Backdoor Avenues to Publication in Lit Mags

Written by A Guest Author

By Jenn Scheck-Kahn

Most of us find our first publications in literary magazines as unsolicited writers, meaning we send our manuscripts through a submissions manager on the magazine’s website after meticulously following the guidelines outlined there. Because a lit mag can receive hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts for a dozen or two spots in the table of contents, the competition is fierce, but what other options do we have?

Well-known writers are sometimes approached by editors, eager to publish their work, but how do newer writers distinguish themselves, make their work standout? Some editors, like Laura Julier, Editor of Fourth Genre, have petitioned writers who have participated in a conference panel. She’s also petitioned writers based on an engaging conversation she’s witnessed, asking for a written version to be published in her magazine.

Others, like Christina Thompson, Editor of the Harvard Review, have developed mentor relationships with writers who were interns at the magazine and published their writing as well as the writing of past students.

For those who can’t be at the right place at the right time, here are three other unconventional ways that new writers can garner the attention of editors and find a home for their writing.

Refer a Friend to Pangyrus

Because everyone knows a shy, talented, perfectionist of a writer who never tries to publish her work, Pangyrus invented the Get a Writer Discovered Program: when you provide the name of a writer whose work is a good fit for their magazine, an editor from Pangyrus will write her directly, asking for a peak at her latest manuscript. Everyone wins!

Writing Prompt with a Twist

Join a group writing project at speculative-themed lit mag f(r)iction called Dually-Noted where a community collaborates on the writing of a single story that strings together individually-authored flash shorts inspired by weekly thematic prompts. Here’s how it works: new prompts are posted on Monday, with a deadline of Friday at midnight. Winning writers are notified by Saturday and their entries are posted on Wednesday. Given the frequency and format of this project, the prompts provide ample opportunity to practice your craft, learn from the winning entries, and apply yourself again. Not only are your chances of getting a publishing credit in an esteemed lit mag higher with a project like this, the act of participating helps you build a regular discipline of writing. And, if your writing were to be selected, wouldn’t it be fun to see the way future winners respond to your story and expand it?

Check back in with f(r)iction this spring when they re-institute their Free Editing program, where you can apply to work one-on-one with a professional editor on a story that, upon completion of the mentorship, could be published online or in the print magazine.

Write a Review

One way to practice your hand at writing and observing while building your resume is by writing book reviews for publication in lit mags. Unsure of how lit mags do reviews or the types of books they review? Choose a favorite lit mag and read it carefully for style and subject matter; better yet, start by writing a review of that lit mag for the website The Review Review, which specializes in – you guessed it! – reviewing lit mags. See their website for review guidelines.


Jenn Scheck-Kahn is a writer, instructor, and the founder of Journal of the Month, a service that delivers an assortment of literary magazines on a regular basis. Her prose has appeared in Creative Nonfiction and Poets & Writers Magazine, among other literary magazines and placed in contests hosted by The Atlantic and Glimmer Train.

Currently Journal of the Month and Poets & Writers Magazine are teaming up for the holidays: an 8 issue or more subscription of Journal of the Month qualifies you for up to 75% off a subscription of Poets & Writers! See Journal of the Month for details.

 

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