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Five things literary journal editors want you to know (plus their best tips for submitting)

Thinking of submitting to a literary magazine? Read this first.

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Five things literary magazine editors want writers to know

    1. Many of them are volunteers.

      “I don’t think folks realize that a lot of the time literary magazine staff – unless they have some serious backing from a wealthy funder or from a corporation (like Medium) or a university – may be working for FREE (or very low costs) because we believe in the mission and others’ work and giving visibility,” says Jennifer Baker, a contributing editor at Electric Literature.

    2. You can submit speculative fiction even at journals that haven’t traditionally published the genre.

      “We have received and published more literary science fiction, fantasy, fabulism, and so on over the past few years, and we anticipate this trend continuing,” says Shashi Bhat, editor of EVENT.

    3. They don’t want to make edits…though they will.

      “We have some pieces that are almost ready to publish when they come in, and we limit the amount of pieces we do intense work to a few per issue,” says Alexandra Watson, executive editor of Apogee Journal. “We do work closely with writers, we use ‘suggested edits’ in Google Docs, and we’ve had good experiences working closely.”

    4. Some pay through Venmo or PayPal – but they’ll give you a paper check if you want one.

      “Sometimes we hear from writers, ‘Oh, this is the first story I’ve been paid for. Can I have a paper check? I kind of want to keep it.’ I love it when that happens,” says Bodega editor-in-chief Cat Richardson.

    5. A rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

      “If I’m not interested in this, don’t take it personally,” says Beth Staples, editor of Shenandoah. “I liken it to dating. If I don’t fall in love with you, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. We’re just not a right match.”


Thinking of submitting? Heed these four tips from literary journal editors…

  1. “Read the type of work you want to submit and ask yourself what gets you excited about reading it. Apply that to your own work.” —Beth Staples, Shenandoah 
  2. “If you’re responding to a specific current political reality, think about something that has been overlooked and has urgency.”—Alexandra Watson, Apogee Journal 
  3. “If you’re out there submitting and don’t hear back, please understand it is being read – read carefully by people who love to do it. We want to respect your piece, but it might take time.” —Carrie Muehle, TriQuarterly 
  4. “[We look for] honest work that feels as if it has far more purpose than a writer wanting to write a story.”—Tara Laskowski, SmokeLong Quarterly