On the advice of a few English teachers, in 1998-1999, I attended a Creative Writing course.
First day, and the professor/instructor moved from her lectern, and gave us the first of her many writing commandments: Thou Shall Follow Submission Guidelines!
Most of us had never heard this term before. A few mumbled, ‘What’s a submission guideline’? Some of my classmates stared at her, slack-jawed.
Submission guidelines are either blatantly stated or subtly mentioned. They are the blueprint for what a publication receives and then gives to its audience.
Hyperlinks or buttons will be labeled ‘Submission’, ‘Submission guidelines’, or even a simple ‘Submit’ on the publisher’s website. In a classified ad, the company may give an email to request submissions.
To take writing seriously, the submission guidelines must be seen as a rule. Not hard and fast, but, like a “guide”.
Now, before someone talks about rules made to be broken, let me state that until I become the next Chris Claremont or Brian Michael Bendis, I’m going to read and follow what a magazine says it will publish!
Let’s take a look at two comic-graphic novel publishing houses.
First is Fantagraphics. This company is known for its experimental stories in the sequential art medium. One knows that when you pick up a Fantagraphics‘ title, you won’t be reading a run-of-the-mill comic story! Their comics defy definition, and they often break apart conventions, reassembling it to fit their readers’ eclectic visions.
Now, suppose Writer A is an Aspiring Comic Writer/Artist who wants to submit to http://www.Fantagraphics.com?
The website is elegant, sophisticated, and seems almost simplistic in its complexity. I saw the lack of a simple ‘submit’ link or button!
Also, Fantagraphics‘ ‘About Us’ keeps their blurbs above their company history. The site is as unconventional as the books they publish!
When the submission guidelines are not easy to find, this tells me two things:
A) This publication will be a BIT difficult to submit to
B) This was intentional on the web designer’s part to deter those not serious about submitting their work
Fantagraphics has a long history and is firmly implanted into the comic-industry psyche. The very difficulty in locating that simple ‘Submit’ link means that THEY mean business in that they will accept ONLY the BEST, the INNOVATIVE, the HARD-WON.
Note: I had difficulty too, and so, when all else fails, do a Search Engine peek for those pesky, hard-to-find links. Type in: “Fantagraphics submission guidelines”. Turns out that their guidelines are under their ‘FAQ’ link.
We next move on to Drawn and Quarterly. Don’t you just LOVE that name? It’s morbid but amusing.
Drawn and Quarterly has a simpler design, but the website is no less elegant.
http://www.DrawnandQuarterly.com‘s look is compact with narrow lettering and carefully-columned, and so their submit link also takes some digging.
On Drawn and Quarterly‘s right-hand, the second box marked ‘ABOUT D+Q’ leads to several featured links. The Submission Guidelines will be the third link from the bottom. Their guidelines gave more specific information: detailing the resolution and formats they will accept, as well as a specific editor’s email address!
I can’t stress enough the horror stories I’ve read from editors who received the absolutely wrong end of the publishing deal – sent stories about cute cuddly puppies and kittens to a slasher horror mag, or, in the days of the SASE (Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope), one anecdote about a manuscript sent in a pizza box because the sender thought this would catch the editor’s attention! It sure did! Straight into the trash can.
Now these are over-the-top examples (the pizza box is true, the cake is the lie), but reading a company’s submission guidelines will save you, the submitter, a lot of grief, and allow your amazing creations to appear before those who will appreciate your vision!
Next Article: About VIZ Media and Dark Horse Comics!