Wednesday, 17 June 2009

have your say, influence the editor

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- Entries must be the writer's original, unpublished work and not have won a prize in any other competition.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? ( 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.


Anonymous said...

I have to ask. Why specify a font?

Tiggy Johnson said...

Hi gingatao, and welcome. For me, the font is about two things. One is convention, and particularly as we encourage new writers to submit, I feel we have to help them get used to what is, essentially, an industry standard. The second reason is more personal for me, and possibly why I get a little narky about sans-serif fonts: I have eyesight issues that accumulate to mean that more than half an hour reading (in one sitting) of anything other than perfect conditions (ie. well printed, serif font, good size etc) leaves me with a headache that lasts the rest of the day.

Mum2Jay said...

Hey Tiggy,
For me - the ppl who send over the stated amount of poems/stories are the worst offenders. This is to the much time do they think you have to read everything and put together a publication? It's hard work! And to themselves...I mean, spread them around. Sending to several publications rather than just one should be their aim... hit rate ppl, hit rate...
Just my two cents :)

Tiggy Johnson said...

The writer in me is totally with you Mum2Jay. When I send stuff out I want to spread it around too, although maybe the types who send so many to one place are so prolific we can't imagine.

What do you think should happen to their submission/s though? Read them all, read three, turf the lot? And what about those who do it time again? I appreciate your input.

Mum2Jay said...

In my opinion, if ppl repeat-offend, they just look rude. This - whether they mean it or not - shows a lack of respect. I don't think editors are super-human ppl on golden pedastals, but I don't set out to annoy them either...

Also, again it's about time - how much time do you have as editor of a magazine? What if everyone did many submissions then? You may never get the magazine to print!

Tiggy Johnson said...

Mum2Jay, thanks for your input.

amelia said...

I have recently sent a whole heap of submissions off to various publications only to then realise my work was in Calibri font (this, a burrowed computer’s, default)and I couldn't tell the difference between it & Times new roman as specified in many of the guidlines. So, I hope people are lenient on that this time around and my work good enough to shine on through. However, the onus is definitely on me- I only get irritated when I hear from friends working in the industry that guidelines are enforced for some and not others. If you are fair and consistent as an editor then i I think the onus is on the contributor.
In regards to mum2jay's comments maybe read the top three, get rid of the rest. I don’t think people are being intentionally rude, just over enthusiastic and unaware of industry protocol. Until I completed a course in writing I didn't know why these standards existed- maybe others are in the same boat.

Mum2Jay said...

Fair comment amelia...and I agree totally about the consistency issue. Same rules for everyone.

Tiggy Johnson said...

Hi amelia, thanks for your feedback. I agree about being consistent too, although I have realised that this probably means going through all of them at one time to specifically look for these things, particularly as I use an editorial committee for general submissions. You are right too that it can be difficult to know whether one publication will enforce them, when some seem to and others don't. Good luck with your 'Calibri' submissions, and I suppose if one/some are accepted you'll know those publications aren't so strict.

While your situation definitely sounds like a one-off, I wish you were right about all people perhaps just not being aware. I think probably most are, but as an example, one poet who has been submitting with us since Issue 2 consistently sends a minimum of six poems and usually outside submission periods. I have sent him our guidelines on more than one occasion with the limits and dates highlighted, but he disregards this. In March I returned a submission with a letter explaining that submissions were open during April, May and June (with a new copy of our guidelines, bits highlighted), and within a fortnight I received a new 'submission' from him with about twelve poems. He is not a new poet either (I believe he has been publishing his work for more than ten years). Perhaps I will use your suggestion in general, but maybe not for people who I know I have specifically given the information to after they've got it wrong. Does that seem fair?

Vikth said...

