5 Tips for Submitting Your Writing to Magazines

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So, you’ve written something, and you’ve decided you want to release it into the wild world to be enjoyed or criticized by potentially thousands of people. Be it poems, a short story, a piece of creative nonfiction or an article/ blog post, you’ve decided it’s time to get your work out there.

Let me start by saying I’m proud of you. This is a big step, and not everyone feels comfortable or confident enough to let a bunch of people they’ve never met and probably never will meet possibly trash their work. It’s never a good feeling when something you’ve worked hard at is treated like dirt on the floor, to be swept up and tossed in the trash.

So where do you start? How do you begin submitting your art to literary magazines? Well, that’s where this piece should come in handy. Here are five tips for submitting your writing to magazines.

Step One: Make sure it’s the best you can do.

Just like submitting homework, you should make sure your piece is as good as it can be. Literary magazines have a limited amount of space (even web zines who don’t publish print issues only feature a fraction of the work they receive), so you probably shouldn’t send in the first draft. Hone your work until you can’t hone it anymore or it doesn’t need it.

Step Two: Find the magazine or website most appropriate for the style of your piece.

This should be an obvious one, but it does bear repeating: make sure your piece fits the magazine or site you’ve chosen to send your work to. If it’s a science-fiction magazine, your zombie fiction won’t fare well – and vice versa.

Speaking of sci-fi and other genre fiction, it can be hard to find the perfect home for your babies. This style of writing is too specialized, and the vast majority of places won’t accept this kind of writing. That’s not to say, however, that it won’t be published – just that it might take some digging to find somewhere to send it.

Step Three: Read the submission guidelines, and be sure to double-check that your submission follows the rules.

Arguably the most important step in submitting your work, always check the guidelines of any given magazine or website. Disregarding them can (and will) get your piece rejected outright, regardless of its quality.

Of course, the main thing to check is whether the style of your piece fits. Zombie fiction, for the record, is some of the toughest work to find a place for. Some of the other more common guidelines are no simultaneous submissions (when you send the same piece of writing to two or more publications at the same time); word count; page formatting, such as margins and line-spacing; and the font used (many publications only accept writing in Times New Roman or Courier font, occasionally Arial, in twelve-point font).

The “Shunn Manuscript Format” guide is a free and useful resource to consult if there is any confusion about how proper formatting should look. The Shunn guide is considered the gold standard for manuscript formatting, and you’ll see it mentioned on the websites of many magazines.

Be sure to compose a good cover letter, too. Guidelines and suggestions (along with sample letters) can be found on the internet, as well.

Step Four: Wait to hear back from the editor, and if you don’t get a response in the time-frame listed – most, but not all, have them explained within the guidelines.

Here’s where it gets annoying. I’m a relatively impatient individual; I don’t like waiting on answers. Unfortunately, most publications have a wait time of anywhere from three weeks to months before you hear back from them. The most aggravating part of it all is the fact that some of them won’t get back to you whatsoever unless you’ve been published.

However, one bright spot is that most editors ask you to email them if they haven’t gotten back to you one way or the other.

Step Five: Prepare for rejection.

Rejection hurts. Whether it’s a potential romantic partner, a job offered or promotion, nobody enjoys being turned down. Your creative work is no different.

But it happens, and (considering the volume of submissions literary magazines receive during a given reading period) the likelihood of your piece getting rejected is very high. It happens to established writers even.

Often it isn’t a reflection of the quality of your work. Sometimes it just happens. It hurts a lot at first, but it gets easier every time. And, with each rejection comes a new opportunity to improve your skill as a writer.

Hopefully, these tips help as you take the plunge into the next level of your career as a writer. Writing isn’t all about getting published, but it feels nice to send things out. And, when the fateful day comes when a piece gets accepted, you’ll be glad you went for it.

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