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From Ink to Industry

From Ink To Industry
Tips to getting published

Are you a creative writer with a stack of polished poems and/or short stories consuming your desk(top)? Congratulations on finishing and revising (and revising again) your pieces! “Now what?” you ask. It’s time to find an authentic audience. Let’s get your name out there.

Why not submit your works to some literary journals? The more markets your creative writing appears in, the better. There are thousands of literary journals you have probably never heard of—some consumer magazines, some run by MFA students (Boston University’s AGNI is my personal favorite), others by independent lit lovers—but, either way, they are worth perusing. Publishing works in literary magazines will bring you additional exposure, new readers, and maybe even literary connections or prizes—if you’re lucky. Just follow these steps:

■ Be sure your work is polished. Revise. Send it to an editor/well-read friend. And revise again. No editor wants to publish a piece that is full of typos or major plot issues. If you don’t want to spend the time revising it, why would anyone want to read it? Editors are very selective because their magazine’s reputation is on the line. Make them love your piece.

■ Subscribe to,, and/or These are free sites, offering databases of literary markets accepting submissions. The database typically includes each market’s history, editorial interviews, submission guidelines and statistics, and website links. Duotrope also offers a submission tracker, which records the date and location of submissions. It will keep you organized and save you from filling in a dreadful spreadsheet. Use it!

■ Do extensive research to submit thoughtfully. I mean, read literary magazines widely in order to get a feel for their style and desires. Or at the very least read the free samples and previous journal pieces available to you. You don’t want to submit your experimental poem about misogynistic aliens to The Bellevue Literary Review. Does your piece fit the journal? Also be cognizant of their circulation number, ranking and praise. Be selective, but not picky.

■ Be mentally prepared to face the slings and arrows of rejection. It will happen often. Being rejected is one thing all of us writers have in common. I’m willing to guess that Joyce Carol Oates even has a stack of rejections. Bear in mind that these markets are receiving hundreds of submissions a day. Keep submitting.

■ Construct a solid bio letter. This is the first piece of writing the editor will read, so make it concise and interesting. Sure, list a few of your publications, but I suggest adding a small interesting note about their journal or about yourself. This will help you stand out of the slush pile (the place where manuscripts without referrals go—allegedly) towering on their desk.

■ Read and follow the submission guidelines carefully. This appears to be the simplest step, right? When you’re sending six pieces out to a hundred markets (yes, it might take that many), the rules almost begin to blur—but one careless mistake can land you a denial letter, one not based on your writing at all. Pay close attention to the word limit, theme preferences and submission deadlines.

As a writer, you have a unique voice and perspective that deserves to be heard. Get out there and submit, submit, submit! Good luck.

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