Why You Need to Follow the Guidelines

Written by A Guest Author | April 5, 2018

Wendy S. Delmater

Every market has what are called guidelines, often on a Submissions or Guidelines tab or page. So what are guidelines?

Guidelines are a set of rules put together for the benefit of editors, to make their lives easier. They are also for writers, to give them a better chance of getting published.

They can be as short as a few sentences or very long. Typical things found in guidelines are:

  • A brief statement of what sort of things a publication is looking for. For example, The New Yorker wants literary pieces, Ellery Queen Magazine wants mysteries; Apex wants horror, Analog wants science fiction, etc. If it’s a publication or edition with a theme, this is where the theme will be listed.
  • Very often there is also a listing of things a publication will NOT buy. This usually veers away from mere genre expectations to an editor’s personal preferences. Pay attention to these!
  • Submissions window(s), if any. Some publications are open to submissions all year round. Others are only open for specific time periods, called submissions windows. You’re not going to endear yourself to an editor by sending something outside of a submissions window.
  • Method of submission. Here’s where you find out how to send them your work. They may ask you to send your work to a particular email address. Or they may have submissions software: Submittable is a common one of those, as is Moksha. They may only take snail mail, paper submissions. This is also usually where they tell you if they want all identifiers stripped so they can read the piece without knowing who sent it.
  • Editor quirks. This category is for things like what font you should use, whether or not they want Standard Manuscript Formatting, if they want one or two spaces after a period, or if they will not take any stories involving cats.

Why is that last one so important? Well, have you ever heard the story about why the rock group Van Halen had a clause in their contracts that they were to be served M&Ms, but all the brown candies had to be picked out?  Short version: If the band got there and there were M&Ms with the brown ones picked out, they felt confident that everything else was in order, especially the complex wiring for their expensive equipment. If an editor asks for something odd, give it to them. You can be sure there will be legions of writers who will not, and you’ll stand out.

Finally, allow time to read the guidelines thoroughly! Don’t get your sub rejected unread by rushing. It’s not necessary; following the guidelines shows that you are a professional and serious about getting published.

Good luck. And remember that following the guidelines exponentially increases your chances of getting published.


Wendy S. Delmater is the author of Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer, and the Better Dating Through Engineering series. She has been editor of the Hugo-nominated magazine, Abyss & Apex, since 2006. She is also the editor of The Best of Abyss & Apex, Volumes 1 and 2. Wendy’s recent publication credits include short stories and poetry in The Singularity magazine, Gathering Storm Magazine, Little Blue Marble, Star*Line, Illumen, and Silver Blade Magazine. You can visit her Amazon Author page, which contains her blog, or follow her on Twitter where she’s known as @safewrite.