How to submit to literary magazines, part 2: Submissions logistics
In part 1 of this series on submitting your writing to literary magazines, we provided some resources for finding literary markets and translated some common directives from editors about how to get your work in front of them. Now it’s time to get down to the practical logistics: which magazines do you want to send to, what finished pieces of writing will you submit, and how do you craft the actual submission email or letter?
We’ve got you covered:
Which markets are right for me, and how do I find them?
If you like to read (and I hope you do, writer), this is the fun part! Poets & Writers Magazine lists 1,270 literary magazines and counting. Duotrope lists 7,025 “active fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and visual art publishers and agents” (though you have to register for a free trial and later, subscribe). Newpages.com lists “more than 1,400 print, online, and digital literary magazines that publish poetry, long and flash fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, reviews, interviews, artwork, and photography.”
Browse, click, and read. Subscribe to a few you like best, and read more. Are there magazines where you think your writing might be a good fit? Write down their names, editors’ names, and a piece or two from a recent issue that you like. Read their submissions guidelines.
Now look at your own writing, the most finished, polished pieces in your files. Do any of them match a particular magazine’s call for writing of a certain theme, style, or genre? Look at length and word count requirements as well; do you need to trim again? Does anything you’ve written remind you a bit of something you read in a recent issue–not so much that your work would be redundant to what’s already been published (i.e., you loved a poem from the latest Mid-American Review about making paper airplanes with a child so you want to submit YOUR poem about making paper airplanes with a child), but enough that you can confidently guess this editor would be receptive to your writing voice or style (i.e., DIAGRAM publishes experimental and hybrid writing and your writing is experimental and hybrid)?
Make your selections according to your chosen mag’s guidelines and ready your submission.
How do I write a cover letter and bio?
Bios: If you don’t have any publications, it’s fine to simply say “I’m a writer living in [city, state], and I’m finally ready to begin submitting my writing.” If you have a bunch of publications, it’s not fine to list every single one. Rather, say, “My poems have recently appeared in … ” and then list four or five publications in the last year or so, or the ones of which you’re most proud. A good editor will not base a yes or no decision on whether you have any stories published in major versus smaller or lesser known journals , or any work published at all. A good editor just wants to know a little about the person whose writing they are about to read, or whose writing they just read and liked. In addition to, or even in lieu of, a list of previous publications, feel free to share your education, participation in any writing workshops or retreats, attendance at any writing conferences, or even the best book you’ve read lately—anything that shows you are becoming involved in a literary community. Editors want to publish quality writing by writers who will help publicize themselves and the journal or magazine, so showing you’re part of, or interested in becoming part of, a community is a plus.
Cover letters: My formula is greeting, titles, SS yes or no, thanks, bio. You can’t go wrong with this. Your greeting can be a simple “Dear editors, I like your journal,” or it can be more specific, like “I love so-and-so’s story about zombies from your most recent issue, so I think my own scary story might be a good fit for your journal” (Actually, yes, do that. Editors love to hear compliments + evidence that you’ve read their journal). Then you list the titles of the poems you’re submitting, address whether or not any of them have been or will be submitted to other journals, thank them for their time, and paste your bio below your signature. Double-check editor names and spellings, too!
How do I keep track of my submissions?
It’s important to keep track of your submissions for a number of reasons. First, you want to be able to accurately tell an editor whether or not a piece has been simultaneously submitted. Second, you want to know when you submitted, so you can query if you don’t get a response in a timely fashion. Third, you don’t want to send the same batch of poems a second time to a journal whose editor rejected them six months ago, or have the same story accepted and published by two different journals (eek!). Fourth, you want evidence of your hard work sending out your writing!
Stay on top of your submissions game with an Excel spreadsheet listing title of work, date submitted, where you sent it, date you receive a response, what the response is, and any notes (i.e., the editor declined this batch but invited you to send another submission—yay!). Color-code, if you like, to show rejections, acceptances, and “out” submissions. If you subscribe to Duotrope, they have a built-in submissions tracker. Or just write it down in a notebook: “Sent [title of essay] to Creative Nonfiction 7/6/18.”
Was this post helpful in terms of readying your first (or first-in-a-while) batch of polished writing for submission? Will you or have you sent any submissions to literary publications? Share with us in the comments!
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series: Submissions best practices (a thorough list of dos and don’ts)
Want to receive tips and tricks like these in your inbox every Sunday morning? Subscribe to our email list! And when you do, not only will you get a year’s worth of weekly writing prompts for FREE, but you’ll be eligible to participate in our monthly photo prompt contest for a chance to share an original piece of writing with our community of over 1,100 subscribers!