Following Submission Guidelines, Pleasing Editors Key to Writing for, Getting Published by Websites

It might seem like a trick, but it’s not. You know what I’m talking about – that really great article that you submitted exactly like the market listing said and it came back to you saying that the editor you wrote to does not work there, even though you have double-checked the market listing several times and you did use the name that listing asked for.

There are a lot of little things that editors and publishing houses will do to help speed up their time. In the example I just used, the most common answer is this: did you go and look at the submission guidelines that listing recommended? If you didn’t, you might have missed a vital clue – the real name.

Tip One: Establish Identity

Busy editors will often separate professional writers from wanna-be’s by using the technique mentioned above. In their market listing, they have used a “fake” name, but recommend that you visit a website or publication for submission guidelines. In those submission guidelines is the real name. Why would they do this? If you followed the editor’s request and found the information they need you to know, you will get the right name. It shows that you can follow directions, and it helps the busy editor weed out submissions that probably won’t fit their needs in the first place.

Don’t go by a listing alone. If the listing gives a website URL, go check it out. 99.9% of every website that publishes writers in any way, shape, or form, will offer submission guidelines that tell you who to submit to, what kind of work they’re looking for, and when any deadlines are. Often they’ll even tell you how they want your work submitted and if they want any extra information.

In short, make sure that you get the “right” name, the first time.

Tip Two: Make Contact

In this digital age, it’s not always necessary to save up your pennies to print and post your submissions. Many editors and publishers actually welcome email queries – if you take a look at their website and submission guidelines, you’ll know for sure.

Some people will tell you straightaway that you should not email or call an editor you haven’t already written for, or who hasn’t invited you to contact them that way. I’ve found that most editors are much more approachable, though, if you give them a chance to look at your ideas before you shove a bunch of work at them.

If a company’s submission guidelines offer an email address or a phone number, go ahead and contact them when you have something you think is really targeted to their needs. Think that this isn’t a good idea because you want to include clips? Scan your clips in. If you have the right software, you can even convert your scanned clips into Adobe PDF format – perfect for emailing.

By making this contact, you will know quickly whether your idea is of interest to that editor and you are able to do something even more important: verify the editor’s name.

Tip Three: Attention to Detail

Have you gotten the idea that using proper names is important? Good! Can you take a shortcut and address it more generally with something like, “Dear Sirs” instead? Nope.

More and more businesses are women run and owned. Imagine being the department that is staffed solely by women (and yes, there are several of these) receiving submissions with “Dear Sirs” at the top. Would you even bother, when you know that there are dozens of other submissions waiting on your attention?

Get the names, and spell them right. If you don’t have your query addressed to an editor – or if you do and it is misspelled – you’ve immediately lessened your chances of being read, much less of being published.

Tip Four: Obedience

Hey, we all like to be rebels sometimes. And that’s fine – you can even be a rebel when it comes to your writing submissions, but just don’t whine when you aren’t being taken seriously.

Many publications will try to save a bit of money when they print listings for queries. Often, they provide very general information and recommend that you either check their website for submission guidelines, or take a look at some of their back issues.

We’ve all been tempted to say, “But your name is Aviation Magazine, I just know my submission is perfect.” The problem is that we don’t know anything else. What if the magazine is focused on hobbyists, instead of large airlines? Or maybe that magazine is targeted to airline pilots, and is looking specifically for articles on life as a pilot? Your article on new trends in airline carriers might not be so perfect for the magazine after all.

Basically, do what you’re told. If you’re asked to look at submission guidelines, do it. Rebellion is not worth your time in this area of writing life.

Tip Five: Research

When all else fails and you just can’t seem to find the name of the editor you need, do some research. Check out the news section on a company’s website, or look at the bylines in their magazine. Letterhead is another helpful thing; even if there’s nothing available but a phone number, it’s a start. By taking two minutes to call and offer a kind, “Hello, can you please help me?” you can usually unearth the name – and often the email address – of the person you need.

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