Top 7 Mistakes Writers Make When Submitting To Literary Journals

Most literary magazine editors try to keep an open mind when reading submissions of poems, short stories, and essays. But writers who make common submission strategy mistakes might just find their manuscripts are quickly dismissed with a “thanks but no thanks” rejection letter. Here are the crucial faux pas to avoid.

The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make When Trying To Get Published In Literary Journals

Blowing off the cover letter. If a literary journal editor says that he or she wants to read a cover letter, don’t miss this opportunity to make a personal connection.

Skipping the author bio. Some writers believe there’s something principled about declining the opportunity to share their publishing history — to make the point that it is only the writing that matters. Other authors are afraid to include a bio out of fear that editors will judge their writing based on a lack of publishing credits. Whatever your feelings about your author bio, know this: If a literary magazine editor is asking for a bio, then he or she genuinely wants to read it. Skip it at your own risk.

Clicking “send” too soon. Editors of literary magazines are grammar geeks. When you proffer a submission that’s full of typos, editors may react to your manuscript the same way they might cringe at fingernails on a blackboard. Don’t hit the “send” button until you’re sure your submission is thoroughly proofread.

Narrowing the market. Many writers get caught up in the idea that “big name” literary magazines are the only worthwhile publication credits. But many other literary journals present amazing opportunities to both new writers and veterans — such as less competition for awards like the Pushcart Prize.

Submitting indiscriminately. Instead of carefully researching and submitting to journals that best suit their writing style, some writers haphazardly send to any and every magazine under the sun. The result? Everyone’s time is wasted. Plus, many literary magazine editors know one another. If you get a reputation for serial submission spam, you could find yourself blacklisted.

Ignoring submission guidelines. While most editors are willing to accept small oversights or solid explanations for noncompliance, few will tolerate flagrant disregard for a publisher’s policies. If you must break with submission guidelines, it may help if you explain your choice in your cover letter.

And the number one most common mistake writers make when submitting to literary journals…

Not submitting enough.

That’s right. The biggest reason writers fail to get published in literary magazines is simply that they give up before exhausting all of the submission possibilities.

Finding time to write is hard. Finding time to make strong, consistently scheduled submissions can be almost impossible. On top of time constraints, writers also wrestle with research frustrations, query/cover letter etiquette, and countless insecurities. It’s a wonder some writers get any submissions out the door at all!

Author’s Submission Service Est. 1994. We help authors reach their publishing goals with targeted submissions to literary agents and editors.

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