The Title Should Use Title Case and Be Centered
Your byline should also be centered below the title
If you aren’t sure about title case, check out this link: https://capitalizemytitle.com/#. Next, go to your indent options and choose ‘special indent’, then ‘first line’, and make sure it’s set to 0.5 inches. The first line of every paragraph should be automatically indented. Do not hit the spacebar five times. Do not hit the tab key.
Your text should be in Times New Roman 12pt font. Do not use underlining in your text for any reason. Use italics sparingly.
We only accept .doc or .docx files, so if you’re emailing us a PDF or RTF, we won’t even read it. If you submit with the wrong file types repeatedly, we’ll consider your subs spam.
Section breaks should be indicated with three *** symbols centered on a line between the sections. Put a blank line above and below the symbols.
The correct way to indent paragraphs involves going to your menu, selecting FORMAT, then selecting ALIGN & INDENT. Scroll down to INDENTATION OPTIONS. Once you select that, you can go to SPECIAL INDENT. Select FIRST LINE and make sure the box beside FIRST LINE says 0.5. Press APPLY. This should apply to your entire document, except for the centered lines. If you don’t know how to remove the indent on centered lines, then leave it. That’s the easiest formatting mistake to fix.
Ideally, when you’re entering centered text, your ruler will look like this:
When you’re typing paragraphs, your ruler should look like this:
That first blue box above the 0.5” mark is the only formatting mark that should appear. Rulers should not have multiple blue marks indicating multiple formatting settings, such as the example below.
Never use the space bar to indent 0.5” manually. Do not use multiple taps to approximate centered text. Do not use a tab and then a space to manually indent paragraphs.
Wonky formatting can take several hours to address. If it comes down to a decision between two stories and one has wonky formatting and the other’s clean, editors will select the story with clean formatting. There are two reasons for this. One is the time involved in correcting a file, and there have been instances when using the file introduced multiple formatting errors that took several hours to correct. While this is more of an issue with print publications, it can also make it difficult finalizing online and ebook presentations.
The second reason using wonky formatting increases the chances of rejection is because, in our experience, when people don’t follow clear submission guidelines, they often won’t make requested technical corrections if they’re offered acceptance.
Make sure your document’s double spaced.
If you want to include page numbers or other information in your headers, that’s your choice, but do not manually add page numbers to the body of the page or add any other text on each page. Make sure you add space between your header and the body of the document so the text doesn’t run together.
Don’t use all caps unless you’re typing an acronym.
Your text should be in black ink without highlighting of any kind.
Your text should be left aligned. Do not justify your text.
Absolutely no track changes, comments, or other text should be visible on the page. Do not send files with your editing notes in them. We won’t read them.
At the submission stage, we don’t care about pseudonyms. We don’t need to know where you live. We don’t need your phone number. We don’t need your real name. This information must be supplied if we make an offer of publication, but it can wait until that point.
We do ask people to include a bio written in third person in the body of their submission email. It should be no more than 80 words in length.
We also ask for a valid paypal email address for an account registered in your legal name. Now, you may feel we don’t need this information when you’re submitting. The reason we ask for it is to confirm you understand we pay by paypal and that we will not cut you a check or set up a venmo account for you. Will we disqualify your submission if you omit the paypal address? No. However, if we’re narrowing our choices and it comes down to a submission with all the requested information and a submission that’s missing the paypal email, we’re going to go with the submission that included all the information. Why? Because we know we won’t have payment issues with that person. And every issue is time and money. While it’s clearly stated on our site that we only pay via paypal, we continue to receive submissions without paypal addresses. A writer recently submitted and stated in their email that they did not have a paypal address, but they supplied their venmo address.
We are not changing our payment policies for any writer. Let’s not be ridiculous and mention Stephen King or Ian Rankin here. We aren’t publishing them.
Please note that paypal does maintain records for tax purposes, and venmo does not. That is just one of the reasons why we use paypal. You know, because this is a business for us, as it should be for you.
