Tuesday, February 3, 2009

As Requested: Submission Guidelines Boilerplate

A request from a newbie coupled with the rapidly met maximum on submissions last month made me realize that pre-posted submission guidelines are in order. Since the basic submission guidelines remain the same, here they are, for everyone who needs them:

(Please note: This is NOT a call for submissions! The call will be posted on Monday the 9th.)

1. Please submit the first 250 words of your COMPLETED NOVEL to facelesswords(at)gmail.com.

2. Submissions must be received IN THE FOLLOWING FORMAT:

Screen Name (PLEASE list this first, as it's easier to swipe the text below without including it)
GENRE: (I really do want these to be in all-caps. All in the interest of ease-of-reading.)

(Please -- no bold, underline, or strange fonts.)

(Also -- please, NO CENTER-JUSTIFYING!)

*Submission in a normal font (NOT Courier, Comic, or anything that is outside the realm of normal in the publishing world), 250 words (your first page)

4. Entries will be limited to a 24-hour submission window, or 50 submissions -- WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.

5. NO ATTACHMENTS. Please send your submission in the body of your email.

The call for submissions will include the rest of the information for this month's contest, such as genres, confirmation emails, etc. The above information is the basic formatting and submission instructions.

Some extra notes to ponder:
  • You do not have to include "Chapter 1" before the text of your submission. I know it's chapter one. When you include that, I have to delete it. Which only takes a few seconds. But multiply that by 50, and you'll see why I'm so anal about the format of your submission.

  • This site is PG. So if one or more of your characters have a serious case of potty mouth, please insert asterisks where necessary. And for the record, I don't have a problem with the occasional "hell" or "damn." It's the really nasty stuff I'm worried about -- anything with a crude sexual connotation, a use of God's name that is NOT a prayer, or just the nastiest of nasty street language. I know it's character realism and all that, and I respect your right to create characters who talk like that. I just don't want them to talk like that on my blog. (I will insert asterisks where needed if I see something that needs them. I'm just asking for a little extra help.)
  • I deeply appreciate your willingness to follow the guidelines, respect your peers, share your time, open yourselves to criticism. Just so you know. (What, I've said that already? Guess I'm having a schmoopy, warm-n-fuzzy attack this morning.)
Okay, if I've left anything out, I know you'll let me know!


Luc2 said...

With the SA, does the rule still apply that the 250 word submission is from a finished and query-ready novel?

Authoress said...

Excellent question, Luc. The answer is YES.

All our of Secret Agents have offered, as prizes, reads of material -- everything from the first 10 pages to the entire manuscript. NO agent wants to get excited about a manuscript only to discover it isn't finished yet.

So, yes. Completed, carefully edited manuscripts only.

Scott said...

Since this will be my first submission . . . screen name? Is that my Blogger ID? Thanks.

nightsmusic said...

Thank you. I shall be sitting in the doc's office at 9 on Monday but hope to make the window by 9:30. Of course, as popular as this is, and me being new, I'm sure I'll be too late, but it never hurts to try.


Authoress said...

Scott: Screen name is whatever you want to be identified by on the blog. "Scott" is just fine.

"Anonymous" is no longer allowed.

Authoress said...

nightsmusic: To date we have never filled up all the slots in the first 30 minutes. When that happens, I'll know I've hit the big time. :)

nightsmusic said...

Hey, you never know! This could be it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...


I wish I could put asterisks over my 4 and 6 year olds' potty mouths. Ahhh. What a happy mommy I would be.

Can't wait to see how fast it takes to get to 50 this time. Just as well you have the no-submission-if-you-haven't-made-major-edits-since-last-time rule.

Jean said...

Stina, you made me laugh!


Rubi Jayne said...

Courier New (12pt) is not an acceptable font? Everything I've ever read recommends submitting in Times New Roman (14pt) or Courier New (12pt) if specific font information isn't given in the editor/publisher guidelines.

Now I'm all confused... :( Maybe it's just the drug cocktail the docs have me on right now.

Could you please be more specific about what is considered "normal" within the realm of the publishing world?

Pretty please?


Authoress said...

Well, I'm not talking about the realm of the publishing world, though -- just the realm of Blogger. :D For some reason, it doesn't like Courier. Screws up the formatting. Don't ask me why! So that's why I've banned Courier. I'm sure the publishing world at large feels differently.

Rubi Jayne said...

Oh, see. That makes much more sense! :D

You said "*Submission in a normal font (NOT Courier, Comic, or anything that is outside the realm of normal in the publishing world)" and I got confused. It's the drugs. Don't mind me. I'll finish my broth and go back to sleep now.

Thank you for being patient with me.


Trish said...

Are italics okay, Authoress? I know this is a stupid question, but thought I'd better ask.

Authoress said...

Not a stupid question; I used to have "italics" included but took it out this time. Blogger accommodates italics just fine; it's the underlines that are a problem (I have to go into html to remove them manually...ugh).

So yes, italics are fine. BUT NOT IN YOUR TITLE OR GENRE, PLEASE!

Stina Lindenblatt said...


