October 15, 2014 by Laird
A dump truck-load has been written about formatting short fiction. My piece of advice for the day regards an approach to editorial/publisher guidelines.
Follow the guidelines. If they are specific, it behooves you to follow them to the letter. If you aren’t chummy with the editor, don’t get cute or long-winded in your submission note. Don’t get cute or long-winded in your bio. Just the pertinent facts, and nothing more unless the guidelines dictate otherwise.
My letters read something like–“Dear X, Please find enclosed a 4500 word short story entitled “Y.” Thank you for your time and consideration.”
If the publisher is interested in a bio, I list three or four credits, max, and where I currently reside. Usually, that won’t come up unless your story has been accepted and they need a 50 to 100-word bio.
If the instructions are vague or indicate “standard” formatting, use common sense. Name address, email/phone in the upper corner (left or right, nobody cares enough to dock your choice); Courier or Times New Roman 12 point font; header containing title, author surname, and story title; title centered; byline and word count under that. Indent paragraphs, one space after the end of each sentence; double-space sentences, one inch margins all around…
A simple contact note and a clean, well-formatted manuscript put you in a good light. But listen, this part is key–Don’t obsess so damn much about the bloody guidelines. None of the genre publishers I’m familiar with will reject you because you put your contact info in the wrong corner or run a footer instead of a header, or use Tahoma instead of Courier, or go fifty words over the cap. A minor flub is not going to get you rejected. Egregious bullshit, bad writing, and bad behavior are what get you rejected.