We here at Third Person Press know what it's like…you've found a great market to submit to, your story is ready, and then you look at the submission guidelines and realize that you're going to have to reformat your whole piece to match the market's persnickety guidelines before you submit it. You feel like screaming. It's a huge amount of work and a big pain you-know-where. Publishers are so unreasonable!
When we first began accepting submissions, we weren't overly concerned about format. As long as a story was in some reasonable semblance of standard submission format (of which you can find examples and explanations here and here), we'd accept and read it, maybe even reformatting it to a more readable font or size ourselves. No big deal.
And then, over time, we began to realize why publishers are such sticklers for proper submission format. Because while reading a story in nonstandard format might not be a big deal, typesetting an accepted story that started out in unacceptable format IS (a big deal, that is).
And so we come to this: from here on out, we are sticklers for proper submission format. And take heed: you ignore our format guidelines at your own peril. At best, we'll be annoyed and return your story to you unread, asking that you resubmit it in the proper format (and since we're only human, we'll probably still be at least slightly annoyed when your story comes back to us a second time. Do you want us to read your story when we're already annoyed with you?). At worst, we'll be annoyed and reject your story out-of-hand. That'll probably depend on the day, the weather, and how many others we've already sent back for reformatting that day.
Sound harsh? Yes, it really does, doesn't it? But you haven't spent the last hour painstakingly going through an accepted and typeset story, manually taking out all the double spaces after periods, that search-and-replace doesn't want to find. You haven't spent hours finding and fixing the quotation marks and apostrophes that don't match all the others (and which search-and-replace won't find). You haven't spent hours finding the hidden codes inserted by your word processor that make the odd word here and there show up in the wrong font, or the wrong size, or italicized, or…well, you get the picture.
We'll do our part—the next time we put out a call for submissions, there will be detailed guidelines on the site telling potential submitters exactly how we want to see the story. No guesswork involved.
Format matters, and not just when you're submitting to us. Even if you disregard all the trouble it could cause your potential publisher down the road, you look unprofessional when you submit something that doesn't match what the publisher has asked for. In submitting, as in life, it's the time to put your best foot forward, and that means reading and paying attention to what the publisher wants, and sending it the way they want it. You owe it to yourself, and to your story, to do it right.
Photo credit: ppdigital at Morguefile