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Read all the editors' answers to Duotrope's interview question: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process? Learn more.
Here is a small sampling from our recent Editor Interviews. We have interviewed over 1,675 editors.
Q: What do submitters most often get wrong about your submissions process?
A: They turn in pieces that I specifically pointed out I don't want, such as poetry or political satire. They also need to format their manuscripts correctly and have all of their editing finished, such as fixing spelling and grammar.
A: In general, I've been impressed by the quality of our submissions. Those who get it wrong are simply sloppy, lots of typos. We also don't take attachments and state clearly on our submission page those will be deleted unread. We still get writers who send their stories as attachments.
A: Attaching their work as a Word document that is not properly formatted, with lots of grammatical errors/spelling mistakes etc.,
A thorough review, preferably by a literary peer/friend is always advised before submission.
A: Word counts and subject matter.
A: I have had submissions of entire manuscripts, or work that does not engage with the aforementioned themes. Incomplete submissions are another problem, which all reflects poorly on the submitters in terms of their attitude and professionalism.
A: Many submitters are clearly not interested in following our guidelines, or perhaps simply sending us the same submission they are sending to many other publishers, and make the mistake of supplanting a well-crafted letter and synopsis about the work with what is essentially marketing materials. Only about 1% of all our submissions result in success in the form of a completed offer, so think carefully about your work, and maybe not so much on the flourishes and presentation.
A: Submitting anything less than four poems, or/and submitting poems that are too hackneyed or cliched.
A: We don't sweat the small stuff. Just keep the word count sane. Try not to be rude.
A: I want flash fiction of 750 words or less, one story at a time. A lot of folks miss that in the submission guidelines.
A: They don't look at the guidelines. And then there's a small list of pet peeves: like sending PDFs of an article when the guidelines say send anything but. (Except if they are sending artwork) They send photos without attributes so we don't know if they have the license allowing us to use those pictures and some of the pictures they send won't meld with the "look" of the magazine. My biggest pet peeve though is when the author doesn't put their name on the article or in the article's file name. They'll send the work as an attachment and their bio will be in the email. No problem. I download the attachment to the computer, open it up on 'reading day' and I have no idea who wrote it. So I have to go back through all of the emails and hope that the name of the piece is in the subject line. For example: I receive "A Hot Day: Story for Starlit Path Magazine" But what I need is "A Hot Day: Story by John Smith"
A: The most ruinous omission to our submission process is failure to include a synopsis when requested. If we request a synopsis and an outline, we want a synopsis and an outline. If a writer fails to include the requested support materials, their work is immediately disqualified, as they are told in our guidelines. Our readers take their work very seriously, and require that writers submitting their work take our process and our requests equally seriously.
Failure to follow guidelines signals something else, which is far more damaging to your prospects. It signals that you are either entitled, or cavalier, or unprofessional. Or, perhaps, all three. These are not qualities that any publisher wants to deal with in an author.
A: The biggest misconception about literary journals is that submission fees absolve the author of reading the journal. In actuality, that $3 fee primarily goes to the submission manager hosting fees. Those print issues cost about $8 each just to print, bind and produce the issue, and then mail it to subscribers. That's just the printing costs. Our web hosting and management costs money. Our submission manager system represents a huge amount of our operating budget on top of that. Plus, unlike many literary publications, Witness pays all of its contributors. Most of our staff is volunteer and get paid in a contributor copy and a line on their CV. Most of our staff also are in graduate school themselves and/or teaching undergraduate students. I say this not to have anyone feel bad for us but to realize that Witness operates in a negative cost structure -- we need subscribers! If you are a writer who is hoping to get published in any publication -- not just Witness -- you need to read more literary publications. Look, they come out maybe twice a year -- read a lit journal instead of your phone on the toilet. Leave them in seat backs on airplanes. Consider supporting literary publishing part of your annual dues for being a writer.