How & Why to Get Published in Literary Magazines

Jessica Bell, co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, shares some great tips for how to submit your work to literary magazines to help you get noticed.

Cover image of Vine Leaves Literary Journal issue 6

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 6

Authors often overlook literary magazines or forget they even exist. But what many fail to realize is that they offer the perfect opportunity for you to get your name and work out there, available to the public. Let’s face it, the more you and your books have the chance to be noticed, the better.

Getting your work published in a literary magazine is a bit like having proof that you’re a worthy read. Why? Because it means there are editors out there who loved your work enough to include it in their publication. A publication that they consider their pride and joy. No literary magazine or journal is going to publish work that isn’t good enough. Their reputation is on the line, and they want to make sure that the loyal readers they have gathered over the years will stick around.

“What readers?” you ask. “Who really reads these things anyway?”

Writers. Lots of writers. And more importantly, literary magazine editors. They all want to see what their fellow magazines and journals are publishing. And there’s always a chance that you’ll make great connections with these editors, too.

Reach Writers By the Score

I’m the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and I can tell you for a fact that there are more than a few handfuls of authors that we’ve published which I now follow on various social media platforms, whose writerly news I like to pimp. I love their work and I think they deserve to be noticed. I’ve even bought books by authors that we’ve published.

See what’s happened here? Not only have these authors had their writing published in a literary magazine which they can flaunt on their website, but they’ve made a new fan, a sale and wowed a magazine editor enough to gain extra web exposure for subsequent published works. Pretty handy, yes?

But your chance of making great industry connections doesn’t stop there.

The community of writers that regularly submit to literary magazines is huge. And I can guarantee that if your work gets published in a literary magazine, every other writer that is published in that same issue is going to check you out. Why? Because they want to see what other writing their work is being associated with.

And guess what’s going to happen when the issue these writers are published in is released? They’re going to share it with all their friends and family. And their friends and family are, of course, going to share it with their friends and family (because everybody likes to know a published author, don’t they?). And all these people are going check the magazine out and read their friends’/family members’ piece(s). This means that these people could potentially read your work too. Bam! More authors to discover and connect with. More exposure.

Explore Every Opportunity

Cover of Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 5

Vine Leaves Literary Journal Issue 5

If you’re new to the fabulous world of literary magazines, I suggest the very first thing you do is subscribe to The Review Review’s newsletter to get all the latest news in lit mags delivered to your electronic doorstep.

Then, the very next thing you should do, is become a member of Duotrope is an established, award-winning writers’ resource whose listings cover the entire spectrum. They offer a robust search feature to help you find the perfect match for your work from thousands of current fiction, poetry, and non-fiction markets. They have also compiled millions of points of data on the publications that they list into useful reports that help you make smart submission decisions. They also have a submissions tracker, which will keep you organized. You’ll know what you sent where, when to expect a response, and when, if necessary, to write a follow-up query.

While you’re at it, I also suggest you check out which offers colourful “news, information and guides to independent bookstores, independent publishers, literary magazines, alternative periodicals, independent record labels, alternative newsweeklies, and more”.

Try Entry Level Options

Before I sign off, I must stress that you don’t ignore non-paying and token-payment markets. In fact, if you’re new to this, I suggest you focus on these for now. The list is massive, and if you submit widely, you’re bound to spark the interest of at least one editor. And if you collect a decent amount of publishing credits, you have a better chance of being published by the big guns like Granta, Tin House, or The Paris Review.

Some weekends I like to go on what I call “a submission binge”. I gather all the pieces of short fiction and poetry that I want published, and submit them all to about 50 different markets that accept simultaneous submissions. Then I wait. The last time I did this, I had eight acceptances. And I was fortunate in that they all chose different pieces, so I didn’t even have to withdraw any of my subs.

So what are you waiting for? Get your work published in literary magazines, and get noticed, today!



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21 Responses to How & Why to Get Published in Literary Magazines

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  2. marc nash October 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you for this Jessica. I’ve submitted experimental pieces like you and had mixed results, it’s quite a small part of the literary journal market as you say.

