Horsepower or fail flower? Format for victory April 2024

Yes, formatting matters...

It’s no secret: here at FMP we like to talk about writing. And fiction writing (particularly fantasy fiction) is one of our favorite kinds of writing. Something that’s more of a secret (though it shouldn’t be) is that how we present our fiction matters. 

Sure, sometimes it’s fun to come up with artsy ways to present a story. But, if those presentations don’t help our stories get read, then they aren’t helping. In fact, they may be barriers between readers and our work. 

Putting barriers between yourself and your reader isn’t a great idea. It’s a worse idea to put barriers between people who can help you reach your readers. Editors and publishers are often pretty particular about how they want a story formatted. And there’s a reason for it. We’re busy people and things that make it harder for us to read your work make it easier for us to nope out on your story.

Here are three tips to help you get your stories read: (no these aren’t the trendy flavor of the moment tips they’re practical, timeless tips)

Find and use a professional looking standard format for stories you submit. (there’s one linked at the end of this post…)

Read the submission guidelines of the publisher or publishers you’re sending to. Really read them. Credible publishers will tell you what they want, what they don’t want and how to get published with them. (And your following their guidelines is the first step to getting past the slush pile…)

Modify your standard format to fit the one your perspective publisher asks for.

Yes, you like your story in fourteen point (insert font here) or 9 point (insert another font). But if the publisher asks for 12 point Times New Roman, give it to them. 

Sure a lot of publications use justified text. But in reality left aligned text with a ragged right edge is easier to read. Trust me on this one or try it yourself. (I’ve done a lot of reading over the years and most publishers seem to agree with me in their own reading (please don’t ask me why they go justified text in the finished product…))

Follow the quirks they might set up. The example format I’ll link to (I haven’t forgotten) has a name and address block in the upper left-hand corner. Most of the time, it’s a good idea to have your info in that spot. Here at FMP we ask you not to include the information there because we do blind review.

Blind review means that we pick our stories based on the quality of the work. Is the story interesting? Is it well told? Have we seen it a million times this month? What’s the audience? (bonus tip: don’t send your erotica story to a clean fantasy magazine or your non-fiction rant to a YA fantasy editor) Did you follow the specs other in the submission guidelines? Author identity doesn’t enter the calculation.

Sure, if we accept the story we want to know who you are (both so we can pay you and so that we can celebrate your achievement together!). But we don’t consider who the author is in the selection process (a stinker’s a stinker whether Steven King, Toni Morrison, Obert Skye, or the kid down the block wrote it. And if it’s a great story, we want it no matter who wrote it!).

So, we ask you to put your identity info in a separate part of the submission form instead of the manuscript. And following that rule’s one thing that helps you get published with us (or not…).

Yes, writing a great story is vital. And yes, what makes a great story is a complicated question (which is why you read those submission guidelines and the magazine/website/literary catalog of the people you’re submitting to). It takes a lot of effort. (trust me. I’ve been there…). Work on your story. Make it great. And then, send it out there. Release it into the world. 

And when you do, take that last bit of effort and format it the way the editor or publisher asks for it. Don’t come all that way just to sabotage yourself in the end. 

Here’s the format link I promised. I’ll see you next post.

Posted in Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *