Sumission Guideline Etiquette: Pros Versus Players

A few years back, I worked in acquisitions for a small publisher. I had an assistant who read through all the emails first and forwarded only those on to me that met the submissions guidelines. Everything else, he rejected.

Today, I am taking submissions for the Accentuate Writers Contest, the Unsent Letters blog and print collection and the Accentuate Erotic Short Story Anthology.

The difference between a few years back and now is that now I don’t have an assistant going through the slush pile of submissions weeding out those that don’t meet the submissions guidelines.

You know… I have something to say to all you aspiring writers out there…


Less than HALF of the submissions I’m receiving follow the guidelines I have posted to the letter.


Freelance writing is a lot more than just being a good writer. It’s a business. I’ve talked about this many time before, but to be a professional freelance writer, you have to do a lot more than write. You have to query, invoice, market, get clients, submit and run your freelance writing career like the business it is.

If you can’t even follow the simple instruction, or even the more complicated ones, you’re a lot less likely to get an editor to even read your work.

Think about it this way – would you show up to a job interview in shorts and flip flops with a resume with typos and misspellings?

Probably not. As a freelancer, the submission is the same as the ‘interview’ and if you don’t follow the guidelines, then you’re showing up dressed wrong for your interview.

But there’s more…

You know how you’ve heard some editors say they will toss out any submissions that don’t adhere to guidelines, without even reading them? This is true of not just freelancing but novel submissions to agents and publishers too.

Well, I know now why they do that.

There is a direct correlation between the quality of the writing when comparing to those who did meet the submission guidelines versus those who didn’t, with a few notable exceptions. In fact, those who followed the guidelines properly are far and away better writers, cumulatively, both mechanically and emotively than those who failed to follow the submission guidelines.

I have my email set up to move submissions directly into a folder, based on the subject line of the email. I tell people to put a particular subject line on their submissions. People who fail to do this (and there’s a lot of them) might end up without their submission being seen, because I get LITERALLY over 1000 emails per day. Many come into my bulk email and many I scan quickly. There’s a chance I will simply miss the email if it doesn’t come into the right folder.

It’s not an arbitrary guideline I’ve put up just to make your life harder. It’s a guideline I put up there to make my life easier, and ensure you get reviewed in a timely manner.

The other guidelines for style are to make it easy for me to format and edit if I purchase your writing for publication.

When you make my job harder, I offer you less money because I had to do more work. If you make my job too hard, you won’t get an offer at all.

So the moral to the story is: make an editor’s job as easy as you can by submitting your writing following the submission guidelines to the letter, submitting the proper way, and by editing and perfecting your writing so it’s as close to publish-ready as possible. Not only will this improve your chances of being published, but it might even improve the dollar amount offered to you when you are published–not just for me or my ventures, but others as well.

Follow the guidelines! Put your best writing foot forward!

Love and stuff,