Your Submission Experience Might Suck—Here’s Why


Frivolous questions. Complicated forms. Poor communication.

We’re not talking about the DMV. We’re talking about your submission process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The first step in addressing a problem is acknowledging it exists.

Let’s consider the hard truths behind what’s making your submission experience suck and why submitters are royally pissed off less than happy with how you’ve structured the process.

The good news? With the right submission tools and a streamlined approach, you can improve the submission experience for your team and your submitters. User-friendly forms, easy-to-navigate pages, and consistent communication are right around the corner.

Now, let’s talk about how to get there.

The Hallmarks of a Crappy Submission Process

Do you really want to make your submitters grumpy?

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

You’ve got them navigating an opaque third-party platform. They’re scouring through pages of arcane formatting guidelines. The rubric you’re using to categorize their work isn’t applicable. And the uploading process leaves them wondering when they’ll be able to include other important assets.

While every submission experience is unique, you can make it easier for your submitters across the board by avoiding typical pitfalls in the process.

Failing to respond

The Hallmarks of a Crappy Submission Process

The first commandment of being a good publisher: Thou shalt not ghost.

Failing to respond to submitters after their hard work is a big professional no-no. Not only might you miss out on excellent work, but you could also be building a bad reputation as a publisher.

One short-story writer recently reported sending 141 submissions to 107 different publications in which nearly a quarter of publishers (23%) gave no response whatsoever.

That’s just bad for business, on both sides of the submission portal.

Keeping submitters waiting, a lot.

Reviewing submissions (and responding to them) is a core part of the publisher’s role.

Of course, reviewing works for publication will take some time. Publishers must take that time to ensure quality. But for your sake, the submitter’s sake, and the health of the publishing profession, make timeliness a key goal.

If you’ve got a streamlined process in place (and the right submission software), there’s no need for inexplicably long review periods. Set up procedures for moving the work along in a fluid fashion so that submitters and reviewers know where they are in the process at all times.

Step up your review game.

Frustrating and overwhelming revision requests

If you’re putting submitters through the wringer when it comes to revisions, you could be doing more harm than good.

The internet is full of horror stories from authors navigating Kafka-esque revisions cycles with editors, sub-editors, interns, and various other players in the publishing process.

Some submitters have reported revision cycles spanning multiple years for one book project (which is actually fairly normal). If it takes your team that long to get shorter work publication-ready, you might need to rethink your approach.

Centralize and synthesize your revision requests. Avoid making submitters deal with conflicting feedback from multiple sources. Set clear timelines for revisions using a submission tool that keeps the process moving at a healthy pace.

Unclear processes

There is a lot of great mystery writing out there—don’t make your submission process part of that genre.

What happens post-submission shouldn’t be a black box.

Many authors report feeling powerless and even confused by publishers’ processes. Give your submitters a realistic, step-by-step breakdown of how the process will unfold. Send out regular notifications to keep them informed. Use a platform that’s easy to navigate and filled with useful information for submitters so you are not buried in emails.

Your submission process speaks volumes about your organization. Harness it.

How To Provide a Superior Submission Experience

How To Provide a Superior Submission Experience

As such a critical part of publishing, the submission experience should be painless. Getting it right is the trick.

Here are some tactics you can use to enhance the submitter experience:

  • Update your website: Make sure it’s easy to navigate and contains the most current information.
  • Refine those guidelines: Simplify your submission and formatting guidelines by only requiring a minimal number of questions for submission
  • Use modern submission management software: Keep your submitters in the loop with automated notifications and reviewers on track with clear review processes
  • Deliver valuable feedback: Avoid lengthy review cycles and set timelines for reviewers to deliver quality feedback to submitters
  • De-emphasize format in the first round: By making your first round format-agnostic, you can speed up your entire review process this way

The ideal submission process requires the best possible tools. Both your reviewers and submitters will benefit from submission software that streamlines the process and enhances their experience along the way. Submittable helps by creating a standardized and smart submission process.

By revamping how you handle submissions, you will level up your publishing efforts. Submitters and reviewers rejoice!

Paul Perry
Paul Perry

Paul Perry is a writer and former educator with significant experience in nonprofit management. He has a soft spot for grant-seekers striving to make the world a better, more just place.