How to Start Submitting Your Work to Literary Journals

Written by Emily Harstone | July 21, 2016

Literary journals are wonderful magazines that focus on publishing creative writing. Some are digital. Others are print. Some only publish literary work. Others focus on genre.

We have published a lot of articles about literary journals at Authors Publish. We review one literary journal every week.  We also feature calls for submissions, and have compiled many lists of literary journals, like this one for writers just starting to submit, or this list of journals that respond within a month. We have even published an article about why you should submit to literary journals.

But we have never published a concise article about the nuts and bolts of how you should submit to literary journals. This article breaks down the process into a simple step by step process.

One: Polish a piece of writing so that it is ready to submit

If you are submitting a short story or an essay that means you should thoroughly edit one short story or an essay. Make sure it is as error free as possible. Most literary journals do not copy edit their work thoroughly. They expect it to be copy edited and polished before submission.  If you are submitting poetry or flash fiction, most journals prefer to receive at least three poems or flash pieces at a time.  This article is helpful to read if you are submitting poetry.  If you are a member of a writing group it is great to review a piece with that group before submitting.

Two: Prepare a standard third person author bio and cover letter

It is important to note that your cover letter should be brief and to the point. It should be no longer than three sentences in length, unless the journal specifically requests additional information.

Most biographical statements should be 50 words in length or less. They are always written in third person.

You should keep the cover letter and biographical statement in a file so you can easily use them again and again.

Three: Find a literary journal

Authors Publish reviews at least one literary journal every week. But there are lots of other places you can find literary journals. A good place to start is The (Submission) Grinder.

Also some of our most popular articles contain links to lots of great literary journals to submit to: Good Literary Journals for Unpublished Authors, 11 Literary Journals Always Open to Submissions, and Thirty Literary Journals That Pay.

Four: Read and follow their submission guidelines

Most journals accept electronic submissions now, via email or submission manager, both are easy to use.  Make sure you follow the guidelines on the website when submitting.  For example if the literary journal says they do not publish poetry, don’t submit it. If they say they only accept .doc attachments, don’t send a PDF.

Five: Submit

Once you have followed the literary journals guidelines and provided all of the information they have asked you for, all you have to do is press send (or place the stamped envelope in the mail).

Six: Track your submission

Write down what work you have submitted, where, and when. That way if your work is accepted at one place you don’t accidentally submit it elsewhere.

Seven: Repeat steps three through six

Now that most literary journals accept simultaneous submissions, it is easy to submit to multiple places at once.