One of the most fantastic things about writing short form work is the ability to submit it for publication in a literary magazine or journal. You can write something you’re truly proud of, have it published in print or online, and (in many cases) get paid for your words. It’s exciting to start collecting professional bylines, and doing so builds your resume and credibility.
The key is to research which literary magazines are a good home for your particular style of work. As editor of a literary magazine, I see writers skip over this step more than any others. A little research goes such a long way, and putting the time in up front to find the right market(s) for your work can serve to save you a lot of time, submissions, and rejections down the road. Here are three tips for getting started.
1) Utilize Resources for Finding Literary Magazines and Journals
If you are looking to broaden the list of literary magazines you submit your work to, or to submit work for the first time, I suggest perusing the Poets & Writers database here. This database is free to use and offers an excellent variety of publications seeking an array of work. You might also consider signing up with a service like Duotrope or Writer’s Market. Both of these options offer extensive databases of opportunities and information for writers and charge a small monthly fee.
Another great way to research literary magazines and journals is to grab a cup of coffee and spend a little time strolling Barnes & Noble or your local indie bookstore. While a lot of publications are web-based now, it’s a good idea to purchase a few hard copies of magazines that still run in print. In doing so, you’re making an investment in your knowledge of the market while supporting the very publications that work hard to honor short form writers. It’s a win-win!
2) Narrow Down the Market
Many magazines are part of an MFA program and have students on the staff and editorial board. As a result, a large portion of these magazines are seeking literary work, although there are also a good number of those that seek genre pieces. Your best bet is to read through the stories and poems of several different magazines to see which might suit your work best.
It’s a fairly intuitive process. If you enjoy reading a publication and feel like the style of work they publish is similar to what you aim to write, that’s probably a good sign that you should go ahead and submit. On the contrary, if a publication bores you or just doesn’t jive with your style, the editor at that magazine or journal is probably seeking something different from what you write.
3) Stay Current
Once you’ve found a handful of literary magazines or journals that publish work similar to your own, it’s important to stay current with what they are publishing, as well as with what their submission guidelines are requesting.
If they publish a print anthology, buy and read it. There is simply no better way to understand what an editor seeks than to become as familiar as possible with what they are already putting out into the world. And every time you submit a piece of work to them, take a fresh glance at their submission guidelines to be sure you’re still following them carefully. From time to time a magazine may make a change to something like their word count restrictions or may make an exception to the type of work they seek for a specific contest. Be certain you’re being mindful of each set of submission guidelines to avoid a definite rejection. You should be able to find a current set of guidelines with ease, by visiting the website of each magazine or journal periodically.
Even after you’ve found a few magazines or journals you love, it’s important to keep an eye out for new (or new to you) publications. The market is ever-evolving, and the perfect match for your writing could be just a click or stroll through the bookstore away!
Elise Holland is the editor of 2 Elizabeths, a literary magazine focused on poetry and short fiction, with an emphasis on romance and women’s fiction. Her work has been published in Writer’s Digest and has appeared on Jane Friedman’s blog. Find Elise online at 2Elizabeths.com.