Tuesday, 3 October 2006

FAQ on guidelines

I've been putting some stuff together for a writer's workshop I'm doing next month on writing for the women's magazines and the question most raised in my last workshop was about magazine guidelines. Presuming you've studied the market and know what a particular editor wants ie twists, romance, ghost stories, you'll find some basic tips below:

  1. Clean A4 paper of reasonable quality - don't shell out for embossed top notch stuff. No scented, pink, hand-made paper, pur-lease!
  2. Use a clear typeface like Times Roman or Arial. Now is not the time to use Webdings. Yes I know they're pretty but you'll give the editor a headache and he/she'll most likely be hungover anyway, so do yourself a favour, eh?
  3. Font size 12 and double spaced unless the guidelines state otherwise. Don't obsess about how many spaces to leave after a full stop. You don't? You'd be surprised how many writers do!
  4. Include a fly sheet (cover sheet with your name and address, email address, word count and title of story)
  5. Number your pages clearly and use a header with title of story and your name on each page...ms sometimes end up on the office floor.
  6. Um, maybe this should have been number 2 - hard copies should be printed, preferably from a PC, but typewritten might just pass muster with some eds. Hand-written is guaranteed to hit the trash can.
  7. If a magazine takes email submissions pasted in the body of an email, save as a Rich Text File first. Word documents can become corrupted. And unless an ed asks, don't send as an attachment - it may get bounced.
  8. Keep to the word count. Don't send a 4000 word story for 1000 word slot. The ed won't ask you to cut it she'll reject it. And round up the count ie if it's 983 words, call it 1000 - stating the exact words says you're an amateur (apparently!)
  9. Include a SAE with your submissions. Now the postage has changed I send out in a C4 envelope but use a smaller one (C5) for returns...or you could ask the ed if she minds shredding any rejection instead of returning. Maybe best to wait until you're on first name terms first.
  10. Keep a copy and back it up. I send an email to myself with the story in the body just in case.
  11. DON'T ring the editor to say your work is on it's way.
  12. DON'T ring an editor until at least 10 weeks after you dropped it in the letterbox to her/him. Sometimes ms get lost but often as not, the ed is just plain busy.
  13. DON'T ring up after she/he's rejected your ms and ask if they're sure they read it. They did.
  14. And while we're on the subject, get the fiction editor's name right. If it's Jimmy, don't presume it to be male. It may be short for Jemima - I know, I made that faux pas.

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