Literary Journals & Magazines


Most writers get the attention of editors, agents, and other writers by first publishing their writing in literary magazines or literary journals. (Many literary magazines and journals will offer you a modest payment for the writing they accept, sometimes by giving you a free copy, or contributor’s copy, of the issue in which your work appears.) Before beginning the submission process, it is essential to research the market to determine which publications are the best venues for your writing. Your publishing success rests on one axiom: Know your market.

The best place to start is our comprehensive and carefully vetted database of nearly one thousand literary magazine and journals, where you can find details about the specific kind of writing each magazine publishes and in which formats, as well as editorial policies, submission guidelines, and contact information.

After you’ve narrowed down a list of magazines and journals that publish the kind of writing you write, carefully take note of the submission guidelines for each, and be sure to follow those guidelines carefully. Submissions to literary magazines do not require an agent.

The World of Literary Journals and Magazines—Determining Which Are Right for Your Work

There are thousands of literary journals and magazines that publish creative writing, but each has a unique editorial voice, tone, viewpoint, and mission. It’s important to read the literary magazines in which you’d like to publish before you submit your work, so that you can determine whether they are a good match for you.

Some literary magazines are online only, while others publish both online and print. Often print journals have websites where you can read current or archived content and get a general feel for the publication. Bookstores often have periodicals sections that include literary journals and magazines you can browse through. Your local library may also carry a variety of literary journals and magazines, and used bookstores sometimes sell past issues. Be sure to peruse online archives, and consider purchasing recent issues of several publications to see where work similar to yours is being published. (Even if you don’t end up publishing your work in all of those journals, you’re helping to support the publishing community as a good literary citizen.) Read contributors’ notes and bios to compare your own background and interests to those of the writers whose work is included in those particular magazines.

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Submission Guidelines

When you submit your work, always be certain to follow the guidelines of each publication. Some magazines specify genres or themes in which they are or are not interested. Some accept submissions only during certain months. Some set word limits. Some set page limits or limits on the number of poems per submission. Most do not consider previously published work. Some specify whether you should include a cover letter. Most accept submissions through their website, via e-mail, or through online submission platforms like Submittable, but in some cases a mailed submission may require including a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).

Some magazines charge a reading fee (typically a couple dollars) for the opportunity to have your work read by the editors. All writers must determine for themselves whether they are comfortable with such a fee. Many other journals charge nothing for submissions.

Many literary publications refuse to read work that is not submitted in accordance with their guidelines, so it is crucial to know what the rules are and to stick to them. You can usually find them on the publication’s website, or somewhere in the pages of the print magazine.

Simultaneous Submissions

The literary world is divided in its opinion about simultaneous submissions—that is, submitting the same poem, short story, or creative nonfiction piece to multiple publications at once. Some literary magazines and literary journals discourage the practice, as it can complicate things for them: If you withdraw a submission from one publication because another has accepted the same work, the one from which you’re withdrawing might already have invested time, money, and staff resources in reviewing the work and might have been interested in publishing it as well. Some publications explicitly forbid simultaneous submissions.

However, because many publications have a long review period—it can take months, and in some cases a year or more, for a literary magazine to accept or reject a piece you’ve submitted—many writers want to submit the same piece to more than one publication at a time. The best practice is to follow individual publications’ guidelines. Most publications that accept online submissions allow for simultaneous submissions, however if they don’t specify their stance, you could indicate in your cover letter that you’re submitting the same piece to other magazines at the same time.

If you do send your submission simultaneously to more than one publication, and one of them accepts it, immediately contact the other publications to let them know that you’re withdrawing your submission.

A handy tool that can help with your submissions is the Poets & Writers Submission Tracker. You can easily keep track of how many times you’ve submitted a poem, story, or essay; the amount of money you’ve spent on fees; the status of your submissions; and how much time has passed since you submitted your work all in one place online.

Cover Letters

It is customary—and sometimes required—to include a short cover letter with each submission you make. Avoid using the letter as a platform to discuss the merits or themes of the work you are submitting or to summarize your writing as a whole. Instead, keep it simple and straightforward, including a brief bio that lists places you’ve published in the past, if applicable. You may also consider mentioning any work previously published by the magazine that you admire to show that you are familiar with their work, and address the specific editor to whom you are submitting your writing, when possible.

Other Resources

Along with our aforementioned Literary Magazines database, we recommend perusing our Open Reading Periods page, which includes journals and presses ready to read your work now. Other online resources include Community of Literary Magazines & Presses’ online Directory of independent literary publishers, Heavy Feather Review’s Where to Submit page, Duotrope, and NewPages.

You might also be interested in registering for our Mapping the Maze online workshop designed for poets and writers of literary prose who are ready to make a concrete plan to get their work published.

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  • Introduction
  • The World of Literary Journals and Magazines—Determining Which Are Right for Your Work
  • Submission Guidelines
  • Simultaneous Submissions
  • Cover Letters
  • Other Resources