We’ve all been there—you’re submitting your work to different publications and contests to no avail. It’s a frustrating, time consuming, and endlessly disappointing phase that makes you want to give up altogether.
Deciding where to submit your short fiction can be massively overwhelming. Not only is the sheer number of magazines and journals practically indigestible, but the act itself is a vulnerable, yet necessary, step towards your publication dreams. You want to make sure your work is getting into the right hands, and so do we! That’s why we’re tackling some top tips to help you ensure you’re submitting your writing to the right places.
Understand Your Experience Level
Submitting your work is important for so many reasons: you gain great exposure, the opportunity to develop your writing skills, experience of being published, and maybe even a little extra cash. For emerging writers, it’s this kind of beginning that’s most likely to launch your writing career, and create the basis for the future book deals you’re seeking.
But before you start sending stories out by the dozen, it’s important to analyze your own experience level. If you’re an emerging or previously unpublished writer, it’s best to start small; send your work to local, more niche journals or magazines who advertise their interest in publishing work from writers like you (they’re out there, trust us). There’s no sense in entering a bigger submission pool filled with experienced writers who are more likely to dominate the stream of acceptance letters. There’s zero shame in starting out—everyone has to do it—but start smart. Understanding your experience level is going to work wonders when deciding who to submit to, and will increase your chances of a ‘yes’. You’ll have that author CV beefed up in no time!
In need of some extra prep? We offer a Prizewinner Package: a three-staged edit designed to help ensure you’re submitting the best possible version of your story.
You can’t reasonably expect a magazine or journal to publish your work without having a well-formed impression of the kind of work they publish in the first place. Actually taking the time to read a variety of journals is such an important part of submitting, so if you haven’t already, subscribe to a variety of magazines and journals you’re interested in, and dive in. If you aren’t ready to make an investment, some bookstores carry individual issues, so keep your peepers open when you’re browsing, or set your sights on online publications where their previously published works are easily accessible.
Getting a good grasp on the kind of content a certain journal accepts means you’ll know what they expect from you, both in terms of genre and tone. This is key to a) tailoring your own work for the publications you’re interested in, and b) finding ones that already fit your niche. Like you, journals and magazines pride themselves on their individuality and brand; don’t assume that your work is suitable for every publication.
Now that you’ve locked down a handful of publications that suit your experience level, as well as your niche, it’s time to get to work. Check the submission guidelines for a word count, and submit accordingly. The same goes for any contests that are open within your scope—is there a specific theme in place? Do you need to include a particular word or phrase? Your attention to detail and willingness to comply with specific guidelines means the the judges’ focus stays on the quality of what you’ve written, rather than the failure to comply with their submission criteria. Keeping track of when and what you’ve sent will help you avoid simultaneous submissions of a single story—which some journals permit, while others explicitly forbid it—and also gives you a timeline for when to expect to hear back.
Remember, the sooner you submit, and the more often you do so, the more likely you are to find your work published. The more you’re published, the more likely you are to get published again. Creating buzz around your name and gaining writing credits, even small ones, is not only a great way to boost your confidence, but it makes your future work more enticing to larger publications. There’s no clear format to getting published—you need to be prepared to face your fair share of rejections, as all writers do—however, by aiming your sights on the right places and working hard, you’re bound to see positive results.
Ready to see how working with a professional editor can help you get your story in the hands of publishers? Sign up for our Publishing Guidebook for a step-by-step plan!
Editor, Writer & Founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.
Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including Scene 360 and Illusion Magazine.
Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for This Side of West, Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for TheAlbatross, and Contributing Writer for The Martlet and Saltern Magazine.
Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.