The Importance of Following Submissions Guidelines
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
We've been doing it since we were old enough to read. A teacher would hand out a worksheet. We'd scratch our name in child's handwriting on the line with a pencil, we'd write the date, and then we'd move over to the very next thing on the page . . . Or would we?
Often, in my rush to finish homework as a kid, I wouldn't read the instructions and would skip straight to answering the questions before I realized I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and head back to the top of the page so I could understand my quest before setting out.
I bring this up because it's a simple way to drastically increase your chances of being published.
If a publication asks for a certain word count, do the work to put your writing in their word count range. If a publication says they're looking for articles on certain topics, and not looking for others, only send them articles on the topics they're looking for. If the instructions say to send your article in the body of the email, do so. If the instructions say to put give a summary of the article in your email and attach the full article as a Word document, do so. If a publication asks you to send a headshot in with your submission, it would be silly of you not to do so.
Put yourself on the other side of the submissions process for a moment. You're an editor for a renowned publication. You have fifteen fabulous articles in your inbox, and you can only publish seven due to space restraints.
Two of the articles are on similar topics.
One of the writers sent you everything you need to line the article up for publication right away. The other didn't.
Who do you publish?
The publishing industry is simultaneously incredibly fast and painstakingly slow. You send something out and it's normal to not hear back for two to seven months just for a "yes" or a "no." But you better bet that as soon as you get a "yes" you'll be working your tail off keeping up with the deadlines. As you keep up with deadlines, you'll try to do things with the least amount of work possible for as long as possible. (We saw it in the group projects at school. We saw it in your current procrastination. Don't lie to yourself.) This is a normal human behavior.
Editors are also normal humans. If they can save time, effort, and energy, and still put out a good product, not only are they being smart, but they're practicing good business. The least you can invest with a highest possible return is the route you want to go down.
This is why following the submissions guidelines can drastically increase your chances of getting published. Your goal here is to make yourself the no-brainer choice for the editor. Plus, it's pretty fun receiving emails that say "I love this! And you've already given me everything I need. I'm going to put this on the schedule for two or three weeks from now."
It's one of the first skills we ever learned as children attending school.
Follow instructions, and you're far more likely to succeed.
J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she creates YouTube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, or would simply like to chat in a consultation, please let her know. Like what you see and want to get more content like this, or have your specific questions answered? Check out how you can support her on Patreon for as little as $3 a month.
This week's YouTube video is a quick update on what's happening in my life. Enjoy!