9 tips for submitting to literary magazines

Submitting to literary magazines, for the first time or the 100th time, can feel like a minefield.

Where should I submit to? Should I write something new just for a specific publication? What kind of magazines will want my work? Where can I find out where I should submit to?

If you find yourself asking these questions every time you finish a story you want to send out into the world, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last.

Here are Silk + Smoke’s 9 tips for submitting your work to literary magazines:

1) Choose the right publication

Whether you have a new piece you’re desperate to submit to anywhere and anyone who will read it or you’re looking for literary magazines to send future works to, the first step in improving your chances of being published is finding the right journals for your work.

There are plenty of places to find literary magazines, from bog-standard Google searches to the #WritingCommunity hashtag on Twitter to online databases listing literary journals in your country to the Scottish Book Trust.

Look for those which align with your signature genre, style, or format of writing. Discovering new publications is the best place to start.

2) Get to know the magazine

Once you’ve selected a magazine or magazines you want to submit to, the next step is research.

Mindlessly sending out submissions to countless magazines without considering what they’re looking for is the literary equivalent of cold-calling. If you submit work without considering the publication’s style guide, submission guidelines, and niche, it will be obvious to the editors.

Make sure you do your do-diligence. Follow the publication on social media to get a feel for their brand personality and tone of voice; read their website content (about page, meet the team, blog articles etc.); and sign up to their mailing list.

3) Read the submission guidelines

This should be an obvious one, but many writers still neglect the submission guidelines. Don’t just skim the page, carefully read it from start to finish.

Many publications will decline a submission (no matter how great) if you have failed to meet their submission guidelines.

If a magazine has set a theme and you’ve sent a story that doesn’t relate to the core concept, or you’ve formatted your submission in 16.5pt Comic Sans when the magazine asked for 12pt Times New Roman, editors may disregard your submission altogether.

For the most part, submission guidelines are only asking for you to make small, simple adjustments (add a bio, insert page numbers, include a cover letter etc.) that make life easier for the editing team to go through submissions.

If the publication asks you to format the subject line of your email in a particular way (e.g. Kim_Jones_Fiction), make sure to follow this instruction. It makes organising submissions simple and shows the editors that you have carefully read and paid attention to their guidelines.

4) Read work by the magazine contributors

Another great tip is to make sure you read work by other authors published in the magazine you are submitting to.

Reading short stories, poems, scripts, and essays by other writers will not only inspire you and help with your own writing, but it will give you an insight into what kind of submissions the publication is looking for.

If you start reading previous issues and realise your style of writing is very different from those previously published, maybe it isn’t the right magazine for your work. Or, if you discover that work in a similar genre or style to yours is a favourite with the publication, you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.

5) Write FOR the magazine

This one isn’t such a concern for Silk + Smoke. Our submission guidelines state that we don’t set themes or have a preferred genre or style. In other words: anything goes, as long as it’s (1) good, and (2) different from the norm.

For many publications, however, they will have a core theme, concept, style, or preferred subject matter. If you do your research, you’ll know what the magazine is looking for and what kind of writing to steer clear of.

If a publication you’d love to be featured in sets out a new theme for their upcoming issue, instead of trying to mold an existing story to fit, write something new, specifically for the magazine.

Creative restraints like word counts, literary devices, themes, essay questions, and writing prompts can be a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Experiment with your writing, try something new, and learn how to craft submissions that publications will love.

6) Get organised with deadlines

There are lots of great websites which catalog lists of magazines and competitions to submit your work to. Many include submission deadlines, word counts, submission fees (if any), and other info you may need to decide where to send your work to.

Search these pages and make a list of the magazines you want to send your work to and the date you need to submit to them by.

Scheduling each magazine submission deadline/competition end date in your smartphone using apps like Countdown+ allows you to set countdowns and reminders of how many months, weeks, or days you have left to send in your submission.

7) Record when and where you send submissions

It’s easy to lose track of when and where you’ve sent your work to.

If your submission is accepted by a literary magazine, you should always notify the other publications you submitted to and ask them to withdraw that piece from their submissions.

Keeping a good record of which publications you’ve submitted to along with dates and the estimated review period allows you to keep track of when you should hear back about your submission, too.

8) Be patient and don’t be discouraged

If you’re a beginner, look for smaller publications that don’t receive thousands of submissions on a monthly basis. As you improve, find your writing style, and start to get published, work your way up to the bigwigs.

Many literary magazines (like Silk + Smoke) are run by small, voluntary teams who review submissions in between work and life commitments. Considering this, please be patient when waiting for a response and understand that not every publication will have the resources to offer 1-to-1 feedback on why your submission wasn’t accepted.

Rejection is a natural part of being a writer, or being in any creative industry, or just being alive!

The best thing to do if your submission hasn’t been accepted is to appreciate that your writing perhaps just didn’t quite fit the brief, the publication was overwhelmed with submissions by more experienced writers, or you just need to keep practicing to get your work to publication standard.

Utilising constructive criticism, actively asking for feedback where the other party has the time and resources to provide it, and acting on suggestions for improvement are the most valuable things you can take away from any rejection.

It’s not the rejection that defines you as a writer, but how you react and move on from it.

9) If you’re successful, share, share, share!

If your submission is accepted by a literary magazine, congratulations! You’ve done it!

Knowing an editor or group of editors enjoyed and have faith in the work you’ve created is a great feeling and something you should be proud of.

Share the publication (whether online or a print edition) with your family, friends, and on social media.

