What Happens If You Don’t Follow Submission Guidelines or Rules

What happens to submissions that do not follow the guidelines varies.

If the release is not included in the body of the email the submission will be deleted without consideration or correspondence. You can thank the writer who, after I emailed to ask them for the missing information, sent me multiple emails swearing at me. Done. Writers should be able to read. Missing the odd thing happens but don’t be a dick about it. If we have our guidelines posted – which we do – then not following them is your responsibility. Not ours.

What if you didn’t send the bio or Paypal information? Your story may run without a bio. You may not be paid within 30 days of publication. You may ultimately forfeit payment if you do not provide a Paypal address from the same email address you sent your submission from within 270 days of publication. And we will NOT provide a different payment method after the fact. By submitting to us you accept that payment is made via Paypal only. No checks. No money orders. No exceptions.

What’s the big deal about sending all my information together at once? Why can’t I send my story in one email and my release in another, for example? Incomplete submissions are deleted. Sending your information in multiple emails may be an issue simply because we may not have your story any longer. It is not our responsibility to chase writers. Our time is valuable. We are unpaid volunteers. And trying to go through multiple emails to find information is time-consuming.

“God, you’re so flipping anal about the release form. Why should I provide it with my submission?” You can thank the writer who sold us first worldwide publication rights and sold the same rights to the same story to a publication in Australia. They thought we wouldn’t find out. We found out when we were threatened with a lawsuit. We had the release and that was the only reason that the legal repercussions were limited to the writer. Plus, others have done this when they are secretly simultaneously submitting so they have a back door to decline acceptance.

Why don’t you allow simultaneous submissions? On any given day I delete or file and ignore dozens of emails we receive. Every email is time out of my day that takes me away from my family, my work and my writing. Unnecessary emails drive me crazy… So imagine how I feel if multiple editors have taken the time to read your story. Perhaps it was a tough call and it came down to the wire and a story was rejected by another writer in favor of your story. And then we find out it’s no longer available because it was simultaneously submitted. If you don’t follow submission guidelines you’re telling us you don’t respect our time or efforts. Note what I said about the release forms. When people waste our time it slows down the review process for every other writer.

What if I withdraw my submission? 99 times out of 100 this is because a story was simultaneously submitted and we assume that’s the case. If we see later that the story is published elsewhere future submissions may not be considered. If you want to revise the story and resend it then ask to do so. We’ll know if you follow through or not but we have no issue with writers realizing they could improve the work. If you ask to resubmit it then we’ll know where we’re at in the submission process and work things out with you.

“I’m sending a really long story that exceeds your word count guidelines but every single word is necessary.” Ever heard of show not tell? Don’t send a submission with an email already arguing about the genius of your work or reasons why you broke guidelines. We don’t even ask for a word count tally in the submission information. If your story is fantastic we’ll keep reading. If it isn’t fantastic it won’t matter if it’s 1,000 words or 10,000 words.

“I got an email suggesting I resubmit following the guidelines… but I did.” No, you didn’t. If an editor has taken the time to send you that email then you haven’t followed the guidelines.

“Why can’t you just get off your high horse and tell me how to fix my submission?” Not our job. You’re trying to sell us something. It’s a bit like banging on our door with your Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets when we have a ‘No Solicitation’ sign posted. We have posted our guidelines. If you can write you should be able to read. Now, if you really don’t understand a guideline you can email and ask for clarification. Proceeding with a submission without following the guidelines and expecting us to fix them for you is a sign that our time is not valued.

New writers do make mistakes. We all do from time to time. What should you do if you made a mistake? Fall on your sword, own your shit and tell us. You know what it tells me if I get an email from someone who admits they messed up? It tells me the person is teachable. They are willing to learn. That tells me they can be edited. It tells me they want to improve. It tells me they understand that it matters that writers and editors try to get things right. We’re cool. We’ll figure it out. And if I’m choosing between stories and one writer has demonstrated they are willing to learn and improve I’m more likely to choose to work with them than the guy who treats women like shit on social media. If stories are about equal other factors may be considered and a good attitude is a major reason to choose to work with someone.

That email you sent swearing at me? And the second and third email that followed with more cuss words? Well, they didn’t convince me you’re the greatest writer ever. And they didn’t make me think I could work with you. I think you’re a jackass. And I will consider posting your emails on social media without your name. I’ll only share your name with other editors. We’ll add you to our “shit list” folder and work with other writers. Why not save everyone time and email and ask to be added to our shit list? We’re cool with that.

“Wait… you really have a shit list? How do people get on that?” They don’t follow submission guidelines and show no sign of improvement over multiple submissions. They engage in hostile correspondence. They argue over rejections… more about that follows. They resubmit rejected material again and again without invitation and without revisions to their work. That tells us they think they know better than us and have no intention of being edited and are incapable of self-editing. Never mind that they were not invited to submit again.

Why are you arguing about your rejection? We all receive rejection letters from time to time. I’ve talked to agents who’ve said for every three writers they consider representing there are a hundred they reject. Sometimes the story sucks. Sometimes it’s a good story that’s filled with technical errors that need to be corrected. Sometimes we received so many really great stories that we had to make some tough choices. Sometimes there’s something in the water and everyone is sending heist stories and we aren’t running a heist issue so we have to pass on some great stories. Arguing over rejections is a writer’s way of saying they know better than the editor. We’re paying the writers we publish. We’re putting our name on those stories. We get to choose. That’s really the end of the discussion. Arguing just makes you look unreasonable and difficult.

“So we’ve had a fight on social media…” The most important consideration with a story is the writing. Now, if we’re down to the wire, choosing between stories that are equally good, other factors may influence our decisions. If your name is Harvey Weinstein what are we going to do? Now, if a person has been condescending to women on Facebook and belittles people based on gender then Sandra will simply pass your story over to Jack and thank the stars above there’s enough sense in her dumb little female head to know how to do that. 9 times out of 10 we don’t even know you on social media or we don’t pay that much attention. If you decide to have a personal conflict with us then it’s hard to say how that could impact a decision about a submission. My own belief is that we should all be professional and leave the personal issues aside, but I’m also aware that there are times it isn’t possible to do that. If there’s a reason outside of the writing to shy away from working with an author we’ll know it when we see it. Such as the legal issues with the guy who sold rights to two publications or the person who sent multiple emails swearing at us. Or the person who sent the email telling us about how many people they’ve killed. And then there’s the one who went all preachy on us over our sinful ways… Not really thinking that person would be a joy to work with. And I don’t need to love each person I work with. But I do need to believe they can be professional.

Things I’ve Bitched About This Week

Submissions that don’t include a release.

Submissions sent to my personal email address.

Submission emails addressed to other publications that were sent to us. (Simultaneous submission?)

An author sending a submission with an email argument over their story before we’ve even read it. Not looking good…

Writers sending multiple emails with different parts of their submissions.

Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the bestselling author of SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, HARVEST OF RUINS and The Nolan, Hart & Tain series. For more information, visit her website: http://sruttan.wordpress.com/

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