The 10 Commandments For Editors

15 May

If you are an editor or planning to edit an anthology or magazine, you may find it useful to bear the following points in mind…


  1. Thou Shalt Clarify Exactly What You Desire – Contributors should be able to tell what is suitable to send at, if not a glance, certainly a very brief perusal of your guidelines. If you are unclear on what you want – unless the brief is deliberately intended to be broad – you are wasting both their time and your own. If you are using any terms, such as for types of genre, it does help to define what you mean by it as even the most seemingly-obvious terms often have multiple interpretations or grey areas. Make sure to mention whether you allow reprints, simultaneous submissions or multiple submissions.
  2. Thou Shalt Use Clear Language – Enigmatic phrasing should be avoided at all costs. Some editors write guidelines that are very difficult to decipher and I have even had to query whether work has been accepted or rejected because the editor somehow managed to talk around the pertinent issue in a reply. If you have any special rules (such as only submitting one piece at a time) make this crystal clear.
  3. Thou Shalt Specify Word Counts and Closing Dates – It may sound obvious that you should include these, but I have encountered a number of editors who seem to think that writers have psychic powers in this regard. If you do not have a specific word limit or you are editing a magazine that is open to submissions all year round, please note these facts to prevent confusion.
  4. Thou Shalt Indicate Your Layout Requirements – If you don’t want the regular format of 12 pt Times New Roman double spaced, please clearly indicate what you do want. In fact, even if you do want the regular, it doesn’t hurt to indicate this – but, please, don’t put ‘Standard Manuscript Format’ as there are plenty of variations on the theme. If borders and indents are important to you, please explain what you want as clearly as you can rather than relying on writers to attempt to decipher your demands.
  5. Thou Shalt Make It Possible To Contact You – If you fail to provide contact details you may just find you won’t be getting many submissions! Please do not hide them away so that we have to go searching for them and if you are using a different contact address to your usual one for a specific project or have separate contact addresses for submissions, queries and orders, it really does save everyone a lot of time and hassle to make these abundantly clear.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Conceal Any Element of Your Guidelines – Some editors forget to mention key rules in their guidelines and then respond huffily when you ‘break’ their rules. Whether it is a bar on reprints or restrictions on certain topics or themes, make sure they are covered in your guidelines – and, if it’s a complete ban, don’t phrase it as a ban on extreme examples! Suddenly announcing that an unmentioned rule has been violated or suddenly broadening a rule beyond that indicated is sloppy and unprofessional.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Move The Goalposts – Yes, there will be rare cases where events beyond your control force you make unexpected changes, but in normal circumstances you should not change anything in your guidelines once they have gone public. Contributors may only pay one visit to your site before locking themselves away to beaver at producing a submission and it is extremely annoying to discover that it is no longer eligible. If something may be subject to change please make this clear from the outset so that writers know they may need to check back. Likewise, if you plan to close when you have accepted a set number of pieces makes this clear rather than stating a hard deadline.
  8. Thou Shalt Make Your Guidelines Accessible – Even the most perfect of guidelines are useless if nobody can actually find them! Check that your site is coming up in searches for your anthology or magazine and that sites advertising it have links to your site. And, finally, make sure that the guidelines can be easily located on your site.
  9. Thou Shalt Remember That Thou Art Not The Entirety Of Existence – Some editors seem to take the approach that they are the only outlet around and act as if writers have nothing better to do than visit their site ten times a day in case of updates, spend hours searching for guidelines and even longer formatting submissions to match their peculiar layout demands. But, they aren’t. Writers often have multiple projects on the go at once, as well as such pesky distractions as families and jobs. They cannot always prioritise your eccentric demands, so don’t expect them to. Behaving this way doesn’t make you an elite, it makes you appear like a pathetic amateur. Avoid such behaviour at all costs!
  10. Thou Shalt Remember That Thou Are Being Judged Too – Yes, you will be judging the writers’ submissions, but they will be judging you, too! From the moment a writer looks at your guidelines through the way in which you deal with them and respond to their submissions, they will deciding whether they want to do business with you. Whether you are a non-paying small press or a top-flight publisher potentially offering huge advances, the way you present yourself reflects upon your future success. Not only can sloppy submission guidelines cause writers to decide not to submit to you and poor responses cause them to boycott you in future, but they can also affect whether they will purchase you product – and most people will not keep their disappointment to themselves, but will tell their friends or post on blogs and in forums. Professional guidelines and a professional attitude and approach are likely to ensure that you receive plenty of good-quality submissions and will gain readers. A sloppy and unprofessional approach will lose you support. So, make yourself the best editor that you can be!



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