Wondering what types of submissions tend to excite literary journal editors, and which ones they’re most likely to turn down? At Writer’s Relief, we spend hundreds (probably thousands) of hours tracking publishing trends in literary journals so we can give you the scoop on what’s hot right now…and what’s not.
Submission Trends That Literary Journal Editors Can’t Get Enough Of
Diversity and minority issues. Many literary journal editors do their best to ensure that minority viewpoints are well-represented. Works pertaining to sexuality, gender, race, class, and social issues have been especially in vogue with literary editors, and there’s no sign of the trend tapering off any time soon. Controversial issues are also sought after by editors.
Lesser-known subject matter. Does your writing introduce readers to something completely unexpected and fresh, such as an obscure event in history…technologies that boggle the mind…or an “exotic” landscape or culture? Editors (and readers!) love to be introduced to new concepts and ideas.
Slice-of-life vignettes. Editors are publishing colorful, evocative, succinct pieces that deliver big emotional and intellectual impact. Slice-of-life vignettes have always been popular, but it’s our theory that online reading and publishing may be driving the increased interest in shorter prose.
Free verse poetry. Free verse continues to be the poetry style favored by most literary journal editors.
What Lit Mag Editors Just Aren’t Into Right Now
Haiku. There are some editors who will publish haiku—but not many. Some officially steer clear of haiku and note it in their submission guidelines. Others aren’t officially putting restrictions on publishing haiku, but we’re not seeing an overwhelming interest in the style right now.
Rhyme. Rhyme is so hard to do well that few editors are publishing any of the rhyming poetry submissions they receive. Some editors have declined to consider rhyming poetry entirely. Learn more about rhyme and lit mag editors.
Slam-style poems. Because slam poetry focuses so strongly on performance art, editors don’t seem to feel that the spoken texts translate well into print. That said, there ARE editors who love slam—whether watching it or reading it.
Really long prose pieces. Except for those literary magazines that have made it their mission to publish long works, most editors prefer shorter prose. So be sure to check guidelines and hit the word count sweet spot.
Genre and commercial-style writing. Many literary journals decline to publish works that can fall into commercial or mainstream genres (thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, etc). So writers who are willing to do some research can find journals that specifically publish works in commercial genres.
Dogmatically religious works. If what you’re writing is an overt argument in favor of a specific religious or spiritual viewpoint, you may want to submit your work to a journal that is geared toward your beliefs. Editors of literary journals generally tend to turn down writing that supports a specific religious point of view.
Erotica. While a certain amount of graphic sex may be acceptable in the majority of literary journals, pure erotica is best submitted to magazines or anthologies that specialize in sexually explicit writing. Editors will specify in the submission guidelines if they do not accept sexually explicit works of any kind.
Other Trends Some Editors Report Being Tired Of: Writing based on or inspired by paintings or other artwork; traditional poetry forms (sonnets, pantoums, etc.); nature poems that don’t contribute anything new; poems about pets; travel poems that lack depth.
And Now For The Fine Print Caveat
Talking about trends in publishing means making broad, sweeping generalizations. And trying to follow these generalizations and write for the market doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Every literary journal is different; for every editor who enjoys a certain style of writing, you’ll find another who absolutely hates it. Editors who do get excited by so-called “unpopular” styles or topics tend to be very, very excited—and an enthusiastic editor is a true treasure for a writer’s career.
So when you consider what’s trending in publishing, take this information with a grain of salt. Don’t let it stop you from writing or submitting what you want. Case in point: One of our clients recently got a glowing response and offer of publication for a sonnet (a rhyming poem) that was inspired by a well-known painting—exactly the opposite of what current trends seem to be favoring. So if your writing is truly compelling, it may be able to rise above any so-called publishing trends.