Okay here's my 2 cents worth
Guidelines are there for a reason. The editor/committee has selected a list of guidelines or requirements that work for them- not meeting them is not only rude but ignorant.
Frankly as a writer I make sure I meet all guidelines or else I don't submit- that simple. As a writer who has been on the other side of the desk - as in an editorial committee- it annoys me when writers don't meet the simple requirements that are easy to follow and require little brainwork.
If someone sends in too many submissions, I would not accept them.
Brutal yes- but if you take the 'top' 3 of the 10 sent in- you are then open to 'but my BEST poem was the 5th one in the pile'. If they send in 10 poems they have not met the requirements. If it's not in the stated font or font size- they have not met the requirements.
Same with pretty paper, single spacing, names left on competition entries, no page numbers when asked etc etc...
I've been on both sides of the desk, as writer and as editorial committee- it doesn't hurt to read the guidelines and meet them.
In fact it's called professionalism
Here endeth the sermon :)

Tiggy Johnson said...

Thanks for your input Vikth. It's great to hear from someone so clear on their own feelings about this, and a large part of me would just love to agree with everything you say, point blank. But I find it harder when I'm on this end, even though as a writer, I'd completely expect my sub not to count if I didn't do it right. I guess it's because, like amelia, people do make one-off mistakes that are genuine ooopses and it seems harsh to penalise them by totally disregarding their effort. I think you're probably right though, and I should be tough about it (so anyone out there who submitted to us and realises they ooopsed it, resend it via email by cut-off date, June 30).

Would love to hear what happened when you were on the editorial committee you mentioned -- did you disregard stuff that didn't meet guidelines? Did the entire committee agree on an approach?

Tiggy Johnson said...

Just pasting below a comment from 'Jenni' who emailed, asking me to include her comment because it wouldn't work for her.

The publishers or parties organising competitions choose their guidelines for solid reasons, I would think. These rules are set down to make the game fair for all; therefore, it is important that the guidelines are met for entries to be eligible.

I agree that a named manuscript should result in automatic disqualification, though I have no problem with publishers then allowing that piece to be considered as a general submission, if they are never read 'blind'.

As you have never frowned on double spacing, I agree, change this guideline to an option of 1.5 or double.

If font is specified, I think it should be adhered to, just like all the other rules. If you don’t mind which serif font is used then state that in the guidelines. Yes, your idea of stating Times New Roman as an example might help people to understand. As has been mentioned in some of the comments, there will always be people submitting who are new to writing. Here is a chance to educate them a little – by spelling it out in the guidelines, not by making an allowance if they break the rules that everyone else is expected to uphold. We want to encourage a professional standard in our industry.

The rules should be the same for all genres, unless you state otherwise. Consistency is the key.

Should they be disqualified? If you have stated that entries that do not meet the requirements will be disqualified then they should. (and I think your rule should be definite – will, not may.

Should they be considered in the general submission, where you ask specifically for Times New Roman, or not at all? Yes, if that is what you have stated.

Regarding those pesky poets who send ten or so poems, or those who go over the word lengths, I suggest you decide what you would like to do – or can manage to do on a consistent basis – and state that in your guidelines. Then keep to it.

If you are not happy with following though with any of your rules, you need to adjust your guideline statements so that you can easily follow through. The guidelines are there for you to follow, too, and no-one should take umbrage when you do.

Guidelines give us a level playing field, everyone knows where they stand and your job will be much easier – as long as you are consistent. (It’s not unlike raising children, is it?)

Thanks for the great job you do with your magazine and for the thought that you are putting into making it even better. You are valued in the writing community, thought you should know that.

Tiggy Johnson said...

Thanks Jenni for your thoughts. You seem to have addressed all of the issues I raised, which is great. I know you are right, of course, and now that a few of you have stated you expect guidelines to be followed to the letter, then that's what I will do, being lenient only where I have perhaps not been clear enough. It helps to know that writers will generally support us in this decision. I will also make sure next year's guidelines are clearer. Thank you all for your comments, although that doesn't have to mean the end of such an enjoyable discussion.