Sue’s Dos and Don’ts for professional submission of work

During my years as a competition judge for the Writers’ Forum Fiction Competition (now handed over to the fabulous Lorraine Mace), and as an editor of a couple of anthologies, I’ve encountered a some odd and off-putting ways of submitting work. Here are a few ‘don’ts’ compiled from that experience. Some of them might make you smile:


  • Send with your submission extraneous additional material such as newspaper clippings, links to the newspaper stories that prompted your idea, photographs, drawings, or letters from other competitions proving that this story didn’t win or letters from editors saying they like your work.

  • Ask for the material to be returned unless its the last copy on Earth and you will never have access to a printer for the rest of your life – especially if you don’t include a stamped self-addressed envelope. Sorry if this sounds mean but it costs you postage and costs the judge or editor time in going to the postbox.

  • Send your story printed on the other side of old material, especially if you don’t cross out said old material.

  • Send two different versions of the same story at the same time.

  • Send  two identical versions of the same story, apart from the fact that they’re printed in two different fonts. (I’m mystified by this one.)

  • Say that you decided not to pay for a critique available as part of the competition, but please could the judge tell you what’s wrong with the story?

  • Send in original and irreplaceable material related to your story (such as a letter from a now-deceased famous person), which the competition judge or editor will feel morally obliged to ensure is returned to you safely.

  • Don’t use a fancy or jokey font, or print in purple, or use orange paper.

  • Write or email to tell the judge or editor that they’re wrong if they don’t count your story as a success.

  • Write or email the judge or editor to tell them how to judge/edit properly. Especially if the letter or email is long.

I wouldn’t categorise any of the above techniques as successful. Satisfactory submission is really simple:


  • Follow the competition rules or submission guidelines. If you don’t, you’re wasting any entry fee or postage you may have paid, and your valuable time.

  • Learn about standard manuscript presentation and utilise it. There’s information on the Manuscript Preparation tab of this blog if you’re unsure. Poor presentation can detract from your work instead of allowing the judge or editor a pleasant reading experience.

Good luck!


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4 responses to “Sue’s Dos and Don’ts for professional submission of work

  1. I remember submitting to The Writers Forum competition years ago! You wrote the critique for it. I was a very new writer and you could probably tell! You’re a fantastic critter, you made me keep going but still made me realise my huge plot bunnies. I’ll never forget that. Thanks Sue. 🙂


  2. Blimey, do some people actually do some of those things? What planet are they from??


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