We have some clear guidelines about subject lines and about sending a single submission per email. Let’s explore those. Every submission is documented on Trello. This means copying and pasting the subject line. If you haven’t bothered to supply the information requested in the subject line, it may be hard to track down the notes for your story or its status. However, you’re choosing to ignore the guidelines, and if that means your submission is overlooked or miscategorized, that’s not our fault. Stories that are miscategorized may not be reviewed. Again, that’s not our fault.
The email’s subject line should have the type of content followed by the submission title, author’s name, word count, and submission date. Each section should be separated by a dash. For example, if Windbags McBlowhard is submitting a 2,200-word story called Foul Wind on May 16, their subject line would be Short Story – Foul Wind – Windbags McBlowhard – 2,200 words – May 16.
Every bit of that information can help us track a misplaced submission. If one of our editors goes to Trello and a card for review simply says Story Submission, yes, they can search those words in our email account, but how many submissions do you think will pop up?
There’s been a high correlation between subs missing this information and problematic subs missing other critical information or breaking our submission guidelines. In the past, we’ve attempted to process subs without the correct subject line information. Going forward, we may not process these submissions.
We won’t review submissions containing more than one story/poem/article per email or document. A few people have snuck through the cracks, but this will not continue.
Well, for one, we may need to distribute the submissions to different editors or first-round readers. For two, each submission is reviewed separately. For three, these emails make it impossible to deal with correspondence because we can’t address one thing; we have to address two or more, and we may not have all the information for each submission available. Guess what that means? You’re kept waiting. And then you’re emailing wanting a status update.
We have a straightforward submission process. It isn’t that different from what other publishers use. And if it doesn’t work for you, then cool. Submit somewhere else.
Perhaps you’re wondering what to expect from the submission process. Submissions that look like they fit the guidelines will receive an acknowledgement email, typically within seven days. If you haven’t received an acknowledgement email within 14 days, check your spam folder. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, check your submission. If it did not follow the guidelines, you may want to withdraw your original submission and resubmit your work.
To withdraw a submission, reply to the original email and add a note in the email stating you’re withdrawing the submission because you made a mistake and will resubmit the material.
If you send a separate email withdrawing your submission it won’t be withdrawn. If you can’t find it, why should we? And if you resubmit, there’s a chance it will appear you’ve exceeded the multiple submission guidelines and disqualify both subs. For the love of all that’s unholy, all correspondence about a submission should be sent as a reply about that submission, especially if you feel the need to ask for a status update.
Do not send a new email with a different subject line. This makes it extremely difficult to locate withdrawn subs and ensure they’re removed from the system. And if you sub the same material and we’re dealing with separate emails, someone might mistakenly think your new sub was withdrawn and remove it from consideration. When editors are dealing with hundreds of submissions, mistakes happen. Guidelines are in place to prevent those mistakes.
Every valid sub will receive a response after submissions are reviewed. No decisions will be finalized until after the submission deadline. This means we aren’t going to respond to emails asking for a status update prior to the submission deadline. We’d also strongly suggest you not ask for a status update until at least 30 days after the submission deadline.
We cannot provide reasons for rejections. We will not engage in debates about our decisions.
Our editorial process is a collaborative process. The contract allows for the publisher, editor, or writer to cancel the agreement if they’re unhappy with the revisions. Our editors aren’t dictators; however, there are some things that are non-negotiable. It’s fair to say that 99 percent of the time, there’s no reason to use outdated and offensive terms like “Indian” to refer to Indigenous persons. Unless you’re Indigenous, there’s almost never going to be a valid reason for you to use that term in that context. Same with the N word. We aren’t playing with this issue. There’s a good chance racially offensive terms will keep your work from serious consideration, and if you want to submit to us, do yourself a favor and remove them before you send your material. Skilled writers can portray racist characters when relevant to the story without peppering the text with slurs.
You can almost guarantee we aren’t going to publish the R or M words, either.
For punctuation, we want dialogue in curly quotes that look like “this” not ”this”.
Additional formatting requirements may be added. However, as of February 9, 2022, these are the Dark Dispatch formatting guidelines for submissions.