Submitting Your Short Fiction and Poetry: 5 FAQs from a Magazine Editor

For writers of short form literature, submitting your work can mean a variety of positive things. Here are important questions (and answers) you need to know about the process.
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For writers of short form literature, submitting your work can mean a variety of positive things. This step is a powerful signal to yourself that you take your craft seriously enough to put your work out into the world. And having your work published in a genre or literary magazine can serve to build your resume and grow your writing community. But so many writers, emerging or established, have lingering questions about the process. As editor of 2 Elizabeths, here are five of the most frequent questions I’m asked:

This guest post is by Elise Holland. Holland is the editor of 2 Elizabeths, a short fiction and poetry publication. Find her on Instagram, here. Her work has appeared in various publications, most recently in DIY MFA and at JaneFriedman.com.

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How can I find the magazines or journals with a similar taste to my own?

You’ll want to read as many genre or literary magazines and journals as you can, to get an idea of the publications that best suit your work. When you first begin, it’s completely normal for the market to seem intimidating. A quick Google search will yield a dizzying number of options, and it’s helpful to have some context to guide your research.

The following sites are great resources to use as you sort through the market.

  • Writer’s Market – Writer’s Market is the internet’s most complete guide to getting your work published. It’s a subscription service (just $5.99/month) with detailed information on where to sell your work, whether you’ve written a book or short form literature.
  • Duotrope – Duotrope is also a subscription based service, with a database of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction markets.
  • Poets & Writers – Poets & Writers offers free information online, including a database of literary magazines, list of contests by date, and more.

Look carefully at each magazine or journal you explore. Do they mostly publish poetry, essays or fiction? Do they prefer genre or literary work? Editors at varying publications will have different taste and preferences, and you’ll see that reflected in the work they select to publish.

You’ll find that in time, deciding which magazines or journals to submit your work to becomes a natural process. Simply put, if you love the stories a magazine prints, and you find them to be similar to your writing style, submit your work! While there is no way to be 100% certain your work will be selected, following this rule of thumb will point you in the right direction.

What should writers avoid doing?

So long as you follow a publication’s submission guidelines when submitting your work, you really don’t need to worry about any faux pas. Submission guidelines are always key. That being said, here are the most common things I’ve seen happen, that you would want to stay away from doing.

  • Avoid sending work that clearly goes against submission guidelines. A good example would be sending an 11,000-word story to a magazine that specifically calls for short fiction between 1,000 and 6,000 words.
  • Avoid missing a deadline, and sending your work under a different category or genre. An example of this would be sending poetry during a time when a publication has stated that they are only looking for short fiction.
  • Avoid submitting your work through the wrong channel. For instance, you wouldn’t want to email an editor a copy of your work if they’ve stated that they only accept submissions through an online portal (like Submittable).

Should I submit to contests?

I love writing contests. I enjoy entering contests through other publications, and I relish the opportunity to read the contest submissions we receive at 2 Elizabeths. In fact, we’re currently hosting a Love & Romance Writing Contest (deadline November 1, 2017), and we’d love to read your words.

I find that if you invest even a small amount of money entering your work into a contest (fees are used to pay winning writers and cover overhead costs at most publications), you’re likely to take the work more seriously. It can also be incredibly helpful to have the structure of concrete deadlines and crystal-clear guidelines to aid in focusing your work.

Can I submit the same piece to multiple publications?

Often, the answer is yes. However, the answer will ultimately be found in the submission guidelines of each publication to which you send your work. A couple of terms to become familiar with are simultaneous submissions and multiple submissions.

  • The term simultaneous submission means that you will be sending the same piece to several magazines or journals at the same time. Most publications accept simultaneous submissions, but some do not. If a publication does not accept them, this will be stated in their guidelines.

If you are submitting a simultaneous submission, it’s important to state that in your cover letter. Also, should your work be selected for publication by one magazine, it’s important to notify other publications where you have submitted that piece. This courtesy will prevent complications, and will keep you in good graces with various editors, should you wish to submit to them again in the future.

  • The term multiple submission means that you’re submitting multiple pieces to the same literary magazine or journal.

I’ve Submitted My Work. What’s Next?

Congratulations! It’s important to take a moment to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished; you’ve submitted a piece of thoughtfully curated art, all your own. I always say it’s important to celebrate your accomplishments, big or small, in a way that’s meaningful to you. It’s important to do this to prevent burnout, and to continue to love your creative work. So, call an old friend to join you for dinner, pour yourself a glass of wine, or visit a local art museum, and feed your creative inspiration. Choose a small celebration that resonates with you, and let yourself enjoy it.

Once you’ve celebrated, the best thing you can do is throw your creative energy into a new writing project. You’ll increase your odds of being selected for publishing by writing and submitting work frequently. While you’re at it, send your short fiction or poetry to 2 Elizabeths. We’d be honored to read your work.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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