Read and share other work published in the same issue. Connecting with other authors to say you enjoyed their work is a great way to start new conversations about writing, make friends, and become part of a creative community.


Literary magazines to check out:

What tips do you have for getting published in literary magazines? Let us know in the comment section below.

A note from the editor

Welcome to Silk + Smoke, a new literary magazine, based in Scotland, looking for strange and absurd stories for our first online issue.

There are tons of literary magazines out there. Some with specific, niche themes, some that are open to all genres and styles (as long as its good), some that welcome submissions all year round, and some that have a short submission window where countless eager writers ping work their way.

Silk + Smoke will offer a home on this small corner of the internet for the oddities, the misfits, and the downright weirdos.

One of the most daunting things about submitting your work for publication is the feeling that you’re laying your soul bare and sending a little piece of yourself out into the world to be criticised, judged, and sometimes even mocked.

Overly-restrictive themes and stifling constraints that force writers to bend their preexisting stories to fit an awkward concept or completely change their signature writing style don’t help.

The objective of Silk + Smoke is to encourage writers to submit their work in its most raw, unapologetic, uncompromised form. If you exclusively write blackout poetry, great. If you write dense, obscure personal essays, we’d love to read it. If you write weird Beckettian scripts, send them over. If you write out-of-this-world, futuristic sci-fi written in a Scottish dialect and set in Aberdeen, fire it our way!

When you create something unique, personal, and something you’re proud of, it becomes your baby. So, what I’m trying to say is, we want your babies and your monsters. Warts and all.

Check out our submission guidelines to find out more about how to submit short stories, poems, scripts, and creative nonfiction.

If you have any questions or just want to have a chat, drop me an email at: email@silkandsmoke.com

I hope you enjoy the website and, if you do decide to submit, good luck!

– Sophie McNaughton

5 essential podcasts and vlogs for writers

You’ve finally got it. A story idea you’re so excited about that you throw the covers off, jump out of bed in the middle of the night, and start scribbling down the words formulating in your head before they slip away.

You have a clear idea of the plot, you can envision your characters, and you have the perfect ending already mapped out.

But even if the first draft of your story goes that smoothly (which it rarely does), is that enough?

Regularly checking-in with helpful writing resources can open your eyes to new techniques you may not have considered before (story arcs, showing v. telling, scheduled writing v. binge-writing).

These tips and tricks will help you polish up your million-dollar idea into a well-considered, three-dimensional narrative that isn’t riddled with plot holes or cringe-worthy cliches.

Here is our pick of 5 essential writing podcasts and vlogs that will help you refine your skills and master your craft:

1) The Writer Files

Hosted by Kelton Reid, The Writer Files ‘studies the habits, habitats, and brains of a wide spectrum of renowned writers’.

Not only does the podcast comprise interviews with critically-acclaimed authors of fiction and nonfiction, journalists, content marketers, and freelancers, The Writer Files also investigates the neuroscience behind writing and productivity.

The Writer Files is an engaging, informative, easy-listening podcast with unique insights into the writing process and the minds of some of the world’s most prolific writers.

Start with: The Best of ‘The Writer’s Brain’ Part One: Creativity

2) iWriterly

Meg LaTorre hosts YouTube channel iWriterly where she shares tutorials on how to plan and execute your novel writing, approach literary agents, and write pitches and synopses.

iWriterly is your ‘go-to resource for all things writing with an entrepreneurial spin’ and covers a spectrum of different topics from literary techniques to the business of writing.

Whether you need help with character development, plot, dialogue, or story arcs, Meg has created a handy library of resources that take you step-by-step through some of the most complex and daunting aspects of writing.

Start with: How to Start Writing a Novel in 9 Easy Steps

3) Writing with Jenna Moreci

Writer and vlogger Jenna Moreci’s corner of the internet adds some comic relief to the sweet misery of writing.

On Writing with Jenna Moreci is a great vlog on the intricacies of writing and editing. With videos on topics such as first-person vs. third-person, the worst fantasy tropes ever, and 10 tips on pacing your book, this channel offers writers’ practical advice and great tips to take away.

If you have just finished your first full draft of a story and you’re looking for new ways to tighten up your narrative, head over to Jenna’s channel. Her videos will encourage you to look at your story with fresh eyes and consider editing techniques that will help you get your draft ready for publication.

Start with: Writing First Person vs. Third Person POV

4) The Story Studio

Sterling and Stone presents The Story Studio is a podcast dedicated to conversations surrounding how we can all tell our stories better.

The Story Studio preaches that ‘in our crowded world, “knowing your story” cuts through the noise so you can make your mark — whether you want to sell more books, increase profits, or just make a difference. At Sterling & Stone, Story is our business.’

If you’re looking for an insightful, thought-provoking listen on topics such as great villains, how our childhoods inform our storytelling, and even storytelling in video games, this podcast is the one for you.

Start with: Adapting a Story for Film and TV

5) The Script Shop

Hosted by Allyson West and Jack Crumley, Script Shop delves into the world of writing for stage and screen.

Allyson and Jack believe ‘all writers have a true human connection to their work. We highlight this connection by featuring a different script and talking shop with its screenwriter each week.’

This great podcast hosts an impressive line-up of scriptwriters, well-versed in writing powerful dialogue and creating multidimensional productions.

Exploring topics including the human nature behind writing, theme inspiration, and visual storytelling through set design, photography, and cinema, Script Shop is a must listen for aspiring scriptwriters.

Start with: Our Dirty Laundry | Kimberly Solimin | Script Shop Episode 060

Do you listen to any of these podcasts? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.