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10/15/2014 08:04 am ET Updated Oct 15, 2014

Online Writing Submissions: What You Must Do Before You Hit Send!

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By Writer's Relief staff:

Like it or not, the process of submitting your writing to literary journals and agents has moved irreversibly into the digital age. And while most writers have happily embraced the convenience of submitting work online, others still need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, up to the computer keyboard. Either way, the reality is unavoidable: The printed, mailed submission is going the way of the inkwell and parchment paper.

Using an online submission manager allows you to easily make, track, and manage your submissions. Many literary journals now accept submissions via an online submission form or a submission manager -- and some have stopped accepting print or email submissions entirely! Literary agents as well have embraced the ease of electronic submissions and are accepting e-queries, sample pages, and even entire books by email.

But, while online submissions have made sending your work easier and faster, they’ve also made it possible for you to send glaring errors and avoidable mistakes with lightning speed too.

Here are a few reminders to help you make the best possible online writing submissions:

Review the submission guidelines! Obviously, this is smart advice no matter how you intend to send your writing submission. But so many authors skim the guidelines and make assumptions (and you know what happens when you assume!) that it’s worth pointing out this basic step. Also, be sure to note which types of document files the journal accepts—and send your work in the appropriate format.

Check and double-check. Before you finalize your submission, proofread and check everything AGAIN. Confirm that you’ve filled out each field correctly by using the preview option to catch any last minute mistakes, formatting errors, or typos.

Be professional. You may be wearing flip-flops, snow pants, and a jaunty beret, but the tone of your online submission should be pinstriped-suit professional. Keep your correspondence with literary agents or magazine editors polished and well-written -- save the casual LOLs and C U L8Rs for your personal emails.

And while you may have a plethora of possible fonts and colors at your fingertips, stay away from garish typefaces, distracting colors, or an ornate, overly big signature.

Send each submission individually. If you’re using email, don’t send the same email to multiple recipients. By sending out your emails one at a time, you can avoid having your submissions filtered as spam. If you’re determined to send the same email to multiple recipients, use a blind carbon copy (BCC). Some literary agents or editors may feel that having their name or email contact information included in your big mailing list is an invasion of privacy. You don’t want your submission to start out with a strike against it before a single word has been read!

Know if there’s a fee. There are literary journals that have begun charging an administrative fee for online submissions. Before you start making indignant harrumphing noises, consider this: The cost is usually minimal and helps the journal meet expenses to stay in business (and sometimes—even pay accepted writers!).

With just a few clicks, online submissions will save you time, maybe help save a literary magazine, and definitely save some trees. Go ahead... hit send!

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