Monthly Archives: September 2015

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pagesWhen writers look for places to submit their work, they often choose markets that require a query letter first. Submitting a query letter definitely has its benefits. It saves time and the effort of writing a piece, which is especially helpful if you don’t get positive feedback from the editor. If you do get a green light, you might also get a better idea of how to hone your story idea. Plus, most writing markets prefer a query letter, so it’s a practice that comes with lots of sales potential.

The problem is, not everyone likes drafting those query letters, including me. In fact, I actually prefer markets that accept unsolicited manuscripts. It may sound counterproductive, but submitting a completed story to an editor who didn't ask for it does have its perks—and, at times, can be the most practical way to submit.

The Pros of Submitting an Unsolicited Manuscript

Here's why I like to submit an unsolicited manuscript rather than a query:

  1. The piece is done. When you submit a completed manuscript, you have a polished piece that’s ready for sale. Even if the market you submit to rejects your work, you still have a finished product to send elsewhere—right away.
  2. You can save time. With the query method, you save time writing a piece that an editor doesn’t want. But writing a good query letter often requires as much effort as writing a good story. With a completed manuscript, you skip the query step entirely, thus saving precious writing time that you can devote to crafting a high-quality piece.
  3. Rejection odds don’t change. Whether you’re submitting an unsolicited manuscript or a query letter—assuming you follow editorial guidelines—your chance of getting rejected remains the same.
  4. You get to write your way. Submitting a completed manuscript is the best way to show an editor who you are as a writer—your style, tone, personality, ideas, and writing ability. Sometimes, a great idea needs the full story to impress an editor; submitting a completed manuscript can do just that.

Tips for Submitting an Unsolicited Manuscript

Of course, submitting an unsolicited manuscript is one thing; doing it right requires a few tips and tricks:

  1. Edit well.  An error-free manuscript has a much better chance of grabbing an editor’s attention and keeping her fixated on your piece than one full of typos and grammatical problems. Make sure you edit well and send in the best, most polished work product you can. It’ll make all the difference between moving past the first reader and landing permanently in the slush pile.
  2. Follow guidelines to a T. If your word count is too high or low or you’re writing about a topic that doesn’t fit a publication’s theme or style, you’ll be out of luck before your story even gets read. Adhere to editorial guidelines to a T, and you’ll have a much better chance of finding a home for your story.
  3. Don’t forget a cover letter. A cover letter is different than a query letter—lots less work but still important. Read up on writing a quality, brief cover letter, and be sure to include biographical and contact information.
  4. Find several markets. If you’re going to take the time to write a full story, also take the time to research and find several markets for it. Don’t bank on just one publication for a home because you may end up with a huge letdown—and a story that sits on your desktop for good.

Five Markets That Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts

So where do you find markets that accept unsolicited manuscripts? Writer’s Market is a good place to start, but freelance writing sites and newsletters can supply you with all kinds of submission requests, many of which accept unsolicited manuscripts. Here are some markets to consider:


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Prepositions are about as ordinary as words get. We use them all the time, in practically every sentence. They’re short words, averaging two to four letters long, that don’t draw much attention to themselves. In fact, they’re often barely noticed by readers. But to writers, prepositions matter. They link sentence parts together and help show the relationship between the parts. They give readers a better sense of time, place, and movement. And they add flow and readability to our work.

At the same time, though, prepositions can make us writers stumble, second guess ourselves, and scratch our heads over what to do with them. As small as they are, prepositions can raise big questions—questions that are far more common than you’d think:

Is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition?

There seems to be an unwritten rule that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. It isn’t true. You can—and sometimes should—end a sentence with a preposition. The proper question is when is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition?

Grammarians and style guides will give you all kinds of advice. Some say only in informal writing; others believe you can do it in any writing. Still others say end a sentence with a preposition if there’s no other way around it. So who’s right? They all are. Basically, it boils down to you, the writer. If your sentence reads well, makes sense, and delivers the meaning you intended with a preposition at the end, leave well enough alone. Sometimes, rearranging a sentence to get the preposition off the end makes the sentence too awkward—and that can weaken the writing.

Of course, when you’re writing for a reader or audience that holds to strict grammar rules and you don’t want to stir up controversy, stick to the old-fashioned rule.

Should I capitalize prepositions in a title?

Now this question seems like it would have a straightforward yes or no answer—and if I had to give you one, I’d answer with a “yes.” But then I’d waver a bit, add “usually” and then “but not always.” Basically, the answer lies in the style guide you happen to be following. For me, it’s Chicago, and Chicago says to lowercase all prepositions . . . in most cases. The exception? When a preposition is part of an adjective or adverb phrase, like “Off Road” or “Back Up,” or a Latin expression, like “In Vitro.”

Not everyone follows Chicago, though. Some writers, for example, are directed to capitalize prepositions that have five or more letters in a title. Sometimes, it depends on the type of title—whether it be a book title, a journal title, or a subtitle—or the case (sentence or title case). Bottom line? When it comes to capitalizing titles with prepositions, follow guidelines not your gut.

Am I using the right preposition?

Which preposition to use can be particularly troublesome because people often interchange prepositions when they speak. Is it “steps for eating healthier” or “steps to eating healthier”? I’ve heard and seen both. How about “concerned with her manner” and “concerned by her manner”? Same thing. So how do you decide?

Figuring out which preposition to use might take some analyzing—and a peek inside your dictionary. Prepositions have general meanings that can help you determine if they’re fitting for a particular phrase. For example, “by” more commonly shows cause, while “with” shows the object of a feeling. “Concerned with her manner” makes better sense, then, than “concerned by her manner.”

Logic plays a part when choosing the proper preposition, too. Ask yourself, what makes the most sense? Which preposition conveys the meaning best? What would a reader understand? If you still can’t decide, take the easy road out and rewrite the phrase. “Steps for eating healthier,” for example, can be changed to “ways to eat healthy.”

Is this preposition necessary?

Clutter in writing is a common problem, and prepositions are a common culprit. Often, a preposition doesn’t need to be there. “Where did you find this at?” is one instance. Remove the “at,” and the sentence makes just as much sense, with one less word. Likewise, “she was honored by the dean of the school” could be written “She was honored by the school’s dean” or, better yet, “The school’s dean honored her.”

I’m not saying you should try to eliminate every preposition you can. Prepositions have a place and purpose in writing. But they are so familiar and simple to use that writers often overdo them. If you can remove a preposition or prepositional phrase without doing any damage to context and readability, then do. Your writing will be cleaner, clearer, and more concise.

Prepositions are tricky words for sure. But with a few questions answered, you can use them exactly how they were meant to be used—to help make sentences the best they can be.

Looking for more help with style and grammar issues? Download my e-book No Average Writer: How to Stand Out in the Writing Crowd and Write Your Best.