Annoying an editor is the fastest route to manuscript rejection. These ten tips, which I’ve learned from years of interaction with writer friends and editors, will get you on editors’ good side and hopefully land you a lot of sales.
1. How to annoy: Misspell the editor’s name.
The right thing to do: If you don’t have the editor’s name, look it up on the publication’s masthead. You can even call the magazine and ask the operator for the spelling of the editor’s name. (Don’t ask to speak to the editor, though.) This will make you look professional, increasing the chances of getting on the editor’s good side.
2. How to annoy: Scribble addresses on your envelopes or use labels.
The right thing to do: Print directly on your envelope. If your printer does not support this, consider buying yourself a used typewriter (but make sure the ribbon is legible). It will be well worth your investment and may pay for itself with your acceptances.
Make sure not to use labels—they’ve gone out of fashion, since they can be confusing as to what your envelope is intended for.
3. How to annoy: Omit a cover letter.
The right thing to do: Even a short note will help your work stand out from the slush pile. You don’t have to go into graphic detail about your past credits. Just write a line or two explaining why you are sending them your manuscript.
If the publication’s guidelines call for it, explain the plot of your story and include a synopsis of it. Don’t praise your story – it should speak for itself.
Also, don’t write a cover letter longer than one page. Too much explanation is as bad as not enough.
4. How to annoy: Submit without reading their guidelines or an issue of their publication.
The right thing to do: Make sure to always read the guidelines of the publication you want to submit to, and follow it to the letter. This is extremely important and, unfortunately, something that too many writers overlook.
5. How to annoy: Inquire many times after the status of your work.
The right thing to do: Only write (never call, unless invited to) if your manuscript is held longer than the guidelines suggest is reasonable. For novels, a reasonable time could be as much as five months.
Sometimes no news is good news. The longer they hold it, the more likely they might be considering it.
6. How to annoy: Send your manuscript out to several publications, when the one you want it to be published in says “no simultaneous submissions.”
The right thing to do: Simultaneous submissions are only acceptable if all the publishers you send to state outright that they’re fine with simultaneous submissions. Always be careful with it—you could miss out on the publisher you like the most because some other publisher responded earlier.
7. How to annoy: Submit a story similar to one the publication has already published.
The right thing to do: Make sure your work is original, unique, and outstanding. You may get inspired by other stories, but mix your inspiration from multiple sources to come up with something of your own.
8. How to annoy: Send out work at the wrong time; for example, a Halloween poem in September for their October issue.
The right thing to do: Check how much lead time the publisher requires. Ask for their needs list beforehand, and you’ll know how far ahead of schedule you need to submit your holiday manuscript. This will make a great impression, and you will be more likely to get an acceptance.
9. How to annoy: Keep no record of items you have sent out.
The right thing to do: Always keep a record of the items you send out. This way, you know what is being accepted and what isn’t. From keeping a notebook to working with an Excel file, keep track of your submissions, rejections, and sales. Look at the end of this article for a ready-made Excel file you can download!
10. How to annoy: Not sign a contract in a timely manner.
The right thing to do: When you score a sale, make sure to sign the contract and send it back immediately, unless you have to go over it with a lawyer first.
Now that you know how to stay on an editor’s good side, all that’s left is writing great stories and submitting them. Get to it!