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Preparing Your Snail Mail Submission

The other day I went through a stack of snail mail submissions that had been waiting for me for months. I had set these special snail mail submissions aside in a pile that had stacked higher with each trip to the post office. What made these submissions so special?

They were all submitted in letter size envelopes. Confession: I hate submissions in letter size envelopes.

Why?

To fit in a letter size envelope size of 9.5” x 4.25” or some close variation thereof, the submission must be tri-folded like a traditional letter. And within that, a SASE must fit in, so it’s usually creatively, awkwardly folded 4-5 times within the pages. But this isn’t a traditional letter; it’s a 10-20 page manuscript stuffed into the envelope and bulging at the sides. Once opened and free of the miniscule confines, I can’t lay it flat and read it without doing some serious re-creasing.

So I have to unfold a manuscript. Big deal, you think. But keep in mind I have to do this 50-something times. And there are quadruple that number of submissions waiting for me in nice 9”x12” envelopes where I will not have to unfold, re-crease, and dig for a SASE to unfold and re-crease. So even if your story is exceptional - do you really want to be that 50th tri-folded story in a letter size envelope that the editor reaches for?

Yes, ultimately, each submission comes down to the quality of the story. But you can start by making a good impression on the editor and submit your story in a clean, professional way. So here are some tips for submitting by snail mail.

Snail Mail Submissions Do’s and Don’ts:

  • DO submit in a 9”x12” envelope.
  • DO paperclip, DON’T staple, the manuscript. (Editors are picky people. Make no assumptions.)
  • DON’T submit in a clear plastic binding or anything that makes us work to get to the cover letter or story. No frills!
  • DON’T mail a submission requiring signature, certification, special pick-up. PO boxes are open 24/7 but the postal employees to deliver these items are not. If you’re so concerned about arrival, send a SASE postcard to be dropped in the mail when the submission is received.
  • DO follow directions from the magazine/organization you’re submitting to. If they want first initial last name, story title, page count, and the name of your first pet in the upper right hand corner, by all means, oblige.
  • BONUS: DO include a self-adhesive SASE so we can spare our tongues. Not required, of course.

I can’t stress the following directions point enough. Not following directions is perceived as carelessness - and if you don’t care enough to follow our directions, why should we care to read your story? I’ve received all kinds of thoughtless submissions:

  • submissions for poetry (we’ve never once published poetry)
  • multiple stories within a submission (we state that for non-contest submissions please send one story and wait for a reply before sending another)
  • letters addressed to the wrong magazine or editor (we have an About Us page, use it please)

and many other submissions in which it was painfully obvious the submitter hadn’t taken time to proofread, double-check, or show us that they care.

In summary, if you send your submission through snail mail, just keep it simple and easy. The less work we have to do, the more we’ll be grateful for it, even if we don’t publish your story.

Of course, there’s an easy way to avoid all this trouble. Submit online, as many publications, including ours, now offer as an alternative.