I realized earlier this month that it has been four years (!) since I last submitted an essay anywhere. To break the spell, I’ve already sent out one new essay and plan to send out more in the coming weeks. Before I could send my piece out, though, I had to give myself a refresher on how to properly submit to a journal or magazine. I thought I’d share these tips with you as well!
- Make sure your piece fits the literary magazine. Lit mags often have themes even if they take all three genres, so don’t send your story about animals to a journal focusing on women’s rights.
- Double check the reading period. Most lit mags have a window of a few months each year during which they accept submissions. Don’t send things outside this window.
- Know whether the lit mag allows simultaneous submissions. Submitting simultaneously means you are submitting the same piece to several lit mags. Some allow this, and others don’t.
- Keep your cover letter concise. The cover letter is not a place for you to tell the lit mag all about your piece. Your piece is for that. In the cover letter, note the name of the piece, the genre, and the word count if they request it. Also note whether you’re submitting multiple places simultaneously and that you will alert them if the piece is picked up elsewhere. Include a short publication history if you’ve got one. I often list my MFA in creative nonfiction, when and where I graduated, and the other places I’ve had essays published. That’s it. You don’t need to give them any more info.
- Pay attention to their submission guidelines. For instance, be sure to include your contact info and word count on the first page if they require it.
- Put your name in the running head of your document. Whether electronic or hard copy, it’s nice to have the author’s name on each page (unless the lit mag tells you otherwise).
- Stay organized, and don’t expect to hear back for months. I suggest keeping a spreadsheet of where you’ve sent each essay, when you hear back, and what their answer is. That way you don’t duplicate and you get a feel for what each journal is looking for. Also, it takes a long time to get through the slush piles of manuscripts. You may not hear back from them for three to six months. Patience is a virtue!
- Don’t let a no get you down. The first time I had an essay rejected, it was heartbreaking. After that, though, it stopped bothering me. Sometimes it takes sending the same piece out hundreds of times before you find the right match. Just keep going (and don’t take a four-year break like I did!).
- For the most part, you don’t need to bother with submissions that cost you money. There are plenty others that are free! Check out Poets & Writers‘ list of lit mags. Their classifieds are also very helpful.
Extra bonus advice!
- Don’t forget that the time changes on Sunday!