Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Six Ways To Not Look Like A Writing Newbie (Even If You Are One)

Here are a few helpful hints on how to submit to magazines without appearing clueless.

1. Format your manuscript. There are numerous places to find information for standard manuscript format. Many magazines have links on their sites for such standards. Writing single-spaced in Times New Roman is fine, but if you don’t reformat the story before you submit, it won’t set well with most editors.

2. Know the market. Don’t submit your 7,000 word story to a magazine that only accepts works between 1,000 and 5,000 words, and don’t submit fantasy to a romance magazine. If a story doesn’t fit the magazine’s guidelines, you’ll loudly proclaim, “I have no clue what you publish, but here’s something I wrote anyway.”

3. Address the editor. In your cover letter (and mailing address), use the editor’s name. Omitting this (or even worse, using the wrong name) will show a lack of research on your part.

4. Write a proper cover letter. There are numerous web articles on this as well as examples within writing reference books. Essentially, you’ll want to be brief, covering at least the title of the story, word count, genre and writing credentials. Even if you have no writing credentials, you won’t smell like a newbie unless your letter is strange. Examples of strangeness include: comments about how wonderful your story is, comments about what others think of your story, comments about what the editor should think about your story, comments about how you wrote the story, comments completely unrelated to the story, suicide threats, death threats, blood stains, teeth marks or hieroglyphics.

5. Use proper packaging. If you’re sending a story in the mail, don’t cram ten pages into a greeting card envelope. Use a flat envelope so that you’re not folding the pages. In a stack of slush, you want your story to stand apart, not the package you mailed it in.

6. Don’t send a follow-up query too quickly. If a market clearly takes 90 days to process submissions, don’t send an email two weeks after submitting. You don’t want to reveal yourself as an irritating person before the story gets read. At least wait until you’re working with an editor on rewrites to show your true colors.

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