1. Is this appropriate for our audience?
I always read the publisher’s submission guidelines before I submit work. If I’ve submitted manuscripts to them before I make sure to read them again — guidelines can change. At the magazine I lost count of the number of submissions I received that were for younger (or older) readers than the guidelines stated. Other manuscripts were 200 words (or 2000 words) longer than the word limit.
There’s often a long wait between submitting and getting an answer (did I mention that editors are ridiculously busy?) so I don’t waste my time (or the editor’s) by sending work that doesn’t meet guidelines.
Editors are always looking for a good story and today’s readers are not after stories with a moral. Children are smart. If there is a natural lesson in the outcome, they will get that. There is no need to hammer home a message. (If a publisher is specifically looking for stories with a moral they will state this in their guidelines.)
A manuscript is not ready to submit if it is riddled with spelling mistakes and sections that don’t make sense. Even if the plot is brilliant it’s likely that the editor will choose another manuscript that is equally as entertaining but doesn’t require a lot of work before it’s ready for publication.
Editors are looking for fresh material and a good story.
A few years ago Alphabet soup magazine published a well-known fairytale in verse and a few months after that another author submitted their own version of the same fairytale and even though it was beautifully written, we weren’t able to accept it. (Sometimes this is just plain bad luck and out of a writer’s control but it can help to be familiar with the publisher/publication before submitting.)
Some magazines will accept material that has been published before, others won’t. I always check the guidelines before submitting.
It’s important to remember that even if you have followed the submission guidelines to the letter, your manuscript may still be rejected. It could have the perfect home elsewhere — check the next set of submission guidelines and send it on. Persistence is vital in the journey to publication!
Rebecca Newman is the editor of Alphabet Soup's Blog (http://soupblog.wordpress.com), and former editor of Alphabet Soup's print magazine. Two of her poems have been accepted by The School Magazine for publication in 2013/2014 and she is currently working on several picture book manuscripts, a collection of poems for children, and a middle grade novel. Rebecca lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her husband and three children. When she is not busy writing she can be found on twitter (@_boobook) or tending to a tiny kitchen garden.