Do you want double space, 1.5 spaced, or single spaced? My entry formatting went crazy last time (like one big paragraph even though it wasn't). So I'm wondering how to avoid that this time.


Froget said...

I've probably asked these questions before but...

Apart from w.i.p. novels all my books have been self(published) but are un-agented.

I'm desperately on the look out for an agent. Can I submit the first 250 words of one of my s-published novels?

My second question is... What is the minimum length for a submitted novel?

Authoress said...

Stina -- Single-space with a double-space between paragraphs seems to work best. Unless there is some hidden, weird formatting (which happens!). In future, if you notice that your submission looks really awful on the blog, please don't hesitate to email me and ask me to fix the formatting issues. I know how important it is for our work to look good and be readable.

Froget -- You ask a tricky question! What do you mean by "self-pubbed?" Vanity press? Legitimate Print-on-demand? Traditional, paid-and-pubbed-all-by-myself-like-Patrick-Carman?

It doesn't make a difference to me, but it will to an agent. Most agents are not interested in seeing work that's already been printed (in fact, they usually run away screaming). So in putting something into our Premium Slush Pile that's already been printed, it's almost like putting something out there that the Secret Agent will really not want to read once he/she learns of its history.

Know what I mean? So I guess I'm saying, you have to decide if you want to put yourself in that position. It won't matter a titch, of course, if you don't win. But I would hate to be in the position of telling an agent who's ga-ga over my opening page, "Ur, sorry. Forgot to mention that I self-published this three years ago." That wouldn't be pretty.

As for minimum length, I can't speak to that. There are rough guidelines for what is "good average length" for different genres, but I'm not going to go there. Of course if your manuscript is only 20,000 words and it's an adult mystery, for instance, that's way too short. Or if you've written a fantasy for middle grade that's 100,000 words, then that's too long.

But gee golly. The "story length" thing is a can o'worms that I won't open in the comment box. ;)

Jamie said...

Apologies if you've answered this on earlier posts, but is it OK if we cut our submission off a bit before 250 words? (I assume so, but ... well, you know what they say about assuming.)

Thank you so much for organizing Secret Agent. It's a great (and much appreciated) idea.

Authoress said...

Jamie -- Yes, that's fine. That's much better than cutting off a sentence right in the middle, which is something you should never

Trish said...

Authoress, what about indents? Do we align the beginning of each paragraphs to the left?

Authoress said...

I love all these wonderful, nitpicky questions! They make me feel less...nitpicky. :D

Indent/non-indent doesn't often matter. However, there are some entries (I have no idea what you're using for your text editor!) in which the indents make funny tags that throw it off. So maybe it's safer to just forget the paragraph indents.

However, I'm really not going to fuss about this one. You can indent or not.

Do this for me, though. If you (anyone, that is) send me your submission indented and then it shows up really funny, pop me an email so I can fix it -- and in the email, tell me exactly what you did when you sent it (e.g., "I swiped the 250 words directly from a Word document formatting in Times Roman 12-pt. with double-spacing and auto-indent."). K?

Authoress said...

Oh. And also tell me what your email program is. Because sometimes I seriously think that people's email is doing weird stuff to their text.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Ha! And we think agents are picking. Or maybe because of that, we're just paranoid!

Feywriter said...

I'm about ready to send out my first query letter. Should I wait until after the SA contest, in case my first pick and the SA are the same? Or stop procrastinating and send the query already?

Authoress said...

Stop procrastinating and send the query already. :)

Feywriter said...

Queries sent. Now to not think about them...

nightsmusic said...

You can't think about them. You'll drive yourself nuts if you do.


Writer Dad said...

This is awesome and one. See ya tomorrow.

Miss Swan said...

I stumbled across your blog about a month ago, and I've decided to stop lurking and enter the SA contest. What I'd like to know is whether I should enter the first 250 of the prologue or the first 250 of the first chapter. The fantasy elements of my novel are much more apparent in the first 250 of the prologue, and that's what the reader would see first, but it's not with one of the main POV characters. Am I making this much more complicated than it needs to be? Thanks. =)

nightsmusic said...

Ms. Authoress,

What happens if it's 260 words or so? Not good? My first page is 266.

I know, another dumb question *sigh*

Authoress said...

Miss Swan -- More complicated? Not at all. Yours is a common question. The answer is: Hmm! Ultimately you want to hook your reader with whatever comes first; in your case, it's the prologue. But many times we discover that our story can begin without the prologue. So. I can't really answer you! My gut says "post the prologue because it comes first." But posting the first page of the first chapter wouldn't necessarily be the wrong choice, either. (Helpful, aren't I? :D)

Nightsmusic -- Trim it so it's as close to 250 words as possible. I don't mind 248 or 254. You know -- not to be too anal. :) But 266 is pushing it a bit. Just make sure you don't cut it off mid-sentence.

nightsmusic said...

249 :)

And this is probably dumb too, but...what do you want in the subject line of the email?

Authoress said...

Perfect! :)

And no question is a dumb question! Just include "Secret Agent" somewhere in your subject line. I'll know what it is.