If you missed the deadline for The Fiddlehead’s 21st Annual Literary Contest, fret not! The Fiddlehead accepts submissions year-round so if immortalization on the page is what you seek, you’re in luck. Fire up the printer, break out those stamps, and adorn that cover letter with your best John Hancock. But if this humble author may be so bold as to momentarily delay your merry skip to the post office, here are a few things to consider to ensure your submission has been properly outfitted.
Taking a page out of the Globe and Mail’s column on “10 rules for writing” (who took a page out of the Guardian’s “Rules for writers” series, who took a page out of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing . . . I feel like I’m following the yellow-brick road . . . ), here are ten suggestions on submitting. Sending your prized brainchildren to far-off publications may seem daunting, so hopefully this list will ease some of that confusion and anxiety.
1. If submitting prose or multi-paged poems, paginate your submission. Accidents do happen (a gust of wind! a toppling stack!) which make page numbers crucial in piecing your submission back together.
2. Use a legible font. As tempting as it may be to type in jokerman, resist the urge. Times New Roman and Arial are indeed old-school, but the classics never go out of style.
3. Print on clean, white-washed paper. You want your submission to stand out, but using neon-green cardstock may be taking it a little too far.
4. Use the appropriate margin size and line spacing as specified by each publication. Preferences vary from journal to journal, so taking the time to adhere to their formatting guidelines will put a smile on the editor’s face before they’ve even read your opening line.
5. Make sure you’ve included your contact information in the appropriate places. Some journals require the author’s name and address on every page while others prefer to not have any identifying markers at all. Correctly placing your contact information may save your submission from ending up in the recycle bin.
6. Check to see how the publication prefers the submission to be bundled. Some prefer staples; others, paperclips; others still, nothing at all. Each journal has a tried-and-true method for handling submissions, to which your blasphemous staple or paper clip may be the disastrous wrench.
7. Include a cover letter. You would do the same if sending off your resumé, so why should your story or poem receive any lesser treatment?
9. Affix proper postage to your SASE. If you’d like your manuscript returned, make sure you’ve included enough stamps to do so. Most journals survive on grants, subscriptions and the kindness of their readers, which sadly doesn’t leave much wiggle room in the annual budget.
10. You must, indeed, skip on your way to mailing your submission. Through a mystical process that I’ve been sworn to never reveal, skipping endows your submission with a quality akin to being showered in fairy dust. Hah! Not really. But in all seriousness, relax and take your time in putting your submission together. Submissions that are a joy to compose are almost invariably a joy to receive.
While these rules cannot guarantee eventual publication, keeping these suggestions in mind will aid in your submission being efficiently processed and properly dispatched to the correct editorial committee, rather than being either rejected for not following the guidelines or left to languish until someone can figure out where it should go. This in turn means a shorter response time to the actual submission. And as any writer can attest to, waiting four months as opposed to nine months (or longer) for a cordial “no” wins first runner-up to being accepted for publication.
Of course, these suggestions pertain mainly to hard-copy submissions. Online and e-mail submissions are a whole other can of worms (perhaps someone will take a page out of my book and author those lists?). But I’ve delayed you long enough. Send us your stories and poems! We’re eagerly waiting to read your work.