Once you send your writing submission to a literary journal—what happens next? Who is burning the midnight oil reading all the submissions a literary journal receives? Most magazines have one to three main editors, but at Writer’s Relief, we know they aren’t the only people sifting through those short stories, poems, or essays. Many literary journal editorial teams enlist volunteers who offer to serve as first-line readers of the slush pile. While the editors will make the final decisions, the reader offers input on which pieces should make it to the next round of review. And even though you want to spend your time writing, there are good reasons to also volunteer as a reader for a literary journal.
Why You Should Volunteer As A Reader For A Literary Journal
Experience more writing styles: When you volunteer to read for a literary magazine, you’ll become familiar with a lot of writing you might not normally choose. Since this isn’t leisure reading, where you’d select only what you already like to read, you’ll be exposed to a far wider range of topics, themes, and styles. And reading different genres and writing styles will help you grow as a writer. One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read, read, read!
Improve your writing: As we mentioned, reading is a great way to improve your own writing. Reading the submissions from other writers—and seeing which ones float to the top of the editor’s list—will show you how to improve your work and boost your odds of getting an acceptance. By volunteering to read for a literary journal, you’ll see how your own writing stands up against the competition. Maybe you need to work on your writing skills—or maybe you’re a better writer than you thought!
Connect with other writers: Volunteering is a fantastic way to expand your social circle and meet other writers! You’ll connect with the magazine’s staff (which is a great way to build contacts), and you may even get to know your fellow volunteers. You’ll get your name out there in the literary world while making friends.
Make better submissions: When you experience the behind-the-scenes process of how a literary magazine makes selections for its issues, you get a much better idea of why a submission might be rejected, as well as what helps it move on to the next round (and possible acceptance!). This knowledge will help you hone your own submissions process.
If you don’t have the time to spare to become a volunteer reader at a literary journal, remember Writer’s Relief can always help you with making accurate, effective submissions. It’s what we do!
Develop a thicker skin: If you want to get published, you’re going to get rejected—it’s an unavoidable part of a writer’s life! But working as a volunteer reader for a literary journal will show you how many good or even great pieces of writing are rejected during every reading period for various reasons. There are only so many open slots available in each issue. While you may already be aware of this, seeing it firsthand can help you feel less wounded when your own writing is rejected. Knowing you’re in good company can help you feel more confident about your own writing—and help you stick to a regular schedule of submitting your work to more markets!
When you choose to volunteer to be a reader for a literary journal, you’ll be taking some of the pressure off the overworked shoulders of the editors and staff—which will be much appreciated! You’ll also be doing your part to keep literary journals open and available for submitters and readers alike. Meanwhile, your own writing and submission strategy will benefit: a definite win-win situation! See if your favorite literary journal could use a volunteer reader today.
Question: Have you volunteered at a literary journal? Tell us about your experience.