Every publisher and editor has them and writers invariably feel challenged or oppressed or just plain intimidated by them, feeling certain of rejection if they happen to get it wrong. I know I’ve felt that way. Submission Requirements are just another fiery hoop that writers get to face jumping through after they’ve already accomplished a great deal just by eloquently putting a point across, telling a story, and eloquently expressing themselves in a 200-600-page manuscript.
In my case, it was a memoir of a very traumatic and painful to remember experience I had of becoming a Muslimah and living a year under the oppressive Islāmic Regime of Iran, having my son stolen, returning to the U.S. and eventually freeing myself from Islam: Lost in Foreign Passions. I’d learned a lot from my experience and felt it extremely important to share it with others, yet it took me nearly 20 years to finally get it written, edited, and accepted by a publisher… only to be taken grotesque advantage of by that publisher (Publish America) and have my efforts basically lost… which is another story.
Suddenly I’m on the other side of the writing equation. I’ve been made the editor and arranger of a book, a collection of articles/essays on music therapy by many different authors and submission requirements are something I very much wish the publisher would insist upon because now I very much understand why they’re important: they make the editor’s job a LOT easier! In fact, I can see why an editor, when allowed to, would immediately reject any submission not meeting the requirements.
Here’s the deal: Writers are creative people to begin with. I’m dealing with people that not only write, but are also musicians, therapists, doctors, scientists, poets, and gurus. Creative? You bet. This is CREATIVE on steroids! So naturally, they want to be creative with their word processors too: special formatting, special fonts, lots of capitalization where capitalization isn’t called for, images and diagrams thrown in for good measure. I’m spending the majority of my time on a very tight deadline just standardizing and correcting the formatting even before beginning the real editing. Every single article thus takes 5 times longer to handle than it would if there were no special formatting. Things turned in as .pdfs are the worst. Yes, I know how to convert them to Word (not a straight-forward auto-process, but doable), but they don’t come across clean: text and reference links get dropped and the format scrambles; images and charts disappear entirely, columns disappear (that much isn’t really a problem in this case), and foot notes, picture captions, and headers get scrambled throughout the document, mixed into the body text at random, an editor’s nightmare!
So if you want to be a writer, you have both my sympathy and encouragement. I love you to pieces if you have both the expressive ability and the fortitude to face it. But have some sympathy for the editor for your own part. Be kind. Don’t be too creative with the word processor. Follow the submission guidelines. If you haven’t been told any guidelines, then follow the KISS theory: Keep It Simple! It’s not nearly as complicated nowadays for anyone now that manuscripts, submissions, and editing can be done electronically, so here’s the modern basics:
1. Clean up your own spelling and grammar as much as you possibly can before submitting it. The bulk of that is your job and your manuscript will be rejected if the grammar and spelling is bad at first glance, guaranteed.
2. Single-spaced paragraph contents
3. One space between paragraphs
4. No paragraph indents.
5. Font should be either Times or Ariel
6. Body text should be 12 point
7. Title text can be larger
8. Do not be excessive in your use of font alterations like bold, italics, underlining, CAPTILIZATION, or funny fonts as a means of expressing yourself. Use words to do that (blogs being the exception ). The rest, while sometimes acceptable – except for funny fonts , is mostly a nuisance for the editor and distracting for the reader.
9. You need to provide the publisher/editor your biography, picture, and contact info
10. Your book title and name (if you’re submitting a whole book) must be in the header along with the page number
11. Notes and references should absolutely not be embedded in the body text in parenthesis! That’s both choppy reading and a painful edit. Put a superscript number where you want to put a note and footnote it, or put a number in square brackets linked to a list of references at the back of the book or end of the article.
12. Include a title page if you’re submitting a book: name and contact info in the upper left corner, word-count and revision date in the upper right corner, title and your name centered on the page.
13. Never, ever submit your manuscript in a .pdf unless you are specifically asked to… something that is likely to happen only after the book has been accepted and edited and the publisher wants to send it to reviewers.
I think that about covers everything. Hope it helps someone. Wish it would help me. Have a smile and a bright day anyhow!