Find the Right Market for Your Work
Hello, and welcome to Split Lip's Submissions crash course. I'm so thrilled to have you here.
In this first session, we'll talk about how to find good homes for your work.
So you’ve written something you think is really great. You’ve read it hundreds of times, so much that you practically have it memorized. Maybe a close writer friend or two have given you positive feedback. Writing for yourself is an important practice, but writers also want to be read. As John Cheever once said: “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone.” This is where the publication step of the writing life comes in.
There are hundreds of literary magazines and journals out there, both online and in print, with more popping up every day. But how do you know which ones want your work? And how do you get them to look at your work? The process of submitting can be daunting and at times, discouraging. But with some research and persistence (and a small dash of courage), you can find the right home for your work.
There are thousands of different markets. It’s your job to find the ones that will best suit the specific piece you want to submit.
Markets are set apart by what they publish and how they publish it.
Online vs. Print vs. Both
There are benefits and drawbacks to both online and print magazines. While online magazines likely have a wider readership (maybe even some audience outside of other writers), print magazines tend to pay and even though it's slowly changing, print magazines seemed to be more highly regarded/respected. Magazines that offer online and print content give you the best of both worlds, but there aren't many of them.
University vs. Independent
A lot of University magazines have funding, which means they can pay you, and again: these are some of the most competitive and well-respected literary magazines out there. Most independent magazines exist online, and while some of them pay, most of them (like Split Lip) are truly a labor of love and contribution to the literary community. In order to get a sense of the work a magazine publishes, to know if it's a good fit, it's good to read an issue of two. Of course, most online mags are available to peruse for free, while you have to purchase or get a subscription to most hard-copy University journals.
Literary vs. Genre vs. Theme
Most literary magazines are looking for high-quality literary writing, but some have specific bents toward experimental work or magical realism. There are tons of genre magazines out there if you are writing sci-fi/fantasy or young adult (and many of these pay). Also, some magazines organize around a theme (although individual magazines may also put out themed issues at certain times of the year).
Demographically or Geographically Specific
There are some magazines who only accept writers of color, LGBTQIA writers, woman writers. There are also magazines who want writing from/about different locations in the United States (the Midwest and South seem to feature pretty heavily).
Paying vs. Non-Paying
Self explanatory. Although, a lot of places that pay you may also require a submissions fee of $3-$10, just for them to consider your work.
1. Read and engage with the literary community, especially with writers whose work you admire. See where they are publishing work, especially if it’s work that is in the same vein as your own, and consider these as potential submissions opportunities.
There are many ways to do this. Because most of us writers are introverts and often love to lurk online, social media is a great place to start. Follow writers you admire on Twitter and Facebook. Check out their website (if they have 0ne). They'll often have a list of publications, which you can read and explore. Like my publications list, they're often listed reverse chronologically. Scroll back to see where they had some of their first publications: this is often a great place to start. If a writer is regularly writing and submitting, they're going to keep getting better (at both the writing AND submitting processes).
2. Duotrope (FREE, but also a great resource for tracking ($), which we'll talk about in depth in our second session)
Duotrope is a website that lists most literary publication opportunities, along with their submissions guidelines. Below, Split Lip's listing.
They also track acceptances and rejections and wait times (from people who use the site), so you can get an idea of how long you might be waiting, as well as how competitive the journal is.
Duotrope also lets you know where other users are submitting their pieces, which can help you find more places that might be a fit for your work. If you look at these long enough, you will start to see groupings of magazines that repeat themselves. (F=Fiction, P=Poetry, N=Non-Fiction)
3. Awards Listings
There are some great online resources to consult when you want to see which magazines are consistenly producing high-quality work that is recognized with awards and prestigious prizes. Below are just a few:
4. CWROPPS (Creative Writing Opportunities listserv)
A creative writing mailing list that sends out submission calls on a regular basis. They not only send out calls for general submissions, but also contests, fellowships, residencies, and university jobs. Run by Allison Joseph, a poet and professor at South Illinois University-Carbondale.
You can send a request to join the group:
5. Other FREE Places that List Magazines + Calls for Submissions
Facebook "Calls for Submissions" Group (Closed group, posts are limited to Calls for Submissions)
Assignment, Session One
Using any of the above methods, consider a finished piece of work (or almost finished) that you'd like to submit and make a list of 5 places you'd like to send it. If you've submitted before, try to choose 5 places you've never tried. Be sure these places are currently open to submissions.
(Advanced: If you're feeling really ambitious, find 10 places.)
1. What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines by Lynne Barrett, at The Review Review
2. The Ultimate Guide to Getting Published in a Literary Magazine by Lincoln Michel, Buzzfeed Books