Use Your Head – Things to Do While Submitting

There is a really quick way for a writer to get rejected. You don’t even have to do anything to guarantee it. In fact, doing nothing will guarantee it. It’s so easy, it should be illegal.

You’re dying to find out how to get rejected, now, aren’t you? What could the road to this quick rejection be?

Okay, I’ll tell you.


The beauty of this method is it works whether you’re submitting to an agent, a small press, a writing contest, a big three publisher, a literary journal, a magazine or any other print or online media that accepts writing submissions. It’s a foolproof method. They will ALL reject you.

Why would you wish to be rejected, you may ask. I have no frigging idea. BUT I do know that people submit to some or all of these places without reading the submission guidelines. “Submission guidelines? Hmph!” I imagine some people saying, “Those are for people who don’t know how to write!”

If you’re among the group that does not read submission guidelines, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll get just as many acceptances as you deserve. ZERO. A big fat Nada!

How do I know there are people out there who do not bother to read submission guidelines? Because I’ve been on the receiving end of some real doozies! I was editor for an online literary journal. We received several submissions a day. Every morning, I would go in and peruse the submissions received overnight. For an example, lets say there were 27 submissions received overnight. Without even getting to the actual submitted writing itself, I could easily reject 15 of those submissions just by reading the body of the email. Submission guidelines are posted for a reason. When an editor, contest organizer or agent, etc, has an inbox full of submissions, do you really think they’re going to read work by people who didn’t even have the common decency to read their submission guidelines? I’ll answer that question for you. The answer is NO.

By reading every single word of the submission guidelines, and checking them off as you prepare your submission, you at least stand a fighting chance of having your work considered. Why chop off your legs before the work is even reviewed? Why would someone do that?

Slush piles can be enormous. An easy way for someone to get through their slush pile is to weed out the bad apples. A bad apple, in this case, is someone who doesn’t care. Someone who doesn’t take the time. So, go ahead. Ignore those submission guidelines. You’re just making it easier for the agent, editor, acquisitions person to push your material from the slush pile to the junk pile. And let’s face it, they need all the help they can get getting through that stack.

READ. THE. SUBMISSION. GUIDELINES.AND.FOLLOW. THEM. TO. THE. LETTER. Don’t give them an opportunity to reject you before you even get your foot in the door. You have a responsibility to put your best foot forward.

By Kevin Craig

Author, Poet, Playwright. Author of The Camino Club, Billions of Beautiful Hearts, and Book of Dreams, all from Duet Books, the LGBTQ Young Adult imprint of Chicago Review Press. Other books: Pride Must Be A Place, Half Dead & Fully Broken, Burn Baby Burn Baby, The Reasons, Sebastian's Poet, and Summer on Fire.


  1. I do both acquisitions and editing for my imprint, and I find that if someone doesn’t bother to work with me in the submissions process, I have serious doubts about whether they will work with me in the editing process. Submissions guidelines aren’t random hoops to jump through–they’re developed and streamlined to be efficient and to work in everyone’s best interests–including the people in acquisitions, and we’re the first people a writer has to make happy. If you exasperate me right out of the gate, why would I let you any further into my life?

  2. Fantastic post Kevin! It’s so simple – but so true.

    It would be interesting to know the psychology behind this, don’t you think? Are people not following the guidelines because they feel it makes them stand out as different in a special and unique way, or are they sabotaging themselves from the get-go. If I don’t get selected, it was probably because I didn’t used 12 pt Times New Roman?

    I guess there is another option – the just plain stupid factor. But I like to think my fellow artists may be disturbed, demented, rule breakers, quirky, eccentric, or really “off”, but never just plain stupid.

    Stupid is reserved for sports people, not artists. 🙂

  3. Thanks so much, Sharon!
    Kathy…thank you for chiming in from the other side. (-: Excellent points.
    Noelle…unfortunately, stupid is as stupid does. You don’t have to be stupid to do stupid things. (-:

  4. Great post, Kevin. I realize that sometimes one can find conflicting information regarding submissions – I’m thinking of how QueryTracker has occasionally posted guidelines that didn’t get updated when things changed with the agency, but that’s no excuse. With the availability of information we are provided with today, there is absolutely no reason not to do things right.

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