Deciding Where to Submit: a Step-by-Step Guide
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
If you're brand new to the submission game, congratulations! Up until now, writing has been a private endeavor, or one you've shared with your trusted friends, and you're ready to take the first step toward flinging your words into the void and hoping something comes back.
While there's no guide out there that can help take the weirdness out of waiting or the sting out of rejection, here are some tips that will help you submit more strategically and get your work out into the world.
Read Living Authors
Before we go any further, stop for a second and ask yourself: who are your favorite writers? Who are the writers you see your work as having been influenced by? Who are the writers whose work most excites you? If you're struggling with answers to these questions, or your answers to these questions are all people who aren't currently alive and working today, it might be worth trying to expand your circle a little more to figure out who you see as your writing peers.
You've probably heard the adage a million times: the best writers are good readers. That tip isn't just to help nurture your engagement with the creative world, it can also be really helpful in building a writing community, as well as figuring out where your work might be a good fit. Not only that, but it will help you to realize that, for the most part, authors are living, breathing people who get freaked out by rejections the same as you do.
Once you've figured out who your peers are, you can look to their publications to give yourself an idea where to start. If you have their books on your shelf, check out the acknowledgments page at the back and see where your favorite poems were published. If you don't have the books, author websites will also typically have the same information (and can sometimes be more helpful, since they'll typically link to online publications). Seeing where your peers and your favorites have published can give you a great jumping off point.
Try it with just one journal at first. Click around their most recent issue and see if you feel like what they're publishing matches your vibe. If it does, add it to your submissions list. Or, even if you don't find a journal, you may stumble on another living writer who's publishing work that's thematically similar to your favorite, giving you a chance to keep reading and growing.
Utilize Social Media
While many authors have chosen to sidestep social media altogether, it can be a valuable tool for connecting with other writers, and for finding opportunities. Once you've found a journal you think might be a good fit, try to scope out what their social media presence is like. Do they tend to hype up their authors? Do they seem excited about what they're doing? Does it feel like a place you'd feel comfortable trusting your work? Awesome! All the better.
In addition to connecting with journals in order to see calls for submissions, social media can also be great for getting word of mouth submissions from writer friends. For example: Ashely and I regularly share submission calls with one another because we've had enough time to get a sense of what the other is doing as an author. And because we're both Extremely Online™️ in different spheres, we have the opportunity to see cool things for our friends that the other might miss.
You'll see us reiterating this a lot over the next month, but it can't be stressed enough: other writers are the best resource you have, and creating a community where you support one another is crucial. Setting aside the urge to be competitive or jealous can be tough (it's something I struggle a lot with and plan to address in our editorial roundtable later this month). But believe me when I say that none of us is getting rich on this thing, and it feels so much better to have a supportive community around you.
Make Sure You Have All the Tools
Okay, so you've found a list of journals, you've plucked up the courage. What do you need to actually do the damn thing? Here is a list of resources that will give you everything you need to make sure you're ready to send your work into the world
An Email Address - Whether you decide to use a dedicated email address or the one you use for everything else, make sure that you're always sending work from the same email address so that all of your submission correspondence comes to the same place. I like the option of being able to step away when I need to, so I have a separate email address that's just for submissions, but I've heard other people have great luck using filters in gmail.
A Submittable Account - While some journals (such as yours truly) operate through email or other submissions systems, Submittable is the largest submissions platform used in the lit world. Creating an account is free, and will also help organize submissions so that you can keep track of submission progress for work you send through the platform.
An Organization System - This isn't a necessity so much as it's a tool for your peace of mind. Because you'll be submitting pieces across a variety of platforms and letting them sit for weeks or months, it's easy to forget what you sent where and when. Once a piece has been accepted, you'll need to know where to send a withdrawal notice, so having an organization system in place is helpful. I prefer digital things, so I tend to work with a spreadsheet. Here's an example of that spreadsheet from a few years back (as well as an example of some very non-strategic submitting)
This was from a period where I was still learning how to submit, so I tended to submit in spurts without a ton of strategy.
Decide On a System That Works For You
Once you know where you want to submit and you have all the tools to do it, it can help to establish a rhythm for yourself that makes submitting feel strategic without getting too emotionally taxing. We'll talk about this more later, but it's important to remember: you'll be facing a lot of rejection at every stage, so it's important to submit in a way that's healthy for you, and to step away if you need to.
Right now, I'm in a period where I'm not submitting as much, which is what's right for me (and totally cool if it's what's right for you!), but the strategy I've always employed is that for every rejection I receive, I'll send a packet out to three more places, no more or less. That helps me stay strategic with my submitting, and it helps me from falling into the trap of not submitting at all, and then overwhelming myself by submitting to 20 places in one afternoon.
Finally, Some More Submission Resources
Writing, like everything, is a passion that has barriers to entry at all levels. If you're in a place where you can and want to pay for services or submission fees, that's awesome! But for the purposes of this guide, we'll be focusing strictly on free resources (if you have questions about more resources with a cost attached, shoot us a tweet or an email!).
Entropy's Where to Submit: Published quarterly, Entropy magazine's "Where to Submit" list is an invaluable resource for people looking to find new places to send their work. The list contains open calls for full-length manuscripts, chapbooks, journals, and fellowships, all broken down by genre, deadline, and whether there is a cost attached.
Trish Hopkinson: Trish is another wildly knowledgeable resource who has spent time compiling resources on where to submit your work. She's especially great at highlighting paid work for poets, and fee-free calls for submissions, both of which can be a relatively rare find. She also does exceptional interviews with editors of magazines, which can be a great resource to help you decide if your work is a good fit.
The Review Review: While The Review Review's bread and butter is reviewing literary magazines, their interview section is another great place to read interviews with editors to see if their magazine is a good fit for your work.
Isabel Rae McKenzie's Lit Mag List: A recent addition, Isabelle Rae McKenzie (@birdpoems) compiled a list of lit mags that weren't run by able-bodied cishet white men and who actively sought work from people who are also not able-bodied cishet white men.
To Wrap Up
Hopefully this has helped finding places to send your work feel a little less intimidating. If you have questions or feedback, please tweet us @lammergeiermag, or send us an email! Otherwise, make sure to check out Ethan's submission etiquette and Ashely's cover letter intro.
Happy hunting, and we'll see you next week!