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5 March 2002
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Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza

Part 2: Electronic Submissions Formatting - or Making It Soft
by Ralan

One of the most important things to remember when you are submitting electronically is make sure which format is correct for that particular market. This is one of the most common editor complaints I hear.

Does the editor want the work cut-and-pasted into the body of the e-mail (embedded)? An attached file? Or maybe they ask writers to use an online submission form? Pay attention, this is important. Works submitted the wrong way are a sure bet to be deleted -- unread.

An embedded submission seems easy, but it has it's own unique format. This is plain text, folks -- no italics or bold text allowed. Yeah, I know your fancy new e-mail program can stand on its hind legs and beg for fish -- but does the editor you're sending your work to use the same program? Probably not. That's one of the reasons I keep my newsletters font simple -- everyone can read it without a §size4§ lot §bold§ of §underline§ weird §italic§ codes getting in the way of smooth communication.

Use a Courier or Times New Roman 12 point font; don't indent paragraphs, leave a blank line after them; indicate italic and bold text the way the editor requests or, if there are no specific instructions, use _underlines_ for italics and *asterisks* for bold (and ALWAYS place a note at the top of the story explaining what you have done!). Don't use colors, fancy fonts, HTML coding, larger or smaller fonts, or ALL CAPITOL LETTERS (unless you are very angry at the editor and desire an immediate rejection). Start with a short cover letter, followed by the story.

For attached files, check which formats the editor requires. If it's ASCII (also called text, plain text, TXT, or .txt) files, they should be handled exactly like embedded submissions, except you don't paste the work in the body of the e-mail, you paste it onto your "Notepad" program (or whatever the equivalent MAC text-only program is) and save it as a text (title.txt) file, then attach it to the message before sending it off.

Use the body of the e-mail for your short cover letter. If the editor wants any other type of file, pay attention to which one (Word, WordPerfect, RTF, etc.). Sometimes they'll say they prefer one over another, do your best to give them that one. Usually they'll want it formatted the same as a hard copy submission -- with indents and underlined words to indicate italics, etc. Just be certain you give them what they want.

The next important thing is the "Subject:" line. Many editors use filters to sort their mail. If they ask authors to write, "SUBMISSION: 'title' by 'author'" in the subject line it's because their filter is set to place every e-mail he gets with the word "SUBMISSION:" into a special folder. If you don't, your work ends up in their in-box where they don't want it (or somewhere else where can't find it at all). This tends to irk editors -- and an immediate deletion is a common response.

The next sure way to get your work deleted, without being read, is to leave out your name and contact information in the body of the e-mail, AND in the text that goes in the attached file. Don't ever believe that your e-mail address in the "From:" box is enough -- it's not! Sometimes that line gets muddled or lost. Most attached files get separated from the e-mail they were attached to, and if there's only a title and author name on it, how's the editor going to send you your $500.00 check? Many editors have a very specific order and number of things they want included (name, address, phone, e-mail, web site, mother's maiden name, SS#, number of pets, planet of origin, etc.). Make sure you know what they want to know, and in what order, and comply!

Not following the rules laid out by an editor can be fatal to your submission. An unread deletion also means that you'll never know about it -- until several months later when you query, and the editor responds, "What story?"

My "Manuscript Formatting" page goes into more detail about this. If you haven't read it and think you need to, by all means do so.

Good luck!

(Next time: "Spelling & Grammar Checks -- Duh, Who Me?")

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