At TheRightMargin, we find writing much easier with a checklist by our side. Let’s see this idea in action with an example familiar to anyone who’s submitted their work to a literary journal, magazine, or writing contest. Even if you haven’t done any of those things, read on to see how you can make your first submission go smoother and faster by following submission guidelines.
Submission guidelines are a crucial part of sending out your work to be published or win a prize. Editors and contest coordinators take the time to tell you what they want. If you don’t show them the courtesy of following their guidelines, they’re less likely to extend that courtesy to your submission. Not following submission guidelines is the quickest way to get rejected.
Raw Submission Guidelines
Let’s look at Granta’s guidelines as an example since they’re an established literary journal where I’m submitting fiction this month. I’ve highlighted in yellow what’s most relevant to me.
Please submit only one complete story or essay, or up to three poems at a time.Multiple submissions will not be read. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art will be considered for both our print and online editions, unless you specifically state otherwise in your cover letter. We remain open to submissions of photography and art year-round.
Granta accepts submissions in different categories during the following periods:
Poetry 3 October – 3 November
Fiction 16 January –16 February
Non-fiction 24 April – 24 May
We only publish original material, i.e.first-ever publication. We cannot run a piece that has already appeared on the web or elsewhere in print. We can, however, publish an original translation if the work has previously appeared in another language. We have no set maximum length or minimum length, thoughmost of our submissions are between 3,000-6,000 words.
Pleaseinclude a cover letter stating where your work has been published before, if relevant. Please do not submit book manuscripts, academic essays or reviews. Please only submit work written in English. Pleaseuse double-spacing.
Please note that we are not in a position to comment on your work. We receive a significant number of submissions every day, many of which may be unsuitable for Granta, however well written.
We encourage to all who submit that they read recent issues of Granta to familiarise themselves with material the magazine has published. Subscriptions are available here.
That’s a lot to process! If you’re serious about this opportunity, you might put the deadline on your calendar, bookmark those guidelines, and come back often to make sure you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s.
Actionable Submission Guidelines
What happens when we look at that relevant information (my highlights) in a different format?
- Due February 16 (assume noon EST)
- Only first-ever publication
- No multiple submissions
- 3,000 – 6,000 words
- Include cover letter
Suddenly a long, wordy page is a quick, actionable checklist. I don’t have to remember all the details. I don’t have to re-read information. I know exactly what’s expected and what’s left to do.
Notice the checklist is in a different order from the original description and slightly rephrased. A submissions checklist is for you to follow in whatever order makes for a proper submission. This often isn’t the order described by the editor or contest coordinator when they’re simply trying to include all the relevant information.
Where do you keep a submission checklist? We think it fits nicely right next to your writing. Here’s how it looks as one of my projects in TheRightMargin:
You already do this process in your head every time you dutifully return to those bookmarked submission guidelines to ensure you’ve followed them. I just turned them into a checklist to save time. I believe making a checklist should be the first step to any submission.
There are many great opportunities out there (here’s my submissions calendar). Spend your time on your craft and reading relevant work; don’t let submission guidelines slow you down. Happy submitting!
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