1)Reading The Guidelines.
Nothing makes you stand out quite as much as when you fail to read the guidelines. Especially something as straight-forward a comment as "The reading period begins on Day X and ends on Day Y. Anything arriving outside of this period will not be read, unless arrangements have been made otherwise."
If I've asked you for a story specifically, and you want to send it in early, that's cool. And I know everyone I've asked personally, so don't pretend I asked and then forgot. It's not happening. Just thought I should head that off at the pass. Just in case. People are clever. Too clever.
If you drop me a note and ask if you can send something in early, and the reasoning behind the request is solid, that's cool. I'm flexible. But I'll be honest: I'm far more likely to extend this courtesy to someone I know, either personally or by reputation. I'm only one man, with so much time and energy to go around, and the reading period exists for a reason. If Neil Gaiman were to come to me and say, "I've got this story, and I'm going to be terribly busy for the next year acting as creative consultant for the Sandman movie, how about I send it now?" of course I'll say yes. Who wouldn't? This is very much a case by case basis, and not something I seriously see happening more than a handful of times.
If, on the other hand, you send me a story two months early, out of the blue, I'm going to remember you as the author who missed one of the few hard and fast rules set forth in the guidelines. You will then have to work ten times as hard as before to impress me. It's that simple. Reading periods exist for a reason. Don't be That Guy.
I'm looking forward to reading for Scheherazade's Facade. I'm excited to see what people send. I can't wait to see what the theme inspires in writers. I can't believe I'm getting psyched up for the slush. I'm sure by the end I'll be a wreck, but right now, it's still a happy warm glow of anticipation and infinite possibilities.
But the reading period starts in November. And I have all sorts of my own stuff to do in the meantime.
(Yes, someone jumped the gun. Go figure.)
(P.S. Neil, call me. Let's make this work.)
(P.P.S. I'd also make an exception for Ursula K. Le Guin.)
(P.P.P.S. There are a few others I'd make exceptions for. I won't name them here. They know who they are. Yes, it's who you're thinking of. Yes, him. No, not that him. The other one. And her. And her too. Oh, let's not play favorites. Stop pouting. You can be on the list next year.)
(Signing off before I get any loopier.)