Submitting do’s and don’ts for magazines

So you’ve got a story written and are about to send it to a magazine or a publisher. Congratulations! One of the largest barriers preventing beginning writers from becoming established is that they never finish their work.

But now that you’re ready to send out a short story or novel, there are some professional guidelines to follow. These “rules” largely are intended to make life simple for editors, who literally wade through hundreds of manuscripts a month. Failure to follow them is disrespectful of the editor.

In any case, not meeting these standards makes reading your piece more difficult, and anything that distracts editors from your actual story works against you. Many good manuscripts are rejected simply because there aren’t enough slots in a magazine or a publisher’s schedule for them. There’s no reason to give a competing piece of equal value the edge simply because you didn’t follow some basic professional guidelines.

When submitting a manuscript for publication, don’t:
• Send it in non-manuscript form so it stands out (colored paper, colored ink, specialty typeface)
• Bind your manuscript with staples, ring binders, clamp binders, comb binders, strings or brads; paper clips and rubber bands are OK but unnecessary
• Place each page of your manuscript in a sheet protector
• Place a creation date on the manuscript
• Place a rights offered statement on the manuscript or in the cover letter
• Place a copyright symbol on the manuscript
• Write a cutesy cover letter
• Beg the editor to buy your manuscript so you can pay for some emotionally moving cause
• Warn the editor not to steal your ideas (don’t worry, he won’t)
• Place extra spaces/an extra line between paragraphs
• Place -30- at the end of the story
• Turn a page upside down, dog-ear a page, or paste two of them together to see if the editor has read the piece
• Send it in safe-deposit boxes, couriered envelopes, wrapped in fancy paper
• Make your envelope cute: tie-dying it, covering it in stickers, or writing political statements all over it
• Send it to the wrong address; this includes sending it directly to the editor even though the guidelines say to send it to another email address or to send it only by snail mail
• Submit more than one story at a time, unless the writers’ guidelines say you can
• Send your story to two or more magazines at the same time, unless the writers’ guidelines say you can; a story sent two or more editors is called a “simultaneous submission”
• Send a gift to the editor
• Miss deadlines

When submitting a manuscript for publication, do:
• Send a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope)
• Send you stories to an editor whose choices you already like; he’s more likely to like yours
• Be willing to work with an editor who suggests changes
• Call an editor or agent to talk about questions and problems concerning business if your manuscript has been accepted (but don’t overdo the calls)


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.