is going to need an original spin to set it apart from all the other zombie apocalypse, vampire romance, werewolf soldier, and serial killer turned detective stories out there.


If you’ve read any of the other entries in this series, you probably know what I’m going to say now. Yep, read the guidelines completely, carefully, and every time you send a submission. Sometimes these little nuggets of information are buried in a publisher’s guidelines, but it’s still your job to find them, read them, and implement them.

Have you seen anything else pop up on Do Not Send Lists? Tell me about it in the comments.

Three Types of Tough Rejections

If you’ve been submitting short stories for any length of time, then you’ve likely developed a fairly thick skin when it comes to rejections. After you hit triple digits, those form rejections, filled with not for us’s and doesn’t fit our needs’s, kind of lose their sting. They’re pretty easy to take in stride, and it’s not too difficult to move on and send that story somewhere else. But in my experience (after well over 300 rejections), there are three types of Nos that can really take the wind out of your sales if you let them. Let’s talk about them, what they might mean, and how best to deal with them.

Tough Rejection #1 – The Long-Wait Form Rejection

What it is: Some markets just take longer than others to get back to you. Sometimes the wait can exceed six months or even a year with some literary markets (and one or two genre publishers). Generally, a long-wait form rejection is not preceded by a shortlist letter or really any other communication from the publisher. If you do get a shortlist letter, well, that’s more example number two.

Why it’s tough:  Even though I shouldn’t, even though I know better, I can’t help but get my hopes up a little when a submission starts getting long in the tooth. The theory that the longer a publisher holds a story the more likely it is to be published doesn’t hold much water in my experience, but for some reason I can’t help thinking that maybe THIS time it means something. So, invariably when that form rejection comes after 150 days, it’s more disappointing than if it cames in a couple of weeks.

What to do: I usually follow the same protocol with a long-wait form rejection that I do with any form rejection. Without any specific feedback on the story to prompt a revision, I log the rejection and send the piece out again, right away. I might be somewhat hesitant to submit to the publisher again, especially if they don’t allow sim-subs.

Tough Rejection #2 – The Shortlist Rejection

What it is: A rejection preceded by a shortlist letter. Sometimes it’s not a shortlist, but a second round or second read notification, but it’s essentially the same thing–the publisher has indicated your story is of interest and has made it past the slush pile at the very least.

Why it’s tough: Unlike the long-wait form rejection, you get your hopes up with a shortlist rejection for good reason. The publisher has straight up told you they like the story, at least enough to give it a second read or seriously consider it. If that shortlist rejection is from a prestigious market, say one you’ve been trying to crack for years, then your hopes soar even higher. That, of course, means they can reach terminal velocity before hitting the pavement when that rejection shoots them out of the sky.

What to do: With a rejection like this, you have to look at the positive (because it is mostly positive). If the story was shortlisted, that means two things. One, this publisher probably likes your work and wants to see more of it, and, two, you probably have a good story on your hands that you should immediately send out again. The one caveat here is if the shortlist rejection gives you valuable feedback on the story and the editor points out something they think needs work. In that case, if you agree, then it might be time to revise the story, but you can do so with the knowledge it’s probably close to where it needs to be.

Tough Rejection #3 – The Thorough Personal Rejection

What it is: A personal rejection where the editor relates, in detail, what they didn’t like about the story (or your writing). There is often some positive feedback as well, but in my experience these rejections can go a bit heavier on things the editor doesn’t like. It’s important to note these rejection aren’t mean-spirited, and the editor is trying to give constructive feedback. I’ve yet to get a rejection where I thought the editor was being intentionally hurtful. I’m sure they exist, but I doubt they’re very common.

Why it’s tough: It’s never fun to read what someone doesn’t like about your work. It’s especially not fun to read a lengthy rejection where the editor spells it out bluntly and exhaustively.  I don’t care who you are, that stings.

What to do: First, put the rejection aside until you’re in a more objective headspace, then go back and read it carefully. More likely than not, you’re going to discover a couple of things. The first is the editor has done you a service. They’ve clearly indicated what doesn’t work for them with the story, and that’s something you can use for future submissions. Also, they’ve probably hit on some things that DO need work in the story. It’s always helpful to get that kind of feedback. The second thing you might realize is that, well, this is one person’s opinion, and it’s possible that some of the things they’re calling out in your story are stylistic mismatches. Let me see if I can better illustrate that last point:

I don’t like Doctor Who (probably gonna lose some followers over that). I don’t think it’s a bad show, but it is decidedly not for me. I find it a little silly, over-the-top, and just weird for weirdness’ sake. Now, I know from talking to fans of the show that those same qualities are part of the reason they like it. Also, because those elements stick out for me, I may be unable to appreciate the show’s other qualities as much, like its boundless creativity, good acting, and generally upbeat tone. Now imagine I write Doctor Who-style stories, and I submit one to a magazine that is more like The Expanse or Altered Carbon (or some other gritty, realistic sci-fi). There’s a damn good chance I’m going to get a rejection, and if the editor gives me specific feedback about things they don’t like, some of it might be because our tastes and styles are completely mismatched.

