How to Submit to Lit Mags: Part 2

CC image by Bram Van Damme

In case you didn’t know, Embers Igniting is currently open for submissions. We’re eagerly awaiting YOUR work. As such, it seems appropriate to offer part two of my series on being successful when submitting to lit mags (read part one here). May these tips keep you a bit saner as you go through the stress-laden odyssey of sending out your work. But hey, it’s supposed to be fun, so try to enjoy the process.

6. Track your submissions
You’ve done your research and made your plan. Now it’s time to start submitting. You send out ten submissions to ten different magazines, two of which are simultaneous submissions. Five of the magazines use Submittable, three use homegrown submission engines, and two use email. They all have different response times, ranging from two weeks to six months. How do you not lose your mind waiting for responses? You track your submissions, that’s how. I use Excel to track my submissions. I maintain a spreadsheet that has all of the information I find useful for the various publications I’ve already submitted to, as well as those I want to submit to in the future. You can include as much or as little information as you want in this spreadsheet. Minimally, you’ll probably want to include the title of each piece you submitted, where you submitted it to, the date you submitted it, and (eventually) what the publication’s response was. One of the benefits of this system is that it prevents you from sending a rejected piece back to who rejected it because you forgot you already sent it to them (embarrassing much?).

7. Submit it and forget it
I know from personal experience that it’s exceedingly difficult to not perch on your email inbox like a vulture after you’ve sent a piece out into the world. However, that refresh button doesn’t alleviate stress and curiosity, it intensifies them. After you hit “submit,” go have a glass of champagne. Take a walk. Watch your favorite movie. Grab coffee with friends. Try not to dwell on the response to your submission. It won’t help. Besides, most magazines take weeks to respond, often months. Do you really want to be biting your nails for that long? Submit it and forget it.

8. Be professional
Another given, right? Not so much. In the arts, it’s essential that we have respect for one another and keep our pride in check. Professionalism isn’t a natural talent, it’s a practiced discipline. It requires you to think before you speak and to express gratitude, even if the same courtesies aren’t given to you. If your work isn’t accepted for publication (and yes, this will happen), don’t send the editor a juvenile letter detailing how they’ll see your piece win awards someday. If the person editing your piece suggests a ton of changes, don’t shoot them down without a glance. If your piece receives high praise from an editor, don’t mouth vomit an email of thanks and excitement in reply a minute later. Always speak and act out of gratitude, respect, and measured control. Be a professional.

9. Be flexible
Magazines are unique and individualistic. Every one of them has its own style and standards to which they adhere. Some will heavily edit pieces, while others only edit for spelling and grammar. If they’ve agreed to publish you, it will become clear in the editing process which type of magazine they are. Be flexible—sometimes a change isn’t needed because your original version was “wrong,” but because it makes your story a better fit for the magazine’s style. All magazines employ style guides. Also keep in mind that changes the editors want to make are never meant to weaken your piece, but to make it stronger and flow well with the rest of their publication. They want to put together a beautiful, cohesive piece of art—that particular volume of the magazine—and you need to respect their creation as they respect yours, so much so that they want to publish it.

10. Support the magazine
If you’re a writer, you must be a reader. If you’re either, you should be reading lit mags. They’re home to amazing literature from veteran and budding artists. Read them, follow them on social media, and spread the word. When one publishes you, pay it forward by buying the volume and telling folks about the good work that magazine does. Subscribe to your favorite ones. Maybe even make a donation if you can. Magazines are made up of people, fellow artists who want to see your work succeed. Help their publication succeed.


CC image by j

CC image by j

  • Poets & Writers: A great resource for all things writing, but I particularly appreciate their database of lit mags. A good place to start if you have no idea where to send your work.
  • Every Writer: Another database for lit mags (and more).
  • Duotrope: This site is a robust tool for all things related to sending your work out. Find publications, track your submissions, and more. The downside? It costs money. But you can do a free trial to test it out.
  • Writer’s Relief: A fun site to explore. I particularly like their calls for submissions page, as well as their blog that offers advice to the aspiring writer.
  • Writer’s Digest: Another great general resource, but check out their competitions and creative writing prompts to start.
    Now that I’ve equipped you with tips for success and nifty resources, why not send your work to Embers Igniting? FYI, you won’t just get a “yes” or “no” like most other lit mags. You’ll get detailed, personalized feedback for each piece you send in. You can even request specific feedback, if desired. Submit here by 10/14/15.

    If you have any questions or want to discuss what it feels like to send your work out into the world, leave a comment here and/or mention it via our Twitter or Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

    By Madeleine Mozley