How to Submit to Lit Journals - Part 2
I ended my last post advising you to pick a group of journals that are all relatively the same quality level. This is important because you should send your work to multiple journals at the same time, simultaneous submissions. And, the first one that accepts it - gets it! There are no negotiations. No, I'll get back to you as soon as I hear from the other 15 I sent this piece to. No. You are not famous. You have sent your baby into the cold hard world and some one is willing to adopt it. Someone that has red-rimmed eyes from countless hours pouring over others' babies and someone that specifically stated in their GUIDELINES to notify them immediately if your submission was picked up elsewhere. A someone that's not getting paid, just like you.
I learned this lesson the hard way. One of my first submissions of short fiction got accepted by 2 journals within a few days of each other and I floundered around, asked people that should have known the answer to this dilemma and did not!, and ended up making a lit journal editor very angry. I was mortified. It was a journal connected to a university and one I've seen, since, advertised in Poets & Writers Magazine. It all worked out in the end. But, I would have rather read this advice on someone's blog (ahem) than have cried for 3 hours on a Friday night. So, pick about 20 journals that you love and are on the same level. Read their guidelines and follow them. Word count, submission format, etc.
Simultaneous submissions used to be a huge no-no. But, most journals have changed to accepting them. Some of these journals' reading periods take up to a year. And, again, how could you possibly wait that long in-between sending out your baby? You can't. Don't do it. One exception is if you specifically write a piece with a certain publication in mind. Which I have done before, and sent only to that journal. Or, if you have a piece you just feel strongly is a perfect fit for a certain journal that does not accept simultaneous submissions. Give it a go. Then, if they reject you, have your backup list at the ready.
The same goes for journals that accept online submissions versus snail mail. And, those that charge a small reading fee (usually $3 or $2 per submission). Most journals have changed to online submissions through a submission service like submittable. This is the easiest and quickest way for you to get your work out there. Also, submitting to journals that charge a reading fee is a personal choice. Many do not charge anything but more and more are switching to charging a nominal fee to cover their expenses and weed out the less serious submitters. I have paid these small fees on occasion if it's a journal I believe in. But, try to limit your own expenses to the minimum. Remember, most of these journals can not afford to pay their contributors, except in a few copies of the issue your piece will appear in and perhaps a subscription. This is normal as of today. I have noticed a trend where many of these smaller publications are starting to pay their contributors, however, the majority of these journals are non-profit and the exposure and credits are what most writers are hoping to gain.
So how do you get your proverbial foot in the door of literary journals?
My next post will touch on cover letters.