There are no Green M&M’s

There’s a story, often given as an example of how silly Rock Stars can be, of a band that demanded that a large bowl of M&M’s be placed in their dressing room – but with all the green M&M’s plucked out. This was specified in the contract with the venue. How entitled do you have to be to demand such a thing? How high to think it’s important?

Turns out, it was very important to the Band, and for good reason. Their show had a lot of special effects which required very specific wiring and accommodations to keep the show safe, and their contract specified all these accommodations. If they walked into their dressing room and found the bowl of M&M’s, they could be assured that the venue had taken their instructions seriously. If not, they had to go over ever inch of the stage checking to see if it was safe for the show. Green M&M’s meant that their job had been made much harder than it should have been.

Markets have editorial guidelines for the same reason, to make the job easier. They ask for submissions to be in a specific format, one they can read and work with. Sometimes they want a manuscript that is easy to read when printed out. At other times they want a manuscript that is easy to put into a word processing file, and will require minimal reformatting. The writer has the responsibility to read the guidelines and adjust their manuscript as needed.

And yet—there are stories aplenty of authors who ignore the guidelines. Stories that are shared at meetings of editors and authors. Stories that are laughed at, or sometimes cried at. There are people who typed up their manuscripts in red ink, or on colored paper. One person is famous for submitting her story written in crayon. These people wanted their stories to be memorable, and they were – but for the wrong reasons.

Even in the world of electronic publication, authors don’t follow the guidelines. One publisher recently complained that although she specified *.doc, *.docx, or *.rtf, she was getting submissions as PDFs. That’s a useless format for a publisher, who needs to be able to reformat the story to fit the book or magazine where it will appear. I once edited an anthology, and found that my submitters managed to ignore my guidelines at least once per story, forcing me to reformat each and every one.

So—pay attention to what the editor wants. Go through the list, point by point. Do all that is asked of you. If you want the editor to buy your story, make it as easy as possible for them. If it comes down to a choice between your story and another story, the one that is easier to format has a better chance.

Submissions are open for Universe of Attractions, with details and guidelines on the submission page. Good luck!

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