Now this is not to say that every thorough personal rejection is because the editor simply has a different taste in story than what you write. We’re all capable of writing a clunker or sending a story out before its ready or a hundred other things that can result in this kind of rejection. So when you get one of these, try to be objective as possible, realize the editor is trying to be helpful and not hurtful, and see what you can learn from their feedback.


So those are three types of tough rejections I’ve encountered. What about you? Tell me about your tough rejections in the comments.

Submission Spotlight: Fun With Formatting

If you’ve sent out any short story submissions, you are likely very familiar with Shunn Standard Formatting. If you’re not, follow the link in the last sentence and GET familiar. Now, the vast majority of publishers ask for Shunn (often just called standard manuscript formatting), but sometimes it’s a starting point more than a formatting destination. So, like everything in this series of posts, it’s important that you read very carefully to pick out all this little formatting idiosyncrasies in the guidelines.

Let’s take a look at some examples of how publisher formatting guidelines vary from Shunn.

1) 99% Shunn. Sometimes a publisher wants just a slight deviation from standard formatting, like this:

Submissions should generally follow standard manuscript format, though we prefer single-spaced instead of double-spaced.

A slight change to standard formatting is pretty common. These small changes can be easy to miss because, however, so, as always, read very carefully. The other change I often see looks like this:

The Editor MUCH prefers Times New Roman.

Not every editor is down with Courier, and you’ll often see a request for a different font. Times New Roman is the most common, but I’ve seen other serif fonts requested as well. Again, this is a simple change to make, but if you’re not looking for it, you can miss it.

2) Mostly Shunn. Publishers sometimes ask for a larger deviation from standard manuscript formatting, but often with good reason.

Standard Manuscript Format, but with all author information removed from the manuscript.

For publishers who read submission blind, standard formatting presents a challenge in that it lists an author’s name and info on the front page. I see this request a lot, and it’s fairly easy to implement. If you’re like me and you have a standard manuscript template ready to go, remember to remove your name from the header too. I’ve almost missed that one a few times.

3) Doing our own thing. The last group of publishers are those that do not reference standard formatting and give camplete, albeit brief, formatting guidelines.

Double spaced Docx or RTF files set in a 14 point serif font like Times New Roman.

Often times when a publisher break from standard formatting, they’ll have very simple formatting guidelines like what you see above. That’s pretty easy to follow, and honestly, you could probably just use standard formatting here, change the font to Times New Roman, and be good to go. That said, sometimes the formatting guidelines will be more in depth.

  • All manuscripts should be double-spaced with broad margins and numbered pages.
  • Use 12 pt Times font, or a similar serif font, such as Cambria, Palatino, Baskerville. No other fonts, please. Italise words and passages that you want italicised. DO NOT underline words or passages you want italicised

Again, you could probably start with standard manuscript formatting (if that’s your template), change the font to one they have listed, and italicize words and passages you want italicized. Everything else in standard formatting conforms to what they want (broad margins, double spaced, numbered pages), and my guess the small additions (name and title in the header, for example) won’t be an issue. Rarely will a publisher have more detailed instructions outside of standard format, but I have seen one or two that are as in-depth as Shunn yet completely different.

4) It really doesn’t matter. The last type of publisher breaks from standard manuscript format because formatting isn’t all that important to them.

Don’t worry about standard manuscript format, as long as we can read it we’ll read it. 

Some publishers aren’t that concerned with formatting as long as the story is legible and you don’t use some crazy, weird font. A lot of the time when I see this in guidelines it’s because you’re pasting the story into a submission form that’s text only (or even into an email), so you couldn’t do standard manuscript format even if you tried.


Of the four examples above, the one I personally have to be watch for is the first example. That one little change to standard formatting can throw me because it’s not a big enough change (nor does it take up much real estate in the guidelines) to catch my attention if I’m not careful. Will a publisher auto-reject your story for a minor formatting mistake? Most of the time, probably not, but there are publishers who will (and they’ll tell you right in the guidelines). So, as always, it’s incumbent on you to read the guidelines completely and carefully every time for every submission.

Know of any other ways publishers deviate from standard manuscript formatting? Tell me about in the comments.