Glossary of Literary Magazine Terms
This is a quick guide to some of the terms you may come across when submitting to a literary magazine. From SMF to first publication rights, we have you covered.
First Publication Rights--This is a stipulation that basically gives a journal/press the right to be the first to publish you. The agreement with your work after that can vary (though most tend to release all rights back to you immediately to a few months). Most journals/presses want to be the first piece to publish it, which means they won’t take reprints, even if they were self-published. If a piece is published in an anthology or a collection after another journal has required first publication rights, that means that they must be acknowledged as the place first appeared.
Genre—Category or type, usually in reference to the three most common forms of writing submitted to lit journals, namely fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. However, genre fiction often refers to nonliterary writing that relies heavily on tropes, and usually fantastic or speculative work in particular (although most mysteries, romance novels, etc. also fall under it). It can also refer to science fiction and fantasy generally without commentary on literary value one way or another.
Masthead—The staff of a journal, which can typically be found linked to the front page of a journal’s website. This is helpful for when you’re submitting, so that you can address submissions to the appropriate genre editor. If all else fails, addressing submissions to the Editor-in-Chief is never a bad move.
MFA--This is something you’ll probably see popping up in literary community. Long story short, an MFA stands for Master of Fine Arts and is (though this is changing a little) the terminal degree for creative writing. There’s a lot of debate about the value of this degree. We won’t get into this here, but just know it’s a thing that exists.
Online vs Print--This has been a longstanding debate about what method of publication is “better”. Answer, it really depends on what you’re seeking. Historically, print publications have been seen as more prestigious, though online journals are a lot more accepted than they were just a few years ago. It’s just something to be aware of when you consider publishing.
Simultaneous Submission—A submission to a literary journal sent while other journals are also considering some or all of the work from said submission, e.g. a set of poems sent to two different publications. Most journals accept simultaneous submissions, but a few don’t, so keep an eye out. In the event that a publication accepts your simultaneous submission, you should accept it immediately. Postponing a response to an acceptance in hopes of getting another is considered rude and dishonest, and it can earn you a bad reputation.
Standard Manuscript Format (SMF)--As the name says, this is a standard formatting structure that some journals do. You don't see it too often in literary journals, but it's super prevalent in genre journals (think sci-fi/fantasy). This is a really good example of manuscript format: https://www.shunn.net/format/story.html