Top Ten Questions to Ask Before Submitting
Top Ten Questions to Ask Before Submitting
What you need to know before you hit the send button
August 22, 2019
The moment when you submit can be an interesting mix of exciting and terrifying. It's easy to forget small details. So a good checklist can help. Before you send, make sure you can answer "yes" to these ten questions.
1. Is your format being sent the way the magazine requires?
To say yes to this, you need to have read the submissions guidelines. A number of magazines have electronic upload options for submissions, and that means you need to read those guidelines to be sure your format matches what they want to see.
2. Do you have full contact information?
This is especially important in email submissions where it is super easy to forget to include your email address on the manuscript itself (or mailing address for paying markets). Don't just rely on the email address in the top matter of the email. That may not be included if the editor copies the manuscript into a document file. So be certain your contact information is in the header of the text as well.
3. If this is a re-submission or part of a multiple submission, have you checked to make sure the letter addresses the right market?
Nothing annoys an editor quicker than finding you're referencing the wrong magazine in your cover letter. And don’t make the mistake of mentioning your title or topic, and submitting a different story or article.
4. Is there something specific in the cover letter that lets the editor know you've paid attention to the magazine?
This is important as many writers shotgun submissions and don't even notice if the magazine publishes fiction or nonfiction. Referencing something specific you saw in the writer's guidelines or in a sample issue of the magazine will give the editor a warm glow about your attention to detail. And do be sure your reference is complimentary. This is not the time to point out something you didn’t like.
5. Are you spelling the name of the magazine correctly?
The only thing likely to annoy an editor nearly as much as seeing the wrong magazine in your cover letter is seeing their magazine, but spelled wrong. Even something as small as writing Boy's Life when the magazine title is Boys' Life shows that your attention to detail is not what it needs to be.
6. Is your cover letter typo free?
Cover letters are short. Take the time to get all the typos out. If necessary, copy and paste the cover letter into a new document file and change the font. Sometime this can help you see mistakes that your brain might have read over. Another trick is to read the cover letter aloud from the last line to the first, which also can trick your brain into reading what is actually there instead of what we know should be there. Anything that reflects well on your attention to detail reflects well on you.
7. Have you done one last check of the market guide entry and submissions guidelines for the magazine to be sure you've not missed anything?
Sometimes it takes reading through the guidelines several times to catch everything. It’s easy to miss things, but mistakes like sending a manuscript to a magazine that requests a query first won't reflect well on you, so watch for any detail you may have overlooked. (Our market guides are on sale HERE.)
8. Do you have a plan for what happens next?
The thing that happens after a submission is a whole lot of waiting. You don't need to put your writing on hold while you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for the response. Have a plan for what will be your next project and push yourself to get on it right away.
9. Do you have a plan for worst case scenario?
The sad truth is that all writers collect rejections. This submission might get one too. So what if it does? Are you going to abandon hope or do you have a plan for where you might send it next? Submissions plans should have more than one option to keep a rejection from derailing you for too long. Getting a piece back in submission elsewhere can really reduce the sting of a rejection.
10. Do you have a plan for celebrating?
Every submission brings you one step further on this writing journey, and that needs to be honored and acknowledged. So take a moment to just be proud of yourself. A little treat isn't out of hand––if you don't have people immediately around you who will celebrate with you, then celebrate anyway. You don't get published without submitting, so you have put yourself in the game. Good for you!
Jan Fields is a full-time, freelance author and an Institute of Children's Literature Instructor.
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