The #1 Thing You Can Do to Up Your Chances of Being Published in a Lit Mag

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Here is what you have to do:

READ THE GOD DAMNED GUIDELINES.

Literary magazines don’t just make up their guidelines as polite suggestions or text to be skimmed. There are often reasons that they set these guidelines forth; for example, the word limit for stories in our lit mag is 2500 because that fits comfortably on 3 pages, and we try to keep our page count low so that the magazine itself is cheaper for the buyers. The submissions per person limit is 3 based on a formula we made up of how many people submit versus how many stories we can accept per month.

And this is the other thing: Literary magazines usually get a pretty high volume of submissions. Reading through all of them takes readers a lot of time and effort. So if some guideline hasn’t been followed and a reader can reject that story to save the time of reading it through, they’re going to take the opportunity.

While I’m at it, here’s another thing I HIGHLY recommend: READ A PAST ISSUE BEFORE YOU SUBMIT.

I recently subscribed to a fairly well-known lit mag that I’d submitted to before, but had never actually read their content. Now that I’ve read a couple of issues, I have a way, way better grasp of the style that they’re looking for. When I think back on the story that I submitted, I’m almost embarrassed, because it was so different from what they usually accept.

And a final note: Those “we have received your submission, thank you” and decline emails aren’t meant to be responded to. Those get sent out en masse by the hundreds; the lit mag isn’t trying to have a personal conversation with you. And definitely don’t write a snarky email back if you receive a rejection; that’s pretty much as unprofessional as it gets.

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I’m sorry if this seems like a rant, but it just makes me so sad to see good prose get rejected because directions carelessly weren’t followed.

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