What Editors Want: A Guide to Literary Magazine Submissions

Jennifer Mendez Editorials, Letters From The Editor, The Writing Process, Writer's Resources


Lynne Barrett, staff writer for The Review Review, wrote an interesting piece. Titled “What Editors Want; A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines,” it immediately caught our attention. It began, easily enough, by shedding light on how magazine editing actually works:

“There may be two editors, or five, or a rotating group of a dozen student-editors on a board, but for purposes of this essay, let’s consider one who, if not totally in charge, has a large say in what goes on. This editor is committed to the magazine, to it reaching a readership, to its identity and survival.”

The last line is the gem here, telling readers the focus of the magazine editor. This is important for one reason: it tells readers what the editor needs to accomplish, so the writers can mold their content accordingly.

“Remember the editor’s deepest wish: Send something perfect for us, please.

So your job is to help the editor by sending work that is developed, complete, thoroughly revised, and—of great importance—appropriate for the magazine.

To do that last part of your job well, you have to read the magazines.”

The Highlights

Barrett goes on to pinpoint valuable reminders, like keep records of what you submit, and where. Ensuring each submission is not only appropriate content, but also formatted in the specified method dictated by the publication. Remembering to add a cover letter, if necessary.

There are many other points, including how to be polite when getting rejected. Barrett even explains the difference in each kind of rejection (hint, not all are terrible).

What You Should Know

Frankly, this article is everything a writer should know about literary submissions, except for one major point: the why. Why should anyone submit to these publications?

The reasons, of course, are simple enough. Editors read these magazines, along with agents and publishers. It’s exposure for writers. Oftentimes, it can lead to “best of” anthologies.

The trouble is keeping  strong, and persisting, until someone doesn’t reject your story.

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