On the flip side of being a contestant in a writing contest, I’ve also been a contest judge. I realized many of the challenges that those who run contests (and publishers) run into consistently.
First off, I admire anyone who takes the time to write and submit for a contest or publication. Whether it’s a short entry or novel-length, submitting work to be read (and judged) by someone else forces a big leap out of your comfort zone. Kudos for pushing yourself to submit!
My best advice for submitting to anyone at any time is: Make the most of your effort by following submission guidelines.
You’ve put a lot of effort into your story — you don’t want your story disqualified before anyone reads it, do you? Of course not!
We writers are a creative sort, but one area not to express our creativity is in tweaking the physical appearance of the submission.
- Submitting in a font other than Courier or Times New Roman; a font size larger than 12 or smaller than 10; or pages with margins smaller than 1″ all around, doesn’t work (unless explicitly asked for). Don’t do it. Always always always submit in standard format – for publication, for contests, for inquiries, for queries, for anything, really.
- If guidelines say ‘no more than 800 words,’ make sure your submission is not more than 800 words. If in doubt, word count more often than not, does not include the title; however if you have any doubt at all, include the title in your word count!
- If submitting a piece that requires specific words to include, or a theme to write to, make sure to include the words, or write to the theme in an obvious way.
- If submission guidelines say to submit as text in an e-mail (versus as an attachment), then, by all that’s holy, submit in an e-mail and not as an attachment!
- Seldom, if ever, do you want to do a special header on a submission that includes all your contact information. Name, e-mail, postal address, phone number, and other such information should be sent within an e-mail or simply typed at the top of your submission (again, depending on guidelines).
Make the most of your effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone to submit to a contest (or publisher) — make your submission count — follow the guidelines, every single time.
I’ll have a follow up post on how to handle feedback from an editor about your piece.
I wish you a great week and hope you’re thinking about submitting to a contest or publisher (if you weren’t already!)
Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.