Resources for Submitting to Literary Magazines

For years, I have wanted to submit my writing to a literary publication or a contest.

Each time I have ventured into the world of literary magazines, I have become so overwhelmed, so daunted by the quality of work I have read in them, I have retracted, retreated with my tail between my legs thinking, “Wow. This stuff is amazing, my work would never make it into a journal like this.”

Lit Mags

But I kept writing. And as the years have passed, my writing has improved bit by bit. I thought that eventually, there would become a day that I would feel, “Yes, I am ready to submit to a lit mag!” That I would get a piece to such near-perfection that I would feel completely confident submitting for publication. But that moment has never come and frankly, I doubt that it ever will.

I will always have doubts. I will always wonder is a piece is completely finished, truly “ready.” But I could spend years, a lifetime even, telling myself that my piece isn’t ready yet, finding (or creating) flaws, discovering passages to rework or remove. There will always something that we could change about a story or improve upon.

I came across this line in an article about summer submissions, and the timing couldn’t be better:

“Here’s a funny thing about success: If you keep waiting for the right time to go out and get it, you might end up waiting your whole life.”

There you have it.

I do finally have a story that is more polished, more ready than any other story I’ve written before. And so, my trusted writer friend and I have decided that for both of us, it is time to push the baby bird out of the nest. We have read each other’s work, made corrections and suggestions, seen our stories through revisions. It’s time.

I’ve been doing my research, and putting together an excel spreadsheet (yes) of publications to potentially submit to either for this story or down the road.

I’ve only just begun, but I thought I’d share some resources I have found helpful in my research:

Poets and Writers – This is an invaluable resource for writers. Visit the Tools for Writers section of their website for a searchable database of literary magazines and their editorial policies, submission guidelines and contact information. If you subscribe to the magazine, they publish details about creative writing contests—including poetry contests, short story competitions, essay contests, awards for novels, and more which they make available on their website as well.

Your local library or bookstore – Libraries and bookstores may have literary journals you can browse through. Check used bookstores for past issues!

Writer’s Market – This is a great tool to find places to sell your writing. You can also try Poet’s Market, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, (all published by Writer’s Digest Books,) which give submission guidelines and detailed contact information. (Hint: your library may have these available for loan, too!)

Journal of the Month – I blogged about this topic recently and highly recommend Journal of the Month for any writer who is looking to publish their work. This is a great and inexpensive way to get exposed to different literary journals and get an idea of what kind of work they publish and what they are looking for.

What Editors Want – This article written by The Review Review is a must read for writers submitting their work to literary magazines. I found a lot of helpful hints.

Twitter – Yes, social media can be useful! Find a lit mag you think you might like to submit to, and visit their website. You may be able to read some of their current or archived content. If the publication is on social media, follow them on Twitter (or Facebook) and get friendly reminders of when they are reading or learn about upcoming contests. At least I can feel like I’m being somewhat productive while scrolling through my Twitter feed…

 

Writers – please help me add to this list! What resources have you found helpful in preparing to submit your work? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

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5 thoughts on “Resources for Submitting to Literary Magazines

  1. Thanks for sharing your submission resources. So here’s one back to you! The Prairie Schooner blog is looking for contributors. Have something to say or a subject you enjoy writing about? Drop a line to pswebed@unl.edu to get the ball rolling on potentially becoming a Prairie Schooner blogger.
    Sounds pretty fantastic as a way to get your work out there. I’m heading over there myself very soon.

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