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10-8 So You Want To Be a Literary Writer

So You Want To Be a Literary Writer?
© Peggy Duffy

Do not ever send a submission to a lit mag without first checking the guidelines. Not only do editors change yearly for some (college-affiliated, student-edited), but most have specific reading periods and will return submissions unread at other times.

A few pay well -- by that I mean $1000 or $500 or even $250 for a story. Many pay a few cents a word, or a token $10 or $15. All should send contributors' copies of the issue you're in, and this can range from 1 copy. Generally it's 2 or 3, but occasionally more. Most will publish a bio.

Go through the guidelines. More accept nonfiction than you think, but some only about books or authors. Publications which immediately come to mind which take essays are The Sun, (longer, more developed essays; a well-paying, highly respected market), Creative Nonfiction,, and Fourth Genre,

But I cannot overstress the idea that you do need to read the guidelines. The majority of these publications are very specific about length, as well as submission period. Some put out theme issues regularly, some on an occasional basis. Some specify only subjects they'll take; others specify subjects that are taboo.

Be forewarned, response time to these literary journals is extremely slow -- I'm talking months and months and months and even a year in some cases. For that reason, most do accept simultaneous submissions.

Read what you submit to. Most these pubs are accessible online and the majority post a story, essay, poem, or a few of each, to give you an idea of their preferred style. About twice a year or so, I make my way over to Borders, order a large latte, and park myself in a chair beside the lit magazine rack and make my way through, taking notes as I go.

Subscribe to any email newsletters: WritersWeekly,, send a blank e-mail to: FundsforWriters,, and Page One, come to mind, which both list contest information and markets. You can subscribe to The Chronicle put out by AWP,, which has a good list of calls for submissions at the end without becoming a full AWP member.  I wouldn't subscribe only for that, though.

I have had some success with Calls for Submissions in Poets and Writers,, as well.

Literary Journals also advertise in other literary journals, not necessarily calls for submissions, but their next issues. Look them up online.

Marketing for literary journals can be a time-consuming affair.

Chapter 21 - Polish, Sell, and Enjoy Rewards!: