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3 September 2002
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Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza

Part 7: EDITOR PET PEEVES, or How to Feed the Kitty
by Ralan

As writers we need to present a professional face at all times. Writing is a business like any other and certain forms must be maintained. While there are some very informal e-zines around, who don't really care -- or realize they should care -- one way or the other, most editors want the manuscripts they receive to follow correct formats. Many also have specific requirements that are important to them individually.

If you want to give your story the best chance of getting published, it's up to you to look out for these criteria.

Here's my Top 15 list of editor pet peeves

In General
1. Writers who ignore the submission guidelines, or who thinks the rules don't apply to them.
2. Stories that exceed the maximum word limit (without querying for permission first -- if that is allowed).
3. Use of vulgar language, explicit sex, excessive violence, etc. when it is clearly stated "not wanted."
4. Use of any color, other than black, for the text.
5. Manuscripts that use fancy fonts (only use Times New Roman or Courier).
6. Author doesn't state whether they want the full manuscript returned (just the inclusion of a SASE isn't good enough).
7. Typos and grammatical errors.
8. Unsolicited e-mail submissions (always query for permission first, unless the guidelines specifically state otherwise).
9. Standard format manuscripts that are not double-spaced.
10. Manuscripts printed in less than 12-point type.
11. Folded submissions that are longer than a few pages.
12. Not enough margin space left for editing notes at the top, bottom, and sides.
13. Cover letters addressed to "Dear Editor," (find out that editor's name, unless it's an unknown committee, or asks for letters to be addressed to "Fiction Editor," or "Poetry Editor," etc.).
14. SASEs so small the editor has fold and sit on the manuscript to make it fit.
15. Authors who tell an editor "It's vital you accept my work" (no one likes a beggar -- or someone who is way overconfident, for that matter).
16. Stapled submissions (unless the guidelines ask for it).
17. No word count, address, etc. in the cover letter, or on the manuscript.

(E-mail Submissions in Particular)
18. Authors name and/or address, word count, etc. missing on manuscript (this is especially bad when submitting attached files -- they always end up separated from the e-mail message and there's no way to match them up).
19. The word "Submission" is not in the subject line (always write "Submission TITLE" in the subject line, unless the GLs ask for something else -- many editors use the same e-mail address for submissions, queries, subscription requests, info, etc. -- and with all the spam they get, it's hard to spot a submission -- f.x. if you only put the title in the subject line "How to Make a Million Dollars" - I'd delete that!).
20. Author doesn't state which publication the submission is for (many editors use the same e-mail address for different publications).

I guess what this all means is exactly what I've been harping on for the last few months in my little articles. Each submission you make is unique. Yes, there are certain rules and formats that are universal, or nearly so, and they must be followed. But every publication, every editor, IS different. they have special formats, word limits, themes, taboos, etc. Don't doom your submission to certain rejection by failing to take the time to do it right.

Every time you're ready to seal that envelope, or click that "Send" button -- STOP! Ask yourself "Did I read the full guidelines for this -- all the way through? Did I do everything THIS editor wants?" If you're not certain, go through it again.

Only then, when the verdict comes back, can you be certain that the editor rejected your story -- not your incompetence as a submitter. And you've given your story the best chance for that rare luxury -- a sale!

My thanks to (in alphabetical order)
Jack Fisher, Editor-in-Chief, Flesh & Blood (http//zombie.horrorseek.com/horror/fleshnblood)
David Kopaska-Merkel, Editor, Dreams and Nightmares (http//home.earthlink.net/~dragontea)
John Navroth, Editor & Publisher, Pentagram Publications (http//www.oz.net/~lotus)
Francis W. Porretto, Webmaster & Editor-In-Chief (http//palaceofreason.com)
(And various others who have made their pet peeves known to me over the years.)

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