Email Submission Guidelines

Authors are advised to read ALL Instructions on this page before submitting a manuscript by email.

The primary purpose of this page is to help those who wish to enter one of our contests via email prepare their files properly. Since we started accepting email submissions for our contests, we have noticed that authors use their writing programs differently and not always correctly and it creates issues on our end. Since the goal of using electronic submission is to make it easier for both the author and Main Street Rag, we have decided to create this page to save time for both us and writers.

If you do not understand these instructions or do not think you can follow them, then you are probably not a candidate for email submission and should enter the old-fashioned way: US Postal Service.

Basic Email Guidelines / Online Payment / File Preparation

Guidelines for emailing a contest submission.


All deadlines are specific to individual contests and can be found on the individual contest pages.
Email submission deadline is slightly different since you can’t stick a check in an envelope to pay. We have one deadline for payment and another for submission because permission to send the manuscript is processed manually. That means someone must be in the office to send instructions.

***IMPORTANT*** Our office hours are 8am-4pm M-F (Eastern Time). No one is working in the office over the weekend. If you make a payment when we are NOT in the office, please be patient. Notifications are the first thing we do when we come back into the office the next business day.

Reading Fee

As stated above, this must be paid through our online processor (PayPal) before an author will be given permission to send the manuscript. Payment is NOT REFUNDABLE, so please be sure you are comfortable preparing the file before making a payment. We do not penalize those who do not follow the file formatting to the letter–that’s not the purpose of this information. The purpose is to help the author create a “clean” file so that when we print it out on our end, it matches the way it appears on the author’s computer. It’s only intent is to prevent poor file preparation from hurting an author’s chance to win. We don’t give style points, but good presentation helps the reader (judge) in a way that bad presentation will not.

***VERY IMPORTANT*** MSR will return a confirmation of receipt and permission to send contest entry via email. Do NOT send a manuscript until specifically told to do so in an email. Authors sometimes confuse a payment receipt (which is sent from PayPal) with permission to send a manuscript (which will be sent from Main Street Rag).

[Why is this important? Because we will not adjust a submitted file, we simply print it out for our readers. If the author did not set it up according to the File Preparation information below, things may shift when they arrive here. We do not disqualify those who do not follow the preparation instructions. They are simply a tool we offer authors because we have seen many manuscripts that were prepared improperly: text shifts, titles ended up in the middle of pages, the overall look is not how the author intended. It would have hurt the author’s chances of winning as a result, so–in the past–we have fixed them before printing. Now that more than half of our entries arrive via email, we do not have time to fix files. We only offer the file preparation instructions for authors’ benefit.]

The cost for emailed submission is $27 for Poetry Book Award, $17 for the Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest.

Payment can be made online at the bottom of the individual contest page.
Payments are processed by PayPal. They take all major credit cards and even checks, but you will have to allow 5 business days to process checks and the checks must CLEAR by payment deadline.


Manuscript should be sent as a single PC formatted WORD, RTF (Rich Text Format), or PDF attachment. The file name should start with the author’s last name, underscore, then some form of the title of the manuscript. Example: Author_MyBookTitle
Use a common font throughout (including title), preferably Times New Roman, 12pt type, do NOT double space.

Email Subject Line:

“Submission for MSR Poetry Book Award” (or other contest).


MSR Poetry Book Award: 48-84 letter-size pages (8.5 X 11) of poetry.
Do not include the Title page, Table of Contents or any Notes, just pages
OF POETRY in your page count.

No more than 1 poem per page or more than 40 lines of poetry
per page.

(Clarification because it’s been asked: yes, you can include poems
that are longer than 40 lines; but they will fill more than one page and
must be counted on the basis of how many pages they fill.

Cover/title pages:

Top (first) page should be a title page WITH contact information.
Second page should be a title page WITHOUT contact information.

TOC/Page numbering:

A TOC (table of contents) is helpful, but not necessary, but page numbering is especially helpful when submitting by email. We have received hundreds of manuscripts at the last minute. Pagination helps us to separate where one begins and ends. If you decide to paginate, it should be done in the Footer, not on the page.

Author’s Name

SHOULD NOT APPEAR anywhere in the manuscript (aside from the top, title page).


DO NOT include them if you want to be eligible to win any MSR contest. They are not necessary for the judging process and may give away the author’s identity.


These are acceptable for clarification or translation purposes, but cannot make any reference to the author or author’s family name (members of family), the author’s work, any places of publication or contest results/placements.


As stated above, payment can be made online using PayPal (which accepts credit cards–so you don’t need to have a PayPal account to use the service).

PayPal is the most convenient way to make payments for online entry. Why? As is the case with most contests, people wait until the last minute to enter. We expect that will happen even more now that the online submission deadline has been adjusted to match the postmark deadline. PayPal processes the transactions immediately–no paperwork to be managed on this end, no extra time required by us to confirm the credit card number and create an invoice.

PayPal is safe, reliable and you DO NOT need to have a PayPal Account to use it. It is just a transaction processing center, no different than the card swiper at the check out aisle of your local grocery store. It merely processes the transaction and saves those on this end a ton of time. We appreciate your cooperation.

Please Note: Someone must be in the office to send permission to submit manuscript emails once payment has been received. Since we DO NOT work in the office on weekends, if you pay after 5pm Friday, you will probably not receive permission to send your manuscript and file preparation instructions until Monday. We appreciate you patience.

Online Payment for MSR Poetry Book Award:

Online Payment for Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest:

Manuscript File Preparation