13 May 2013

finding the best markets for your writing

May Submit-O-Rama: Finding the Best Markets for Your Writing
You’ve got the poems. You’ve snapped the photos. You’ve written the memoir. You’ve perfected the story. Congratulations, it’s now time to face the big question: Now what?

For some writers the hard part of submitting their writing isn’t settling into a submission session … it’s determining where to send their work! With the thousands of available presses, journals, magazines, zines, and more out there with open calls at any given time, narrowing the playing field down to just five, or ten, or even fifty journals can feel like a nightmare. The good news is there are tons of resources out there for you to figure out which markets are looking for whatever it is you’re writing. The bad news is that it takes a lot of preliminary groundwork to make the most of those resources. Getting back to the good news, figuring out what it is you want is most of that preliminary groundwork.

start small (but not too small)

What are the themes, subjects, genres, etc. your work falls into? It’s probably a little too vague to say, “I write poetry, and I want a market that publishes poetry.” Guess what? There are thousands of them. What might help is to break things down a little further. If, instead, I’m saying, “I write poetry that deals with nature, food, and …” then I know that the journals I’ll be looking to submit my work to should probably be journals with a focus on nature, food, and whatever other topics I’m writing about. The same goes for any genre. If you are a fiction writer, knowing that your fiction deals primarily with the weird or fantasy will quickly drive you away from any journal that states they’re looking for … well, anything that’s not the weird or fantasy! The caution here is to avoid becoming too specific. Don’t rule out a journal because you are a black-and-white photographer and Journal X publishes mixed media. Don’t rule out Journal K because you write haiku and Journal K publishes “various Japanese forms.”

know your level (but also: climb)

Are you just starting out or a seasoned veteran of the publication world? Knowing where you are in your writing career will also help you figure out which markets to submit to. If you’re just starting out, seek out journals that welcome submissions from “fledgling” authors. Keywords to look for from a journal if you’re a new writer are: fledgling, beginning, emerging, and “new voices.” There are even some journals who only publish beginners, because people in the publishing world know it’s hard to be the new kid on the block! That being said, don’t limit yourself to “newbie” presses: who’s to say you’re not ready for Glimmer Train, or The New Yorker, or the North American Review, or …?

be flexible (but don’t break)

Almost every writer has that eventual goal of being paid for his or her writing. But guess what? It takes a long time to get there … and if you’re pursuing publication in literary journals or magazines, chances are it will take even longer. Just because your goal is to “get paid” doesn’t mean you should dismiss non-paying markets. Similarly, just because your dream is Big Name Journal X, Y, or Z doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also consider Just Starting Out Journal A, B, and C. However, you must also be careful not to compromise yourself as a writer. Every place you submit should be a place you would be proud to be published in. And just because the current market for writing is flooded with this or that genre doesn’t mean you should “sell out” and give up your writing focus to fit the mold. Standing out is just as important as fitting in.

research (but also: play)

Finding the perfect market for your writing is not as easy as opening a book of publishers, closing your eyes, and letting fate decide. It takes research. Read the journals you think you might submit to. Try to find interviews with the editors. Stalk the blogs or other writings of the editorial staff and previously published authors of a particular market. Know what you’re getting into before you dip your toe into that water! On the other hand, sometimes finding the perfect market for your writing is as easy as opening a book of publishers, closing your eyes, and letting fate decide. Sometimes it takes a little play. Sometimes it takes falling in love with a journal’s name and just going for it. Sometimes it takes knowing this is the top market in the literary world and determining that you’re going to get in. Sometimes it takes submitting … and submitting again … and again … and again. Do the work, study up, but also be sure to have fun with it!

bottom line

The bottom line is: finding the perfect market for your writing takes a lot of work, and careful consideration, on your part. You have to know what it is you’re aiming for before you rocket your work into the world. Sometimes starting the submission process means taking a day just for research. Personally, my submission process takes a while to get started because I begin with sorting my poems, creating potential submission packets, researching journals that those packets might fit, and a few days later finally getting to the work of submitting! Don’t be afraid to go slow, and find the places that are perfect for your work!

your turn

How do you go about finding the perfect markets for your work? Do you spend a lot of time researching publishers and journals, or are you looser with your process? Share your tips and techniques in the comments below!


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Check out the six Our Lost Jungle Submit-O-Rama Challenges!:


  1. For this SOR, I've been using the Poets & Writers list and filtering by subgenre. That way, I know I am looking at publications that are interested in at least one of the topics that I cover in my writing. I sorted out the group of poems that I am choosing from at the beginning of the month. I've been picking which ones to submit where as I go along.

    1. Great strategy, Michelle! Thank you so much for sharing!! :)


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