Literary Magazines: Insider Tips On Getting Published and Dealing With Rejectiion

Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel about caregiving and ALS. Her short story collection, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, was a finalist in the Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Awards. Her fiction has won Gold and Silver Medals from Readers' Favorites International Book Awards, the Barry Hannah Prize, the Ron Rash Award, and many others.

I’ve met many writers so focused on their novels that they’ve never explored the world of literary magazines. Did you know that some literary magazines accept novel chapters? Maybe you could convert one of your chapters into a story. When you’re bogged down in a longer work, seeing your name in print will definitely give you a boost. You can improve your odds by following these insider tips.

literary magazines

You can submit to hundreds of literary magazines, many eager to discover new writers. Match your writing style to the tastes of the magazine’s editors. Give a quick look at the stories they’ve accepted, and see if your story would be a good fit. If the editors don’t snap up your story right away, don’t be discouraged. Editors of lit mags get a ton of submissions.

Keep Your Cover Letter Brief

If you have no publishing credits, keep your cover letter brief. “I’m submitting my essay, ‘The Secret Lives of Goats,’ for your consideration.” If you raise goats and have inside knowledge about their behavior, then mention it. Otherwise, don’t include personal information. Editors don’t want to know how many children you have, how long you’ve been married, or that you’ve “always wanted to be a writer.”

Being Paranoid About Copyright

Don’t be. Literary magazines typically want first serial rights and sometimes the right to put your work on their website. Let them, but do ask for a letter from the editor acknowledging that you have the right to republish the work wherever and whenever you want. The words you want to hear are “nonexclusive reprint rights” and “nonexclusive electronic rights.”

If you eventually put your stories or essays into book form, your publisher will want proof that you have the rights to your material. Many literary magazines are “loosey-goosey” about administrative