How to Submit to Literary Magazines

Christian Buckley

As a literary magazine ourselves, we’d like to reach more authors with great stories. For the writer, literary magazines are a great way to begin building a CV of writing credentials. An impressive publication history can make you look more attractive to potential literary agents and publishing houses. However, submitting to journals can often be intimidating or confusing. Here we’ll go over the basic steps to get you started!

1. Create your writing packet

First, you must decide on what you’ll be shopping around to different magazines. If poetry, prepare a packet of five poems (certain publications may want less, but few will want more than five). If fiction or creative nonfiction prepare a story between 2500 and 5000 words. Somewhere between these word counts is often what is preferred in the genre. However, if you plan to submit flash fiction, keep it under 1000 words.

Tip: Consider submitting in multiple genres. While you may consider yourself a specialist in a specific genre, when beginning a writing career, it is good to amass credits regardless of genre. This will allow you to build your CV faster.

A note on publication rights: Most magazines will not accept work that has already been published. This includes work posted on the internet in places such as blogs.

2. Have your packet reviewed by friends

It’s good to have a fresh set of eyes look over your work and offer a critique. These do not have to be editorial level analyzations, rather they serve to catch errors or make simple changes.

3. Prepare a cover letter

Many magazines will ask for a cover letter along with your submission. While this may sound frighteningly corporate for our tastes, it is quite straightforward. List your contact information. Make a note towards the magazine you are submitting to (remember to edit this each time). State that you will notify them if your work is published elsewhere (We’ll come back to this point later). And finally, include a brief author bio between thirty and forty words.

Here is an example:

Jane Doe
555 Long River Drive
Storrs, CT 06268
555-555-5555
jane.doe@uconn.edu
Dear, Long River Review,
I am submitting five poems for consideration. This is a simultaneous submission. I will notify you immediately if any are accepted elsewhere.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Best regards,
Jane Doe
Jane Doe is currently an undergraduate at the University of Connecticut. She is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. Her writing has also appeared in Long River Review. She enjoys tea drinking.

4. Submission time!

Now that you’ve prepared your work and cover letter, it’s time to submit to magazines seeking submissions. A great place to start is submittable.com. On this website you can easily submit your work to many listings. However, not all magazines use this system and it is still good to research magazines you’d like to be published in. Once you’ve decided on the magazines to submit to, it’s just a matter of sending it out. But wait! Don’t just submit without this next step!

5. Read the magazine’s submission guidelines

Many magazines ask for similar formatting when submitting. However, they often have unique criteria. Before you submit to a magazine, go to their website and find their submission guidelines. Make sure your packet is edited to suit their needs. If a magazine says they only accept three poems per submission period, you better cut down your packet for them. The worst part of the submission process is the publications you miss out on because you didn’t follow their policies.

6. Hit submit and wait

There! You did it! Now what? Well, all you can do is wait months before hearing a reply. Have fun refreshing your email until your mouse breaks.

7. You got accepted!

Congratulations. After months of waiting, a magazine has told you they’d like to publish your work. Once you sign the required permissions, you’re set to be a published author. However, you can’t stop here. You submitted that same piece to many other publications and you are obligated to withdraw your piece from their consideration. This must be done immediately, failure to do so may result in a bad reputation as an author. Once that’s all done, relax. It’s time to celebrate for real.

Final tip: Consider submitting your work to the 2019 edition of Long River Review! We’d love to have you! Submissions will open in the late fall until early winter.

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