If you’re like many writers who submit work for publication in literary journals, you’ve probably received plenty of “no thank-yous.” You may begin to doubt yourself and suspect the reason you’re not getting published in literary magazines has to do with the quality of your writing. But the truth is that a good submission strategy is a machine with many moving parts—the quality of your writing alone is not necessarily to blame. With a little self-evaluation, you can learn where you have room to improve to get better results.
Take an objective look at your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
Are you writing to your strengths? Are you writing with emotional honesty and integrity? Sometimes, it can be easy to lose the sound of your own “voice” as a writer when you’re focusing too much on getting published, and not enough on creating pieces you enjoy. Spend some time taking an honest look at your craft and your intentions.
Is your writing a good fit for literary journals? While the literary journal market is made up of countless different types of magazines, most literary journals are publishing writing that is literary in tone, theme, and concerns. If your writing isn’t “literary,” it might not be a good fit for lit mag editors. Here’s how to know if your writing is “literary” enough for literary journals.
Are you committed to improving your craft and submitting only your best writing? If you’re not pushing yourself to the deepest possible understanding of craft and technique, you might not be writing at a level high enough for literary journals. Workshopping your pieces with local writing groups, working with freelance editors, and taking classes are just a few ways to improve your craft.
Are you reading literary journals? The best way to understand how your writing fits into the larger lit mag market is to read literary journals. Many writers ignore this essential step—and it holds them back in the long run.
Take an objective look at your submission strategy.
Do you quit too soon? Here at Writer’s Relief, we don’t give up on submitting a piece until it has been seen by at least one hundred literary journal editors. We can’t tell you how many times the ninety-ninth submission is the one that succeeds. If you’re only submitting to a half-dozen literary journals and then quitting—you’re giving up too soon.
Are you sending your work to the best-suited literary journals? Connecting with the right lit mag editor is no small feat. To find the one right editor, you have to rule out the hundreds of “wrong” editors for your unique style and voice. Success can require a huge investment of time. (That’s why so many writers seek our precision targeting services for help getting published.)
Is your submission proofread and formatted to industry standards? If your copy isn’t clean and doesn’t adhere to submission guidelines, you’re starting out on the wrong foot with lit mag editors.
Is it possible you’re self-sabotaging? Here are five signs you may be working against yourself.
Find solutions that fit your life—not someone else’s.
Once you’ve established the challenges that might be holding you back from making the best possible submissions to literary journals, it’s time to start thinking about solutions. Fortunately, there are often multiple ways to solve a problem—the trick is finding the solution that is going to work best for you.
If it seems like your primary obstacle to getting published is simply not having enough time and focus to make submissions, you need to find solutions that work in your existing lifestyle—as opposed to solutions that would work in a perfect world. If you don’t have time to make submissions, be realistic and acknowledge your limitations. Then, enlist help.
QUESTION: What do you suspect holds you back from making better submissions?