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Understanding Editorial Guidelines


Editorial guidelines, also known as writer's guidelines, are the rules set forth by publishers for contributing authors.  In order to have your article taken seriously you must review the guidelines prior to submission.  It is also recommended that you review previous editions of the publication to get a better feel for the types of articles favored by the editor(s).

Outlined below are the typical issues covered in editorial guidelines along with their definitions and any additional information you should know.
Length of article:  The minimum and maximum word count of articles considered for publication. Online articles are usually expected to be 750 to 1,000 words while off-line publications will often accept a longer article.

Topics:  The subjects of articles accepted by the publication.  Never submit an off topic article as this is very annoying and may result in further submissions from you being banned.
Illustrations/Photographs:  Some publications require/accept illustrations or photographs and will usually specify the size and format required for acceptance.

Editorial style:  Consistency and accuracy governs the use of a style selected by the editorial department of a publication. Many publications require the use of the Associated Press Stylebook which covers spelling, capitalization, grammar, punctuation and usage.

Author Photograph:  Some publications require or accept a photograph of the author usually included with the submission of the article.  Guidelines will often cover the size and format of photographs.

Byline length:  Also known as an author biography or resource box.  Some publications have certain requirements for length, characters per line and what or how much contact information can be included.

Payment:  Your byline is often the only payment you will receive for your article.  However, some publications (particularly those in print) pay for articles by the word or per article.
Rights:  Governs whether or not the publication will accept original or reprinted articles, how long they plan to use the material and whether the article can be used elsewhere at the same time.

Query requirement:  A query is a letter written to the editor that proposes an article topic and asks permission to submit.  Some publications require that you query the editor (by e-mail, fax or mail) prior to forwarding your article.
Submission methods:  Methods of submissions may include via fax, e-mail or hard copy sent by courier or standard mail.

Editorial calendar:  It is not unusual for a publication to establish an editorial calendar for each year far in advance. The calendar will cover topics, themes, article types and required submission dates broken down by publication dates.

Format accepted:  Each publication will accept articles in certain formats such as Word, WordPerfect, text or Adobe Acrobat.

Audience:  Demographics such as number of subscribers, gender, educational level, age and income level.
Notification:  When you will be contacted about your submission. Many publishers choose to contact only if an article is chosen for publication.
Acknowledgements:  In some cases you will be required to sign (either electronically or on paper) an acknowledgement that you have read the guidelines.

It is very important to understand and follow the editorial guidelines of your target publications in order to maximize your chances of publication.  Not all publications will include all of the above items in their editorial guidelines.  Contact the editor if any of this information is not disclosed and you need it to refine your submission.

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