Monday, July 23, 2012

Advice for Sending Your Work to Literary Journals

Advice for Sending Your Work to Literary Journals
by Kathryn Mockler

Research
Research the journals where you are sending your work. Read their mission statements and read the work they publish. Do your homework. This is common advice but is rarely followed. Sending out work that doesn't fit the tone or the mission of the journal is a waste of everyone's time.

In addition to researching the journals you send to, research writers you admire and whose work you think is similar to your own. Go to their websites and see where they've published and send your work to the same journals. 

Simultaneously Submissions
In the old days simultaneous submissions (submitting your work to more than one literary journal) were frowned upon. Literary journals expected writers to send a story or a small group of poems to their journal and then wait six months to a year for a response. If one followed this rule, it could potentially take up to ten years to get a single acceptance. 

Most journals now accept simultaneous submissions as they are easy to keep track of with submission systems like Submittable. However some print journals stand by the old rule. It's always best to read submission guidelines. In any case, keep good records and inform the journals right away if your work is accepted elsewhere. 

Print vs. Online
Initially there was a stigma attached to online journals; they were seen as "less than" or not as prestigious as print journals. But that view has changed in recent years as writers realize that their chances of having their work read increases if their work is published in an online format and then shared on social media. 

It's a good idea to have a combination of both print and online publications in terms of what book publishers and granting bodies like to see. And what writer wouldn't want to see his or her work in print in The Malahat, The Paris Review, or The New Yorker, but in terms of online journals not being legit publishing venues--those days are gone. 

Just take a look at Joyland or The Puritan or Diagram or Drunken Boat to get a sense of how vibrant and diverse the online publishing format can be.

Rejection
Journals reject work not necessarily because of bad writing but for many reasons. Perhaps your writing doesn't fit with the journal's mandate or they've already published too many stories about sticker collections or they are working within a particular theme. A rejection doesn't always mean the journal hates you and your writing.

Author Michael V. Smith notes in an interview with The Rusty Toque, "Rejection is all part of the business, so if you aren’t rejected, you aren’t in the business. I take rejections as a good sign—I’m being a writer." 

Use rejection as learning tool. Re-examine your work. Can you improve? Ask yourself why does this keep getting rejected. If an editor offers some advice, consider it.


Learn to cope with rejection. Send out your work often. This will help you develop the necessary thick skin. Get over yourself and press on. For every rejection, send out your work five more times.

Resist the temptation to send nasty emails to the journal or to the editors who have rejected your work. Most often the people working on literary journals are volunteers. They are not out to get you. They are curating, and just because your story doesn't fit with their vision doesn't mean they are terrible people or that you are a terrible writer.

The literary community is a small one, and it's best not to burn bridges.

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