Preparing a Submission Packet


For the last few years I have been submitting my work almost exclusively to electronic publications. Most electronic publications accept submissions only via email. This usually means simply saving a manuscript as an rtf file and sending it as an email attachment. Other electronic publications have submission pages where the writer need simply  fill in a few lines of required information and then copy and paste the submission where directed. The submission process varies from publication to publication, of course. So reading and following submission guidelines exactly is essential. In not doing so, a writer runs the chance of his or her work being rejected out of hand.

For many print publications, however, the opposite is true. Most prefer unsolicited or “slush pile” submissions be submitted via snail-mail. Few print publications are going to go into great detail about how a writer should prepare a snail-mail submission.

After I found a print publication that seems a good fit for one of my humor articles, I checked the guidelines for the magazine (which I found on their website). Sure enough, this magazine only accepts snail-mail submissions.

Not having sent a snail-mail submission in a long time, I admit to being little fuzzy on the details. The internet to the rescue!

Here are a couple of links that helped jog my memory about what constitutes a professional manuscript submission packet for short stories and articles.

First, Chuck Rothman talks about manuscript format at SFWA.org: Manuscript Format

There are a couple of items I will add that Mr. Rothman does not address, including printing (or typing) only in black ink on white paper.  Weird colors of paper or ink might make a manuscript stand out, but not in a good way.  Editors have to read–a LOT. Make it easy for them. Which also means if my printer ink is low, I change it before printing a manuscript. Underneath my contact information I also include, in bold letters (even all caps)  the words “disposable copy.” This lets the editor or slush reader know that I don’t expect the  entire manuscript back. Doing this saves me the trouble of including a large envelope with enough postage to get the manuscript back to me.

Next, there’s cover letter advice from About.com: Cover Letter Advice This article covers the all-important Self-addressed-stamped envelope (SASE) issue.  As in do not forget to include one. It’s a simple courtesy just in case the story is rejected.

I paper-clipped everything together (no stapling) with the cover letter on top of the manuscript and the SASE on top of the cover letter on the right-hand side.  Next, I slid everything into a new 9 x 2  envelope. I wrote the address and return address clearly.  One day I’ll at figure out my printer configurations and use printed stick-on labels, but until that day arrives, printing clearly will have to do.

My goal is to have the manuscript arrive in pristine condition. That means no folds, creases or stains on the envelope or its contents. That’s the goal anyway. What happens to the envelope and manuscript between the post office and the publication offices is bey0nd my control. 🙂

The final step will be hurrying off to the Post Office, standing in line and making SURE my submission has the correct postage. I never try to guess at the postage amount. One way to make a horrible first impression on an editor is to have a submission arrive with postage due.

These tips and hints apply in a general way. If a publication expects submissions to arrive in a different format, that information should be in their guidelines.

Now, for me, it’s off to the Post Office to stand in line. 🙂

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