FORMATTING IS SO BASIC, I WASN'T EVEN GOING TO BRING IT UP, but I suppose I will. If you're eating your cereal, or doing your laundry, or taking a coffee break, you may as well go back to it, because this post is about as interesting (to me) as dishwater. I'm about twenty stories into the slush (of the 100+ I've been assigned), and already there are four of them that show me some writers don't know any better.
Huge sigh. I'll start with the most obvious:
1). Just because it's an e-mailed submission doesn't mean we don't need to know your personal information including your mailing address. Yes, On Spec publishes work from writers who aren't Canadian, but we still need to keep an eye on where the submissions come from. Because of our grant funding, we can publish up to 40% non-Canadian work. If you are a Canadian, but living outside of Canada, it helps us if you point that out - we'll include you in the 60%, so your chances of publication are slightly higher. Put this information on the first page of the manuscript, upper left-hand corner.
2). Word Count: Our upper limit is 6,000 words. I'm suspicious when I don't see a word count mentioned. It may be that the writer just didn't think it was important (it is - there are only so many words we can put into the magazine), or that they're over the limit and don't want me to notice. I will notice. If you included your word count, and it's 'about 6,000 words', that translates to me as over 6,000. Trim it down. I've never run into a manuscript that can't be trimmed somewhere. Include the exact word count following your personal info in the upper left-hand corner.
3). The old font stand-by was Courier. If you like Courier, fine. I don't, particularly. I'd much rather read something in Times New Roman, 12 count. (Strangely enough, this is a battle I have with this blog almost every time I post. I've edited this post in Times New Roman. When I look at it on the Preview page, it shows up as Arial. I have no idea why. I'm not going to fight with it. But just so you know...) Font isn't a big issue, but for me, my preference is TNR.
4). Right and left margins should be about an inch. Just enough white space to make reading comfortable. Ditto for top and bottom.
5). Please double-space and indent five spaces for each new paragraph. I don't know whether it's Submittable, our new submissions handling software or what, but for some reason, I'm seeing a lot of manuscripts that indent the first line of every paragraph half-way across the page. Very odd.
6). Please DO NOT double-space after sentences. If we end up buying your work, I'll make you take them out, so I don't have to.
7). Since we are a Canadian magazine, the house style is for Canadian/British spelling. The copy-editing will be much easier on me later, if you take pains to make it so.
8). Please include your bio at the end of your story.
I'm hoping to get through my assigned first-reads within the next month, as I'm heading to Cancun mid-February for my son's destination wedding. I must say, I'm reading some really great stuff. (I thought I should mention this, in case you think I do nothing but carp about what I'm seeing in my ABC's and Letters to the Slush Pile posts.) These are the stories that make my job as an editor worthwhile. If you're not sure yet whether I'm talking about you, you will, eventually. Keep up the excellent (and well-formatted) work. :-) Happy writing!