Consistency?

4 Sep

Recently, I have been trying to make more time for submitting my own work (it’s the one downside to being an editor, you are so busy reading everyone else’s submissions that you seldom have time to send out your own!) and one thing has really struck me – the lack of consistency between different publishers in terms of manuscript format.

Now, there are some standards that almost everyone adheres to, even if they are largely irrelevant when it comes to e-submissions where things can be changed at the click of a mouse – almost every publisher wants work to be in 12 point type and doublespaced. Unfortunately, those are frequently the only consistent demands!

It would make life so much easier if all publishers would agree upon a standard format and layout for submissions so that writers did not have to keep checking that they have laid their manuscript out correctly – or if, at least, more editors would be willing to overlook minor failings. Instead, it seems that editors are becoming more and more stringent about refusing to look at submissions that make even the most minor of errors in meeting their demands. At the same time, it seems more and more editors are adopting an idiosyncratic approach to format and layout, forcing writers to doublecheck before sending that they have got the right one for the right magazine or anthology. Get it wrong and you are out of the running without even being considered.

I suppose it is the easy way to cut down on the size of the in-pile, but I find it irritating, with many of the demands having no clear reason other than a perverse desire to trip the erstwhile writer up. That so many of the most demanding publishers produce poor quality publications perhaps speaks for itself – rather than seek quality writing, they will publish any old tat that kowtows to their demands. That may be up to them, but I believe it is a real shame.

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