Need feedback on the submissions process

Hi everyone,

I'm in the process of redesigning the submissions process. I'm going to be moving to a question/answer format that I hope will improve the quality of input. However, I have a concern.

I just rejected 4 submissions of the 6 I looked at for not having the pages of the story linked together. And, generally speaking, people aren't submitting the first page of the story. This is despite what I think are pretty clear instructions about this on the submissions page (

So, here's my question. Where's the disconnect? Are people just not reading the guidelines? Do people not like the guidelines and so ignore them? Or are they not worded clearly? Many of you have submitted stories in the not-too-distant past. What was your experience?



People aren't reading the guidelines.

Why? I don't know. Maybe they're too excited to be bothered. Maybe they think they're the special cases. Maybe Wattpad and Fictionpress and Jukepop has their confidence at a point where they know exactly what works for their serial and they don't want to change things by doing what WFG asks for. Hell, I know I waffled on submitting my first page because I super duper wanted to use my landing page.

The guidelines are fine. But if there's a clear part people are missing (like submitting the first page), have that as the top bullet to make your life easier, Chris.

Publishing platform could play into it as well. I use Blogger and it explicitly runs posts in inverse chronological order. Took me a while to get how 'pages' worked -- with a new set of associated tradeoffs.

I also think (most) people find it easier to use existing publishing plattforms like those Tarta mentioned above, but those are kind of blacklisted here. The advantage with those platforms is that you can link to the story, and after that the beginning/table-of-content etc is automagically sorted out. Also tend to come with a nifty app for phones.

As for your original question. Of course people don't read manuals/guidelines etc. Trust me -- I built a first line support organisation for Internet services back in the day. 50% of all incoming calls resulted in the problem going away after we quoted from the one-page written manual we sent to all customers...

I doubt this was the case for most people, but I know that in my case, the banner that I put on Godpunk's homepage didn't show up for individual posts. So I thought I could get around the rules by sticky-ing the first post to my front page, and then using that link for the landing page. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but it really wasn't. I'm glad you went and changed it so that the link went to the first page, for all sorts of reasons.

The lack of links between posts is likely a combo of laziness/ignorance. Actually it seems like a good way to separate people who are semi-serious about writing web serials from those who aren't. Yes, linking to every post is annoying. And yes, the pingbacks will drive you mad. But that's just how it goes.

People aren't reading it. Force them. Put the instructions inline. Where it says address, put, ADDRESS OF FIRST PAGE OF SERIAL. have the linking guidlines RIGHT THERE after they put the link, so that they read through it to get to the next part of the form. Say at the end of the guideline, "Failure to do this will result in your serial being rejected." Do that spread throughout with the rest of the guidelines and form fields.

Having recently submitted two stories, I had no problems with the submission guidelines. I think people are just not reading them.

A lot of people won't read guidelines. What you have there is clear and sufficient, but that doesn't mean that people will read them. There are also cases where a writer reads the guidelines, figures out some stuff they need to do, and go away and do that. Then they come back and fill out the form without re-reading the guidelines, and so miss stuff.

My suggestion would be to build the guidelines into the submission form more. Crafting the fields more explicitly will help catch these instances where someone skips the guidelines and just fills out the form. Similar to what Alex suggested above, though I'm not sure that I'd bulk out the form with the guidelines themselves. I'd lean towards more explicit naming of the fields, and then add in-place help if really necessary. Keeping the form as 'clean' as possible is generally a good thing.

For example, for the link to the story, it currently has 'Address'. Instead, I'd suggest, 'Link to first post/entry/chapter or table of contents', and maybe add a 'Link to story's home/landing page' as well. You could even list 3 different links: first post, ToC, home/landing page. Then you can control how mandatory these fields are, depending on what's important for WFG.

If you're having trouble with specific criteria that are not being followed, maybe explicitly include them in the form as well. For example, you could add a checklist for important items, like 'I have links between posts' and 'I have a table of contents'. It could act as a double-check for writers to ensure they've covered everything off. (It might also be annoying; ymmv. :) )

A lot of things in life started making sense to me once I realized that some people don't read automatically. By this, I mean that if you left a cereal box in front of me, I'd read everything on it while eating my cereal. I naturally look at signs and read instructions and whatever else. Most writers are bound to be pretty similar.

Reality is, a great many people dwell somewhere on the other side of the spectrum. They won't read something unless it directly impacts them. Even the internet savvy are generally used to things being made as intuitive as possible; many members of our generation are used to things just being made to ~work~.

Rather than have the list of instructions in the sidebar, something could be made more intuitive/provide more immediate, effective feedback -


[ ] - selecting this box makes a line of instructions pop up below or to the side:

'Be sure to avoid using all caps or improper casings'


[ ] - selecting this box makes a line pop up below or to the side:

'Link to the first page of your story.'

Etc. Toward the end, leave a few checkboxes:

[ ] - The serial has at least 4000 words or three chapters.

[ ] - Each page has a clear and distinct 'last chapter' and 'next chapter' link, or something approximate.

[ ] - I understand that listings are manually updated and the submission may not be looked at for as much as three weeks. Not following the instructions might mean having to resubmit and wait that duration a second time around. (May not be necessary with new system, but would stop the inevitable questions from popping up)

My experience matches up with Wildbow's as far as people not reading. And it's not just Billy 'Bow Thornton and I saying it; that's why software will sometimes pre-check a box saying you would like to download some toolbar during the installation. Businesses know people won't read, so they leave that feature in there for people to cluelessly agree to by not unchecking it.

The checkboxes Wildbow came up with don't seem like a bad idea. They can still get around them, but even a little bit of extra effort is going siphon off some of the rejections.

I didn't have an issue with the submission process myself, aside from impatience.

To be fair, sometimes it's reading but not understanding (or at least not understanding the significance). When I saw this post, I had to do a double take, because I hadn't remembered the request for the "first page of the story" -- namely because "table of contents" was also there, and that's my natural go-to for serials. So I used it. It didn't occur that first page was more common. There's also the request for RSS feed, and I had no idea until the remarks in that other thread that it was of any use in the code behind the scenes. Hence why I didn't have it. (Thanks to Chris and Kess for educating me. Also thanks for listing me despite my cluelessness!)

I think, as was mentioned, putting some of the criteria right into the needed field can help. I'm not one of those people who reads a cereal box, I'm the sort who stares off into space visualizing unicorns or wondering if the "Lucky Charms" mascot is gay, because rainbows. It didn't occur to me that "auto-reading" would even be a "writer" thing.

And that first message was also me trying to turn what wanted to be a sarcastic rant into something useful. :)

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!