Whether it’s the first time or the fifty-first time, submitting your short stories, personal essays, or poetry to literary journals can be nerve-wracking. Literary journals receive hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of submissions during each reading period. So along with offering your very best work, it’s important to do everything you can to stand out from the competition. At Writer’s Relief, our submission strategy experts know that editors are busy people, and a happy editor is one who’s more likely to view your work favorably. Here are 7 virtually foolproof ways writers can make editors happy and improve their odds of getting an acceptance.
7 Ways Writers Can Make Editors Happy
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Before you submit your work for publication, it needs to be in tip-top shape. This means going through it with a fine-tooth comb and checking for issues with grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Ask a grammar-savvy friend or writing group member to proofread your writing as well. Most editors won’t reject a piece based solely on a typo or two, but a submission filled with grammar mistakes will definitely cause an editor to question the quality of your work.
Follow the journal’s submission guidelines
We can’t say it enough: Follow the literary journals’ submission guidelines. Each journal has different requirements regarding reading dates, formatting, fonts, cover letter, subject line content, how to send the submission (via email, submissions manager software, or snail mail), and more. If you don’t follow the submission guidelines, you run the risk of having your work tossed into the rejected pile without being read. It also shows a lack of respect for the editor and for the journal if you don’t bother to comply with the guidelines. And, no, your particular piece is not so special, unique, amazing, or whimsical that it should be exempt from the guidelines.
Properly format your work
Want to make an editor smile? Make sure your submissions are easy to read! Unless the submission guidelines say otherwise, you should use 12 pt. Times New Roman font and have one-inch margins. This formatting is unobtrusive and allows the editor to focus on reading your work instead of wondering where in the world you got that crazy font.
Unless the guidelines specify “blind” or concealed submission, most journals expect to see the author’s contact information in the top left-hand corner on the first page of the work as well as in the cover letter. Placing your contact information where it can be easily found makes it more convenient for the editor to reach out with a response! For more formatting guidelines, check here.
Use an appropriate cover letter
Busy editors expect a cover letter that follows publishing industry etiquette: Introduce the work and offer a brief bio—nothing more. Don’t summarize your work, as it implies the editor is not going to read what you’ve submitted. Likewise, don’t offer unnecessary bio information: Editors aren’t interested in the fact that you’ve been writing since you were three years old. And always address your cover letter to the appropriate editor if a name is available.
Research to ensure your work is a good fit for the literary magazine
If you want to increase your odds of getting an acceptance, you need to spend hours researching and reading literary journals to know what type of work each one does—and doesn’t—publish. Some journals may only want submissions from writers living in Canada, while others might specialize in mythology-based writing. You don’t want to send your poetry to a journal that only publishes short stories in the mystery genre! There are also literary magazines that will not accept work with adult language. If you choose to spam blast literary journals without knowing what kind of writing they publish in the hopes that “something sticks,” you’ll appear unprofessional, uniformed, and will be wasting your time and the editor’s time.
Withdraw your accepted work
Congratulations! You received an acceptance! When your work is accepted by a literary journal, editors expect you to withdraw that piece from any other journal where it was also submitted. This courtesy lessens the risk that another editor will also accept the same work and avoids potentially awkward situations. You don’t want to disappoint (and possibly annoy) an editor by having to say that a piece is no longer available.
Enlist submission strategy experts
To ensure that your submissions meet all the criteria that make a literary journal editor grin from ear to ear, enlist the help of experts—the submission strategists and researchers at Writer’s Relief! Since 1994, we’ve been helping writers proofreading, formatting, and targeting the best markets for their work to boost their odds of getting an acceptance. And while we like happy editors, we love having happy, published clients!
Editors are dedicated, hardworking people who burn the midnight oil reading and making decisions about many, many essays, poems, and stories. If you can make them happy with a submission that’s well-written and perfectly put together, you’ll definitely boost your chances of getting an acceptance!
Question: What is the most unique request you’ve seen in a literary magazine’s submission guidelines?