Alright, now that we’ve discussed what all goes into a literary journal, it’s time for the most important question of all: How do you get published in a literary journal?
As the editor of a literary journal, I think I speak for a lot of journals out there when I say that it really depends on a host of moving pieces. Obviously, the work has to be good. (That one’s for free.) A great piece of work has to meet up with a journal that both appreciates it and can give it a home. The two are hard to join when literary journals are overwhelmed with quality submissions that don’t seem to follow a theme.
Provided that you are submitting good works to a literary journal that can reasonably house your piece, here are three steps to help get your work published:
1. Read some back copies of the journals you are submitting to.
Know what they like. If the journal tends to feature a lot of dark and depressing poems, send them your grey poems. If the journal highlights a lot of abstract art, send them the canvas you wrecked after your breakup to show what a toll the relationship took on you.
The back copies also allow you to see where the contributors of the current journal have also been published, and that can give you some good ideas for other journals that may be looking for submissions. It doesn’t always mean they pay, or that they will be looking for your style of work, but it is a good place to start.
I cannot emphasize this step enough. If it is difficult to read the first few paragraphs of your short story, it will be that much harder to understand your purpose behind it. Countless times, we have received compelling stories that are just unclear enough to the point where a few editors don’t feel comfortable passing it along to be read aloud in class.
Even if some editors do love the story after a couple of reads, the unclarity within the pages reveals a deeper problem with the story-telling method. If we are unable to figure out the relationship between the characters, the timeline, or the theme of the tale, we cannot in good faith publish it.
3. Follow the journal’s directions on submissions.
It’s a nice touch. Following the directions well lets the editors know that you care about the submission. We understand simultaneous submissions (time is short!), but taking an extra step to personalize your cover letter to the fiction editor or making sure your poems are all on separate pages can put you a step ahead of the competition.
Well, there you have it! Three easy steps to help get you published. We hope this short bit of wisdom serves you well, and remember: Metonym is accepting submissions until October!