March 2011

Volume 26 Number 03

Editor’s Note - How to Get Rejected

By Keith Ward | March 2011

image: Keith WardLast month, I talked about some of the best ways to get published in MSDN Magazine. That naturally led me to think of some equally good ways to not get published in the magazine. If February was the list of dos, this is the list of don’ts. Follow these rules (or is that “don’t follow these rules”—I get confused with negatives) to give your query the best shot at not getting a positive response from me and the team.

The best way to ensure your query doesn’t get accepted, or even considered, is to put it in the wrong format. We’ve written a guide to the proper formatting of queries, which you can find at bit.ly/eZcovQ. One of the critical pieces of information in the document is the title of your query. It should state “MSDN Article Query” in the subject line—and nothing else. Please don’t get cute with the title; clever subject lines don’t thrill me. Like you, I get tons of e-mail each day, and I need to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’ve got the right title, I’ll look over the query; if not, it’s ye olde Delete key for your e-mail.

Another way to hurt your chances: Make your query novella length. My eyes glaze over when I open an article query and notice that it will take quite a lot of scrolling to get through it all. Brevity is key here—short, sweet and clear. If you can’t do this in your query, I’ll have serious doubts about whether you can do it in an article.

That brings up another crucial point: Your query, if I haven’t worked with you before, is your initial writing audition. Writing for MSDN Magazine isn’t like writing a blog entry—you don’t need to have been previously published, but you do need to demonstrate at least basic writing chops. If your query is full of misspellings, sloppy grammar and missing information, you’ll get turned down, guaranteed. After all, if I can’t trust you to write a proper query, I’m surely not going to trust you to write an entire article.

One last item about queries: Please don’t make your pitch in an attached Word document. I’m not keen on downloading and opening attachments just to read a query. Include the query in the body of the e-mail—please!

Now, a few words about how to get your article rejected after it’s been accepted for publication. The first, best (worst?) thing you can do is not communicate with the staff, beginning with me. It’s happened numerous times that an author is late with an article. Hey, stuff happens, and delays can be caused by any number of circumstances. What drives me to distraction is when an author doesn’t inform me that an article or requested bit of information will be late. I can almost always work around delays; to do that, however, I need to hear from you. Even if you come to the conclusion that you won’t be able to turn in an article at all (it happens sometimes), let me know so I can make alternative arrangements. If I don’t know, however, it throws a shiny steel monkey wrench right into the middle of our processes, and makes me (and my staff) miserable. Please don’t make us miserable.

Other reasons your submitted article can be rejected:

  • Plagiarism. You can’t copy and paste from published documents. At all. Not nowhere, not nohow. “That’s obvious!” you say. You’d be surprised at how un-obvious it is to some writers.
  • Sloppy writing. See my section about the query. You may not be the Shakespeare of dev authors, but strive to turn in your best work. That means after you write the article, get away from it for a day and go back and edit it. Then do it again. If information is unclear or incomplete, fix it. Don’t expect us to do it all for you. If we do that, and still publish your article anyway because we love the topic, be assured you won’t get assigned a second article.
  • Failure to follow writer’s guidelines. All authors get a copy of our writing guidelines. I suspect some of them barely glance at the document. Don’t let this be you. There are specific rules that need to be followed. Learn them. Love them.

One of the best parts of my job is working with authors. I try to make it a relaxed, enjoyable process. You can do your part to help me by avoiding these don’ts. Send your (properly formatted!) article ideas to me at mmeditor@microsoft.com.