Do I need a Strategy to Submit Writing to Literary Magazines and Journals?
The short answer is, if you want a strategy, if it helps you plan and manage your submissions and/or keeps you writing, then YES! There’s no fancy formula for being more successful with publication. It varies from person to person based on their goals and priorities. Some writers want as many publications as possible to get their name out there and build up their C.V. or publication credentials. Others only want to submit to paying markets and contests to bring in extra income or based on the principle that they should always be compensated for their work. Some use publication to push themselves to be better writers and to participate actively in the writing community. And some writers have little interest in publication—choosing to use writing as a creative outlet or to share with family and friends. I’ve certainly weaved in and out of all these approaches over the years and there’s nothing wrong with that either.
Setting some personal guidelines for how and which markets to send your work can be helpful to keep focus on your priorities—and sometimes breaking those rules is completely appropriate. Having some flexibility will make your submission strategy more fulfilling. For example, I often send new poems (which are always my ‘best’ poems at the moment) to top tier literary magazines and journals first, hoping I’ll hit the literary jackpot and be published by The New Yorker or Poetry. So far, no such luck, but I keep trying anyway. You never know when one of your pieces will be the perfect fit for a specific issue. Once I’ve had several rejections from those markets, I lower my sights a bit and start sending to more mid-tier markets. I also make exceptions from time to time; send a poem I wrote for a prompt to a themed call or send some poems to a university journal because I really like their aesthetic and what they’re up to. I definitely lean toward feminist lit mags and can’t help but to send them work, regardless of how new they are or how few followers they have on social media.
Where to start? I’ve created several lists of markets that I turn to for submission ideas and shared them on my web site. You can find lists such as Feminist lit mags & journals, No fee & fast response, and Where to submit formal verse among others under the Where to Submit menu. To see a listing of all the different resources on my site, check out the Start Here page.
Give it some thought—what are your priorities as a writer? What are you currently trying to accomplish? How can your submission strategy help you achieve those goals? Then, once you’ve decided, make yourself some guidelines—or don’t. It’s completely up to you.
Trish Hopkinson is a poet, blogger, and advocate for the literary arts. You can find her online at SelfishPoet.com and provisionally in Utah, where she runs the regional poetry group Rock Canyon Poets and folds poems to fill Poemball machines for Provo Poetry. Her poetry has been published in several lit mags and journals, including Tinderbox, Glass Poetry Press, and The Penn Review; her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017. Hopkinson will happily answer to labels such as atheist, feminist, and empty nester; and enjoys traveling, live music, wine-tasting, and craft beer.