The Biggest Submission Mistakes: RtFG (via @writersrelief and @alanbaxter)

Writers Relief is a professional submission service, helping authors submit to agents and publishers. They interviewed a range of editors to ask them what they considered the most egregious errors authors made when submitting.

You should read the article to get a feel for the specific mistakes each editor details, but I will list the very first line of each response to make a point.

  1. This may seem like a no-brainer, but not following submission guidelines is the worst thing.
  2. The worst thing a writer can do when making a submission is to disregard the submission guidelines.
  3. The very worst thing an author can do when submitting work for publication is to ignore the submission guidelines.
  4. As a poetry editor, I’m always on the hunt for good poetry[.]
  5. The worst things: submitting without reading the instructions given by the editors or the guidelines set down by the journal[.]
  6. As [...] poetry editor, I look for work that is fresh, polished, and powerful.

Two thirds of the responses are essentially the same: follow the submissions guidelines.


Coincidentally, as I was preparing this post, the local author Alan Baxter  reposted an old article titled, 'If you want to be taken seriously, submit properly'. He details his own experience managing submissions. Some of the examples he lists, all of which occurred multiple times, are headscratchers. And the others are...well... I urge you to have a read.

Remember, if you want to increase your chances of being published, FOLLOW SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES AS IF THEY ARE AN INSURANCE CLAIM. You know, if you don't fill out an insurance claim properly, the insurance company isn't going to pay it out. They're looking for any excuse not to pay you.

Now, editors aren't that mean (generally) but they are very busy, and if they have any kind of intricate automated electronic filing system, and you don't have the right subject format in your submissions email, they won't even notice that your masterpiece is missing.

Would you fill out an insurance claim any old way? If you answered 'yes', you're going to have acknowledge that deep down inside you don't really want to have your insurance paid out. It's no different for your writing submissions. If you don't follow the submission guidelines, don't be surprised if your story isn't accepted.

If you want a foot in the door, take your job seriously: RtFG (Read the Freakin' Guidelines).