When we first start writing, we’re taught how to become a better writer, but no one ever tells us what to do once our prose is sharp and we are ready to start sending it out to publications and/or agents.
The current landscape of publishing is competitive as ever and there are endless ways for a writer to publish their work. For these two reasons, it’s never been more important for writers to know how and where to submit work their work. There are three different submission processes that can lead to being published. In this post, I’ll focus on getting published in literary magazines/journals, blogs and websites.
There are more online literary magazines than ever before. Anyone can literally go online, create a magazine and start their own submission process. This does not necessarily mean they are qualified to critique work and run a magazine, but it does mean a writer has a lot of work to do when selecting where to submit their work. There are two great websites where a writer can do their research pw.org and newpages.com. Both these websites provide a comprehensive list of print and online magazines/journals and links to each magazine. Doing some research is how you will find out if the publication is a good fit for your work. Each website will also have Submission Guidelines, which tells writers what type of work they are looking for, are they currently running a contest and most importantly, is their publication a good fit for your work.
Some things you want to look for is the size of the publication, web design, previously published work and submission guidelines. The size of the publication and web design are two ways to filter out literary magazine/journal. This isn’t always the case, but generally speaking, if no one is reading the magazine, it probably means it is not worth submitting to. A magazine like the New Yorker is going to have a very large audience, while an online literary magazine may have a much smaller audience. They are also going to have much different submission guidelines. Most online literary magazines will have an open submission process, while publications like the New Yorker work with agents. This means you should cross the New Yorker off your list of places to submit your work. This is not to say your work isn’t strong, it just means you don’t meet their submission requirements and your efforts can be better spent finding magazines/journals that will accept your work. Below is a step-by-step guideline to submitting and giving yourself the best chance to get your first story published.
1. Dig a little deeper for publications that are the perfect fit for your work. If you’re submitting a travel essay, find the publications that are looking for travel essays. This will immediately give you a better chance of getting published, because you’re submitting work they are looking for.
2. Follow their submission guidelines. A lot of these publications get hundreds if not thousands of submissions a month, which means they are looking for reasons to not publish your work. The first way you can take your work out of the running is by not doing the submission exactly how they want to see. This is a filtering process, if you can’t follow simple steps, they are not going to publish your work. Take your time and make sure everything you have in your submission is correct before hitting send.
3. Make sure your email is crisp and sharp. Don’t try over selling yourself in the body of the email. At this point your work has to stand on its own. Also, long-winded emails make the writer sound desperate and desperation can come across as compensation for the work not being very strong. Plus, if they are reading thousands of submission emails and they come across a six paragraph email, they may put it directly in the slush pile before it is even read.
3. Highlight your credentials and get out. Summarize your experience in a few sentences and let the work speak for itself. This not only gives you a better chance of having your work being read, but a good, short email could make you stand out from the crowd.
4. If you feel ready to submit your work, remember how important a first impression is. If you submit a sloppy email and the work isn’t polished, these magazines may remember that the next time you submit a story, so make sure the work you’re submitting is ready to be published. Your name is attached to this work, so not only do you want to be submitting your best work for the publications, but you also want to do it for yourself. People are going to associate you to this work, so if you feel ready, ask others to read the work again. Ask someone to do a copy edit on the work and tell them you want to get it published. You only want to submit your very best work. If you have any doubts, hold onto to the work and polish it up before sending it.
Getting published isn’t impossible and as you can see there are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of having your work received and read. Follow the steps above and you’ll give yourself the best chance at getting it published.