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There are many wonderful literary magazines that are actively publishing creative writing—more than we’ve ever seen since Writer’s Relief started helping writers get published back in 1994. So it can be hard to determine which literary journals will be a good fit for your poetry, short stories, and personal essays. What’s a writer to do?
Key Elements That Confirm A Literary Magazine Is A Match For Your Writing
Word count: If your poem or story is too long for an editor’s submission guidelines, then that’s it—game over. Your piece is not a good fit. That’s why we recommend keeping your submissions as short as possible to ensure you’ve got the biggest number of potential literary markets available for your writing submissions.
A connection with the editor’s published material: If reading through the pages of a literary journal leaves you eager to connect with the editors, then you may have a great match on your hands.
The company you’ll be keeping: A glance at the biographies suggests you would be proud to have your author bio listed among the published bylines—whether that means you’re among promising new writers or talented veterans.
Audience availability and exposure: In response to rising costs and changing reading habits, more and more reputable literary journals are making the transition from paper to digital. While some writers may treasure the feel of a print journal in their hands, if you’re hoping to build your reputation as a writer, there are many practical advantages to earning a spot in an online literary journal. Having a publishing credit in a well-respected literary journal is just as prestigious—if not more prestigious—than being published in some lesser-known print journals. Also, online journals tend to have greater circulation than print-only journals, so publishing online will give you more exposure.
The literary journal is well maintained and up to date: Literary journals that haven’t published in years, or that feature poor web design and broken links, or that don’t appear conscientiously cared for are lit mags you might want to skip. Learn more about how to assess a literary journal’s reputation.
Editors who regularly nominate for significant awards: Many literary journals nominate for awards like Best of the Web, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and the Best New American anthology series. Even if a literary journal’s circulation is modest, the rewards of earning a nomination from an editor are priceless.
Your spidey sense isn’t tingling: Unfortunately, bad literary journal contracts do exist. There are editors who neglect their responsibilities and leave you in the lurch. Some editors have even been known to publish submissions without securing the author’s permission first. If you don’t have a good feeling about a given literary magazine, skip your submission. There are plenty of reputable literary journals to choose from if you know where to look.
Caveat: Don’t Overthink Your Submissions
If you’re too nitpicky, you run the risk of rejecting every literary magazine that isn’t “perfect.” If the publication is trustworthy, you’ve got nothing to lose by making a submission. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard one of our clients say, “I’m not so sure that my work is a shoo-in at this literary magazine” or “I don’t know if this lit mag is impressive enough for my writing,” only to receive a fabulous acceptance letter from the editor or a nomination for a very well-known literary award from a “small” magazine.
Remember, if you receive an acceptance letter and you’re not thrilled about it after further conversation and consideration, you can always decline the offer of publication. Learn more about the advantages of casting a wide net when making submissions to literary magazines.
Question: What do you look for in a literary journal?