In response to the responses of the submission guidelines post last week, I wanted to ask you some questions. Feel free to answer in the comments below or by emailing me at one of the email addresses here, or any other email address you might have fo me. Your responses will help me make decisions.
I want to know what you think is fair.
Should I totally ignore submissions/entries that don't follow the guidelines/conditions? Should I be strict on some rules/guidelines and not on others? And if so, where do I draw the line?
These are some of the competition guidelines/conditions of entry:
- Entries must be printed on A4 paper, 1.5 spaced, in a serif font, 12pt.
- Author's name and/or contact details must not appear on the manuscript.
- Entries must be the writer's original, unpublished work and not have won a prize in any other competition.
- Entries that do not conform to these guidelines may be disqualified from the competition and considered as general submissions...
I am sure everyone agrees that a named manuscript should result in automatic disqualification, and I assure you, I have always done that and, when it has happened (because it always does...I might even post stats for some of these things later), I have allowed that piece to be considered as a general submission, because we have never read those 'blind'.
I have never frowned on double spacing, and perhaps I should change this guideline to an option of 1.5 or double.
Once, when we received a story that had been published elsewhere (before our competition even opened), we disqualified the entire entry (three stories), advised the author, who we believed made a genuine error, and published one of the other stories that we really liked (and which may have otherwise won a prize).
But I guess the real contentious issue is the font. Almost all entries come in the right size (we did once receive a story in size 16 font), so no real problem there. I used to ask for Times New Roman and changed it this year to a 'serif font', trying to be more lenient. But a quick glance through the entries I've so far received suggests that not everyone is paying attention, and the stats would horrify some of you, I'm sure. Do people not know what a serif font is? Should I have offered Times New Roman as an example? Did they come in the right font when I was specific? (...ahh...no.) Does it matter for stories but not for poetry?
Should they be disqualified? Should they be considered in the general submission, where, I point out, I ask specifically for Times New Roman, or not at all?
Is it as important to be strict about guildeines for general submissions as it is for the competition? With those pesky poets who send ten or so poems, do I read three or ignore the whole lot? If I read three, how do I choose which to read? And what about submissions that arrive before we even 'open' submissions? What about word or line lengths? Does it matter if they're over?
I increased the word and line limits for the general submissions this year, after consideration of feedback. But already, people are pushing the boundaries of the new limits. Thankfully, most of you who send in longer work asked first. For each of the five people that have asked this year, I have said 'yes, send in one longer piece' (but not three).
In addition to answers to any of the questions above, I'm also interested to know what other editors and/or administrators/judges of competitions do, or to hear from writers who know they submitted to a publication or entered a competition and realised later (or knowingly at the time) they did not follow the guidelines (particularly re font), yet were published or won a prize anyway. But please don't name the publication/competition.