You’ve heard it a million times. You know it all. You can’t believe editors and publishers go on about it so much. Don’t they have anything better to do than tell you to read, and follow, their guidelines?
Do you think that if one publication asks for Arial font that it’s okay to use Arial for someone who asks for Times New Roman? To use size 11 with someone asking for 12? To use another publication’s guidelines entirely for any old mag?
It’s true, some people do follow the guidelines, probably even most of you. But there are still a large number of people who think they are above the rules. Enough to make editors go on about it again and again. Those who think it’s okay to send ten poems when the limit is three. Those who use Arial, and other (especially sans serif) fonts when they should use Times New Roman. Those who think the editor won’t mind if they send a story with a few extra words, say 20% more than the limit, because their story is so good that no-one will mind – in fact, the editor will probably be so glad they received it because they couldn’t possibly go without including it in their next issue. Those who feel their piece will look so pretty if they print it on pink paper. You get the idea.
You’ve heard editors say it’s about convention, respect, being professional, etc. You’ve heard about readability, know that Times New Roman is easiest to read. Maybe you think it’s crap, because it doesn’t make a difference to you. You can read Arial just fine.
What if you were sending your work to an editor with a -11.00 prescription in their glasses/contact lenses? One with glaucoma? One needing cataract surgery? Would you think to hell with the rules then? Would you understand that maybe the editor asks for work a certain way because it means they can actually read it?
Because when you send your work to page seventeen, the editor has all of the above eyesight issues. All this at the tender age of thirty-seven – imagine what guidelines she might come up with when she’s fifty. She also has a good memory for the names of people who piss her off by doing their own thing.
Maybe next time you’re preparing a submission, you might think of this. After all, do you know the editor at all, let alone well enough to know there’s no damn good reason s/he might ask you to prepare your work in a specific way? Is it your call anyway? Aren’t you trying to be part of their world by sending them your stuff?
Remember too, editors are likely to notice even the smallest breach. After all, that’s what an editor does. It’s an editor’s job to do things like: notice that a word is spelled one way on page twelve and a different way on page seventy-four; notice tiny things like there being two spaces between words instead of one; actually care about convention. So, all those other reasons are good too.
As for the poets who send ten pieces, well, they’re just plain rude.