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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What I've learned from 2 days as an editor

So I vanished a little towards the end of the year. That happens; one of the, *ahem*,  joys of working in retail is that December turns into a blur of customers and complete non-productivity outside of work. I've a few posts coming up that I've been sitting on since about November, including but not limited to:-

  • An overview of my year in writing (to go with my half-way-through-the-year post back in June)
  • A review of Paul Finch's King Death, the latest chapbook from Spectral Press
  • A post about another fantastic artist I know
  • A general "go listen to this awesome music" post
There are some others as well, I'm sure, but I can't think of them right now.

Anyway. To this update, gloriously titled What I've Learned From 2 Days As An Editor. Two days ago I announced that I would be accepted submissions for the chapbook of flash fiction stories I'm putting together for my university Literary Society. I sent out an email to everybody on creative writing courses, telling them that submissions would open on 29th January and where to find the guidelines.

So far I've received seven submissions. All of them have ignored both the guidelines and the dates for the submissions window. So what? you may say. It's only seven stories. And that's true, but that's not the point.

In receiving those submissions, I got a small taste of what editors for much larger publications than my own must go through on a day-to-day basis, and I realised exactly why following submission guidelines is so important. I may have only received 7 submissions, but I'm not going to look on those as favourably as those that follow the guidelines, simply because they've annoyed me. (I also gained a new appreciation for the cover letter that I always attach to submissions, even when it isn't asked for [I asked for one]. Only one of those 7 submissions had any kind of cover letter, and it's very disconcerting to open an email and immediately be reading a story).

I realised a couple of things; when submitting stories I always follow submission guidelines to the letter, and always include a covering letter. Up until now I assumed that wouldn't count for much, but I've realised that it really, really does. So I'll keep doing it.

I also realised that this is the kind of thing that creative writing courses should be teaching. I've already fallen out with one of my tutors over the correct formatting of an assessment piece, because the way she told us to format it (which she claimed was the way every professional publishing organisation will ask for work to be formatted) was nothing like the standard manuscript formatting that I use for nearly all my submissions. I feel like - on a course that prides itself on the successes of its alumni, and pushes students to submit work all over the place - this kind of thing should be being taught, along with the importance of both reading guidelines and following them.

Maybe that's just me being picky and anal about it. What do you think?


  1. As an editor of many years, you are spot on. And, at present, I am teaching a course in which we do cover these things - particularly the importance of the letter and of following guidelines. It's not rocket science. Hell, it's not even normal science!

    1. I'm glad you agree! I'm seriously considering suggesting to my personal tutor (who happens to run the module, luckily enough) that the university at least run a session or two on these kind of things. I'd argue that knowing the business side of any creative industry is at least equally as important as being able to create good work in the first place!