So, these past few months I’ve been cataloging the submissions for Cirque, a literary journal based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I was an intern with them for a year before graduate school so I’ve done this before. (I’ve leveled up to Editorial Assistant, though, so that’s pretty cool, yeah?)
It’s a fun job! Basically I check the submission email and catalogue any submissions we get based on genre (Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Art). I update this giant table with all the necessary information, save the work in a different folder, and follow up with the writers and artists if necessary.
Now, most of the submissions I receive are normal. I’d say over 95% are good. The writers do everything correct, attach all the right things, and generally make me feel wonderful about the community I’ve immersed myself in.
The other 5% though? Well, they are the…interesting bunch. And because they are…interesting…and make silly little (or possibly intentional?) errors, the editors might not take them seriously.
In hopes of derailing any future mistakes by my writer friends who may wish to submit to journals (Cirque or otherwise), here are some things you should watch out for:
Follow the Guidelines
Be sure to read the submission guidelines. Every journal has them up on their website so read them, understand them, and follow them. If you have a question, let the editors know! If the submission says they only accept a Word document or a cut/paste work into the body of the email, do that. It does not mean they will accept PDFs. It does not mean they will accept already designed poems with boarders and flowers. It does not mean they will accept pictures, unless specifically in the Art category. And it certainly does not mean they will accept a picture taken of your desktop of an open Word document displaying the poem you wish to submit. (I laughed at this…and then cried a little.)
Title Your Work
This one is self-explanatory. Okay, all of these are, but this one especially so. Title your work. Title it something that’s connected to the work in some way. Or title it anything, really. Just name the freaking work. Don’t tell the editors that “This has no title,” and they can pick whichever string of words from the piece they want to for the title. Doing so will not end happily. (Granted I’m a nice person and picked a good string of words, but it could’ve easily gone downhill.)
Listen to the Reply
When the editor (or in my case, the editorial assistant) gets back to you and asks you for a 100-word bio, they mean a 100-word bio. And saying “sorry for going over the 100” is bull because you clearly went over the word limit intentionally and is cause enough for them (me) to reply, “No worries, we can always cut it down for length.” While we can, and will, do this, doing so only gives the editors more work. Listen to the reply. Listen to what they say. If they say 100 words, give them 100 words (or less)!
Write Professional Emails
I’ve saved this one for last because it ticked me off the most. When writing your email, be sure to use a professional tone. If you start off the email with “Babe” and end it with “What more do you want?” it’s going to taint your submission (if not get it completely rejected for unprofessionalism). These editors have your work literally in their hands—they can just as easily delete the submission if they want to. If you don’t take the submission process seriously, the editors won’t take you seriously either.
So, fellow writers, be part of the 95%. Please. If you’re part of the 5% it’ll dampen your chances of getting in and will just give the editors something to buzz about around the water cooler. And not in a good way.
[FYI: If you’d like to submit to Cirque, submissions closes on September 21st! See here for details.]