Elizabeth Gibson gives us an insight into how to get your work accepted into literary journals and introduces her new magazine Foxglove Journal
Submitting your work to a literary magazine can be daunting — I certainly felt out of my depth when I began a few years ago. However, through sending my work out, being an editor at a magazine, and finally starting my own, I’ve learnt a huge amount about the process, and in this last year my acceptance rate has skyrocketed. Hopefully my advice will help you find success, too.
The first thing to do is pick the magazine and the work you’re going to send them. Check if there is a theme and stick to it. If the issue you’re aiming for has the theme ‘Love’, don’t call your poem ‘Love’ – in fact, try to avoid having the word in the title at all. They will likely have a large number of submissions that do this and they don’t want their contents page to be too repetitive.
Secondly, format your work correctly. Unless the magazine’s website says otherwise, single-space poems and double-space fiction, with fiction give a word-count. Do everything in Times New Roman, size twelve. Insert a page break between each new piece by clicking “Insert” then “Page Break” on Word; don’t just keep pressing Enter, as this can screw up the formatting in the long run.
Next, onto the actual submission. Most magazines operate online these days, so you’ll probably be either emailing your work or uploading it to a submission manager (usually Submittable). Emailing is usually pretty simple. Do try and find out the editor’s name, rather than just saying, ‘Sir or Madam’. Try to sound friendly but professional and don’t gush too much about how much you like the magazine; just say it would be great or an honour to see your work there. With Submittable, follow the guidelines carefully, as they vary from magazine to magazine. Sometimes they’ll want your submission to be anonymous, so make sure you remove your name from both the document itself, and the file name.
They’ll often ask for a third-person biography. If no word limit is give, I’d keep it around eighty words. Only go ‘quirky’ if the magazine looks like the sort to want that — otherwise just calmly list the places you’ve been published and any other relevant information, for example any work or volunteering you’ve done in the arts sector.
Then you wait. Maybe you’ll get an acceptance, which is wonderful. Maybe you’ll get a rejection, but then at least that poem or story is free to send elsewhere. Stay positive and always work on honing your craft. I hope this advice was useful — my magazine, if you are interested, is Foxglove Journal. I would love to hear from you!