I’ve determined that the #1 thing you can do to improve your chances of being accepted at any given publication is to read the guidelines. Over and over, I see editors pleading for this little consideration on their guideline pages, and it always struck me as redundant. Of course I’m going to read the guidelines! Who wouldn’t?
Apparently, a lot of people. Not just beginners, either, but pros too. I think it irks me more with the pros, because they should know this stuff by now. It makes me wonder how seriously they take submitting to Apex Magazine that they so obviously break our very first request in our guidelines. I’m not going to lie: it irks me. It’s a waste of my time as a slusher, and their time as a submitter, and no one likes wasting time.
But I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to these submitters. In fact, I’ve created a list of reasons I must assume account for their blatant flaunting of our guidelines.
1. They’re still using the print form of The Writer’s Market, which, since it has to be published for the upcoming year, seems to be out of date and inaccurate (particularly for online magazines) for almost the whole year. Cure: Utilize the net. It’s worth knowing if you’re wasting an editor’s time, or they’re closed to submissions for a period of time, etc., etc. Always check the online guidelines, if they’re available.
2. They suffer extreme migraines every time they look at a computer screen, and therefore cannot navigate to the “Submissions” page on the Apex website before being overcome with brutal cerebral pain. Cure: Get a friend to utilize the website and check our guidelines. And get lots of rest in a pitch-dark room.
3. They don’t recognize that SF–for Apex–stands for Science Fiction, not Speculative Fiction in general. Cure: Read (or at least skim) some of the stories on Apex’s site. Come on, folks, it’s free. It’s only going to cost you a little time to see that the stories we publish are heavily (if not totally) science fiction-centered.
4. Their dog ate the guidelines. Cure: Feed the dog more often. And guess what? The guidelines are available anytime online.
5. During an alien abduction, those nasty little green men stole all the data about the guidelines out of their brains in order to feed the nuclear-powered extraterrestrial fiction-producing machine, which is the sole reason they’re not getting accepted at magazines like Apex. Cure: This is the only acceptable excuse. And yes- I’m being facetious.
6. They’re too busy to check guidelines. Cure: Then why aren’t you too busy to submit your manuscript?
I could come up with more reasons, I’m sure, and the more submissions we get that are so completely out of the ballpark, the more likely I am to waste time on a blog complaining about it. For the record: from time to time, I have seen some really well-written, clever, even inspiring pieces of non-dark SF…
but they still got rejected for not fitting guidelines.