Submitting your work to a literary journal is a risky business. Chances are about 1 in 15 that your work will be accepted. Some people paper their walls with rejection slips. And most writers frame their first acceptance letter. But since part of the reason to write is to share your work, we urge you to consider doing so after perusing the journals below. Be sure to include a cover letter with any submission.
To help you in your search, a list of journals and other places to submit has been compiled HERE. However, keep in mind that this list is less than comprehensive. They have been selected as good places to submit to, but they are far from the only ones. Students should also consider looking at these sources and research places to submit to on their own. In the past, students have found the following places helpful in the search for places to submit:
- Poet's Market and Writer's Market. A large index of places to submit to, although the Writer's Market is generally more in line with feature writing. Their information is comprehensive, including ratings on difficulty of acceptance and reading times. No online database exists. The Waidner-Spahr Library should have copies of the most recent editions on hand.
- The Writer's Chronicle. The publication of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, this magazine contains a list of calls for submissions and contests in its backpages. The Library may have a copy, and certainly most of the writing faculty have one they may be willing to loan out.
- Poets and Writers Magazine. A great tool for students. The magazine also maintains an online database for literary magazines, though it doesn't have much in the way of a search feature. The hardcopy also features a call for submissions and contest announcements.
- NewPages.com. New Pages features a fairly comprehensive list of literary magazines and contest announcements. It also serves as an aggregator for various blogs that contain useful information for writers, as well as maintaining its own.
- Duotrope's Digest. A tool for fiction writers and poets (sorry nonfiction writers), Duotrope's Digest is a free and highly searchable database that provides a plethora of information on the various journals listed (over 3,275 according to their website), including acceptance rates, response times, and submission guidelines.
Another trick for finding the right place to submit to is to look at writers who you admire or who are doing work similar to yours, and then look at the places their work has been published. Check the Acknowledgments section in their published books or search for their names in publications online.
Guidelines for Submitting
Once you have found the journal you wish to submit your work to, the next step is to submit it! The most important thing to remember when submitting is to follow the guidelines the journal your submitting to requires. Sometimes, new writers try to capture an editor's attention through the use of gimmicks to make their work stand out. Resist this temptation. It is a great way to ensure your work is not read at all. Let the quality of the work speak for itself.
Each journal generally has its own specific guidelines on submitting. Below are some useful things to keep in mind when submitting.
- Know your intended audience. It's no use submitting a traditional pieces to a journal interested in experimental work (or vice versa). Get to know a journal before you submit to it. Most journals have some online presence (if they're not online journals already) where they will include samples of the work they publish. The Warren Wilson College Library also has a variety of hardcopies of journals you can use to familiarize yourself.
- Avoid journals that charge reading fees, at the very least initially. New writers shouldn't have to pay to get their work published. Contests may also charge entry or reading fees. Submit to those only if you have a work you're supremely confident in that is suitable for the contest. The Creative Writing Department views this as being largely akin to buying a lottery ticket.
- Journals often use a short-hand for phrases associated with the submission process. Here are some of the most common terms and their definitions:
- sub sims For "simultaneous submissions." This is the term for sending the same piece out to multiple journals at once. If a piece that has been submitted to multiple journals is accepted by one, write to the others as soon as possible to withdraw your submission. If you have not heard back from a journal about a piece in a year, it's okay to write to the journal to inquire about or withdraw your submission. Otherwise, resist the urge to e-mail or call editors.
- reprints This is the publication of previously published work. 99% of journals do not reprint material that has been already published in another journal. Some do, however, like the Utne Reader.
- SASE For "Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope." This is the No. 10 envelope you place inside the larger envelope you send your submission in. Make sure to have the right postage on the envelope. As e-mail and submission managers take over, Snail Mail submissions seem to be going the way of the dinosaurs, but many top journals still require them.
- Multiple subs Sending more than one piece to the same journal. Generally, this one is for poets only, though some journals will accept more than one piece of fiction or nonfiction
Many literary journals now use an online submission manager. This online form is simple to use but often asks the writer to create a free account. CLMP provides a standard submission manager to many literary journals, so many of them follow the same format. The system sends out automatic emails confirming that a submission has been received and writers can log into their account and see the status of their submission. If a journal uses a submission manager, there is no need for a cover letter. Provide the information you would put in a cover letter in the comments section. A few journals may charge a small reading fee of $1 to $3 to cover costs, and this is payable online as well. Some journals may wish you to format your work differently than others. While a few online systems accept quite a few formats, most prefer .DOC or .RTF files.