Friday, May 27, 2011

First Rule for Literary Magazine Submissions: Develop a System

As an aspiring literary writer, you sooner or later need to submit your writing to literary magazines if you want to get published. Having a system helps:
1.       Develop two lists:
a.       One is your personal ranking of literary magazines where you’d like to get published. Make sure to read magazines beforehand to see if you like the work they publish. Chances are that if you like their selections, they might like your work. Feel free to refer to my list of best, second and third best literary magazines for nonfiction if you write memoir or personal essay. But remember it reflects my take on that world; your take might be quite different. For fiction writers, Cliff Garstang publishes yearly rankings of Pushcart prize winning literary magazines on his blog Perpetual Folly. Rank the magazines by putting those first where you’d love to be published and would kick yourself if you didn’t at least try them first.
b.      The second list is your submissions log where you note when you have sent what piece to which magazine. This allows you to work towards a submissions goal (x number of submissions per year, for example), gives you a place to note rejections and follow up with magazines who have not responded within a reasonable amount of time (usually 6 months). Once your work is accepted, refer to your log to withdraw it from any other magazines you submitted it to. My submissions log is set up in Excel. Email me if you’d like a copy to get started and put "submissions log" in the subject line.
2.       Submit your best piece, the one you’ve polished many times and are sure is the best it can be, to the first ten (or five, or whatever you’re comfortable with) magazines on your list, and enter these submissions in your log.
3.       When the majority of these ten magazines have rejected it, don’t be sad but pat yourself on the back that you’re out there, and send your piece to the next ten on your ranking list. Aim for five to ten submissions that you’re waiting to hear from. That way you stay in the mix.
4.       Work your way down your ranking list, always checking magazines’ websites before you submit as reading periods can change.
5.       Believe in your writing and keep sending your piece out. Don’t make changes to it unless you get feedback from an editor that resonates with you.
Sooner or later, most pieces get accepted. There are many literary magazines out there, and the market changes all the time. Visit to get the newest info and reviews on literary magazines.


  1. This is super helpful; thank you so much!

  2. I found your website via "Today I Blogged About..." Thank you for such an informative post. I'd like to work towards submission so I will definitely email you for your submission log.

  3. Wonderful advice. I can't wait to take more time to read through and make notes on some of the great May blog posts. This one is definitely bookmarked! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Julia, Tia, Anjuli - glad you find this helpful. I'm planning a series on the process of submitting to literary magazines, so stay tuned!
    JoDee - I just sent you the submissions log, I hope you find it helpful.

  5. Hi Annette, I've had this post dog-eared to check out ever since you shared it at StoryDam chat on Twitter. Thank you so much for this, as well as your list of literary magazines to send submissions to - so helpful! I'd love a copy of the submissions log, too. Thanks again! ~Tui

    1. Tui - you're welcome. Thanks for bookmarking my entry and coming back to it! I'll scare up your email to send you the submissions log.

  6. I echo all the other sentiments already posted here!
    Thanks for sharing from your experience and expertise.