    I was particularly interested in your analysis of who reads such magazines and can’t help feeling this is part of a wider problem of contemporary writing/publishing, that like social media it is largely writers talking to other writers and reading each other’s stuff. Of course writers are readers too, but it seems very hard to break out of a peer bubble and reach readers who just like to read. Somehow that has to be cracked. And I agree with you about validation and potential exposure/network of the editor is no small thing to achieve, but it still doesn’t really threaten to break open the wider problem I’ve cited.

    Still, back to monitoring my current 4 very experimental submissions and to await their fate. Thanks once again for posting such an informative piece

  3. Bob Mitchell July 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Great article, Jessica. Larry Dunlap in our LinkedIn Memoir Writers Society pointed me toward it. He has been promoting this idea for some time. It certainly makes sense. I wonder where my story would fit, which venues. I sang opera for 30 years as an amateur, and my story chronicles the trials and tribulations of trying to make it into the big time. I see my story as niche. What literary platforms would be interested in it?

  4. Anne R. Allen June 28, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    This is such important advice. I keep hammering people on my blog to write more short pieces and send them to literary journals. This is how you get your name out there and get cred as a writer. Whether you self-pub or trad-pub, being “vetted” by a literary journal establishes you as a professional. Great piece, Jessica!

    • Jessica Bell June 28, 2013 at 9:09 am #

      Thank you, Anne. Exactly! So many benefits. Submitting to lit mags should become a part of writers’ marketing plan, I think!

  5. Alex J. Cavanaugh June 27, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    Excellent advice, Jessica! That’s an area I’ve not explored, although I know I should.

  6. Orna Ross June 27, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Lovely contribution Jessica and thank you. I think literary magazines and author publishing fit together really well. You’ve explained perfectly how they can open the way for literary writers, who can struggle to get noticed in other outlets.

  7. Laura Marcella June 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Great advice, Jessica! My college creative writing professor introduced me to NewPages and Duotrope. Both are terrific resources for submitting to literary journals.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

  8. DG Hudson June 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    Great advice, Jessica. I’m interested in doing more submitting to literary mags. Or your vignettes in Vine Leaves. Thanks for your info. I knew about Duotrope.

    Paris Review – how great would that be? Good way to inspire.

    • Jessica Bell June 28, 2013 at 9:06 am #

      I am still yet to be accepted into the big ones. But that’s because my work is quite experimental. I’ve actually stopped submitting altogether to the popular magazines as my writing just does not gel with what they’re about. But that’s okay. Everyone is different!

  9. Christine Frost June 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Thank you for this article–I was just starting to think about looking into trying to get published in literary journals, but wasn’t sure where to start (so many that I knew well seem to have faded away over the years!)–great info here.

    • Jessica Bell June 28, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Cheers, Christine! I hope you find some great markets for your work.

  10. Matthew MacNish June 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    Vine Leaves is brilliant.

  11. Jessica Bell June 27, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Thanks for having me today. It was a real pleasure! If anyone is interested in submitting to Vine Leaves, our next submission window opens July 1st.

    • Larry J. Dunlap June 30, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

      I’m so excited to have dropped in to read your article today. I have just recently come to the same opinion you express here myself recently, and looked for a way to enter this field. I’m writing a memoir that I hope will be considered in the literary field, and I’m certain the only way to accomplish this will be to get certain aspects into various literary journals and magazine for the very reason you mention. I’m hoping I can find something you’ll like in the pieces I’m working on.

      I’ve recently been promoting this concept in the LinkedIn memoir writers groups I belong to, it’s surprising how many people fell that now they’ve written their book, they haven’t the first idea of what to do next. The thing to be doing is writing, and publishing, and shorter pieces help sell the centerpiece. Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging post. I’ll share it within my networks.

  12. Jessica Bell June 28, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Thanks for reposting, Shawn.


  1. From ALLi: How & Why to Get Published in Literary Magazines - Shawn E. Bell - June 27, 2013

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