Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quick Tips on Submitting to Literary Magazines

Literary magazines (or journals) are an interesting breed of publication, because they often (though not always) have submission periods that align with school calendars. As such, I've been busy submitting my poetry to them recently. But poets aren't the only writers making literary magazine submissions this time of year; short story and essay writers are busy too.

Of course, rule #1 is to read and follow a liteary magazine's submission guidelines, which are usually very easy to find on a literary magazine's website. Editors post these submission guidelines for writers to help make their lives easier. Please make their lives easier. Failure to do so will result in a swift rejection--often without even reviewing your submission.

To find success with literary magazines, answer these questions:
  • What? Most literary magazines accept fiction, poetry, and nonfiction essays. While each magazine has its own tastes, you need to figure out what it is you're submitting, because literary magazines expect a complete manuscript, regardless of which genre you write.
  • Where? There are like a gazillion literary magazines in the world. If you're new to submitting, you might want to try submitting close to home, because you may even run across editors at local literary events. Outside of the local approach, I advise mixing up your portfolio by submitting to literary magazines that are very selective with publications that are a little more newbie-friendly (though even newbie-friendly publications will expect your very best work too).
  • Why? Know why you're submitting to a particular literary magazine. Maybe you like work by some of the other writers. Maybe you think the design rocks. If you have a good reason, share it with the editors in your cover letter. (NOTE: "I want a publication credit" is not a good reason--at least from the editor's perspective.)
  • When? As mentioned above, many literary magazines have submission periods that align with the school calendar, because many are either student- or professor-run publications. However, some literary magazines actually have submission periods that run counter-intuitive to the school calendar or run on some other completely different schedule. Always double-check submission periods for literary magazines and submit during the correct time.
  • Who? While knowing the editor's name is not going to guarantee publication, addressing your submission to the appropriate editor may help you get read by that editor. In fact, I've had more personalized rejections from editors when I include a name than when I do not. On most literary magazine websites, this information is very easy to find by clicking on an About Us or Masthead link.
  • How? With literary magazines, there are still editorial teams that prefer postal submissions. There are also magazines that prefer e-mail. Plus, I submit a fair share of my poems via submission systems, such as Submishmash. Make sure you know how the editors prefer to receive their submissions before sending your work their way.

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Here's some more Not Bob advice for writers:


Anonymous said...

This is a great how-to breakdown, Robert. Will definitely be tweeting it as a must-read resource for writers wanting to break in. Thanks!

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks, Jessica! It's been on my mind recently since I've been in the thick of submitting.

The Review Review said...

You might also like The Review Review, a website that reviews lit mags and interviews journal editors! :)

Good luck,

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Becky!

Dijeratic said...

Should also point out that it is incredibly helpful if you are familiar with a particular lit magazine's style and preferences - get yourself a copy first and pay attention to what is on offer.

Literary magazines also have a incredibly high rejection rate simply because there is limited space and it is not surprising that, unless the editor(s) has heard of you, it won't matter how good your piece is, you're just going to land in the rejection pile.

This should not dissuade anyone, but all the more reason to keep submitting so you do become a familiar name (this can backfire of course, so proceed with caution).

Might try university magazines as well - they are often quite newbie friendly and some have excellent followings.

Donna Thompson said...

Hi Not Bob

Thank you for the great tips on submitting to literary magazines. I'm trying to establish a direction to follow in my writing career as an influential writer. Your information is valuable and beneficial to me--Thank you again.

I think it would show lacking if an editor would reject a good piece of work because they haven't heard of the writer before hand. The writing might be a masterpiece to benefit readers world-wide. I will not allow myself to believe an excellent editor would do this. An excellent editor would rely on his own expertise and let the good piece of work go through instead of following the natural flow of things. There is an exception to every rule!

I believe the reasons for rejections coming from literary magazines would be for not providing good clear beneficial messages to the readers, and considering education is the prime example of literary content, rejections would come from inferior content not relevant to benefitting the reader.

I shall be following your work, along with following Writer's Digest as great contributing editors.

Donna Thompson the original!

Chef E said...

Great piece. I am going to feature you on my site this next month. New writers need to see this stuff. Many established writers also need to revisit it.

E Stelling
Creative TMI