Tuesday 17 August 2010


Many publishers these days ask for a certain sort of formatting. This isn't because they're being awkward. It's usually because they want to get your work out there as quickly and as accurately as possible.
I tend to be old-fashioned enough to still like double-spacing for when I'm selecting and editing texts - I can see them better that way. I go for something quite standard in fact - paragraphs indented by the default Word offers except for opening paragraphs. To be honest, I don’t really notice if the formatting is wrong to start with – but if a text isn’t double-spaced and paragraphs aren’t indented, it immediately shouts “amateur”.
I do request one or two other things for some short stories I edit and select for Bridge House Publishing:
  • That authors use a Word 2003 or newer
  • They use standard Word formatting
  • They use double curly quotes for speech
  • That they put their title and name by which they wish to be known in the header
  • That they put their contact details, including email, in the footer.
Generally, if the above are wrong, I don’t notice until it is too late. Then, it just becomes annoying. I don’t reject just because of the above though really I ought to. The last one is particularly infuriating. I read an excellent story for one of our anthologies and could not contact the writer. The submissions came in through a colleague. So, it was going to be very difficult to wade through a pile of emails looking for this author. Haystacks and pins come to mind. Consequently we didn’t publish what would have been a very good story.
Some people don’t use the Header and Footer facility correctly and type them on by hand. That is of course an immense waste of their time. As I edit, and have to delete these offending items, not only am I also taking a lot of time, I’m failing to concentrate on the really important parts of editing.
Likewise with single quotes. It’s not just a matter of finding and replacing – after all, we don’t want lots of double curly quotes for apostrophes, and Heaven forbid how daft we’d look / do look if we miss one.
We don’t really notice odd line formatting until it comes to design. As your text turns into a PDF, the computer detects where you’ve forced a break … and often then does something weird. We try to spot each one and alter it manually. Time-consuming for us. Time-consuming for you. And leaving margin for error.
Publishers always ask for your work in a certain format for a reason. They’ve usually thought out very carefully how they need your submission to look. Please try and comply.
At the university where I teach, students are marked on presentation as well as seven other categories. We teach academic and industry standard. They have some tedious rules to follow but at least there are rules and they can get this bit of their work right. Likewise when you submit work to a publisher. If all else is equal, we’ll have the one with the correct formatting, thank you very much.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Why we’ve had to reject this time

Why we’ve had to reject this time Why we’ve had to reject this time
I’ve just finished reading a whole pile of submissions. This was for an anthology of stories for infant school aged children. I’ve had to reject several in which there was nothing wrong with the writing. Reasons include:
  • The story was too long.
  • The writer hadn’t quite got the age group right.
  • Some of the language was too complex.
  • A though this story is good it is too similar to another which is even better.
  • The content goes against the ethos of one of the companies with which we are associated.
And of course, there were some where the writing or the story-crafting just wasn’t up to par. I do have to say, though, that none of the writing was too dire. In every single case it would be worth people trying again – maybe not with that particular text but certainly with another. We learn. We grow. All the time. And we have to keep on trying.