FAQs About Literary Journals

If you have a question about literary journals that isn't addressed below, please send it to faq at writehabit dot org.

Why should I subscribe to literary journals?

The best way to get to know a literary journal's style and tastes is to subscribe to it. And if all writers subscribe to a few literary journals a year, we'll continue to have places to publish.

What is a simultaneous submission?

A submission that is out to more than one literary journal at a time. Simultaneous submissions increase a manuscript's odds of getting published.

If you do simultaneousley submit, state this in your cover letter. And notify every single journal you've submitted to right away once your piece is accepted elsewhere. Journals that accept simultaneous submissions are doing writers, not themselves, a favor.

What should I include in my cover letter?

Some journals spell this out in their submission guidelines, so read those carefully. In general, cover letters should be short and sweet. Address it to the current genre editor. If you can't find his or her name, simply address it to "Fiction Editor" or "Poetry Editor." Don't forget to include a SASE! Here are four examples of cover letters in one PDF.

What should I send my work in?

Follow the instructions in a journal's submission guidelines. If there aren't any (or only partial) instructions, then send your work in an 9x12 manilla envelope. Include your full name and address on the envelope. When addressing the envelope, include either the genre editor's name or, simply, "Fiction Editor."

Why do some editors care about a writer's credits? Don't they base their decisions on the submission alone?

Most journals love to discover new writers and read at least part of every submission. But it's easy to go on auto pilot when reading through a stack of hundreds. Credits, such as previous publications and MFA degrees, cause a reader to perk up. Some journals may even whittle down the pile by pulling out submissions from writers who have had success elsewhere. And some journals need to publish big names to stay financially afloat. Submitting to writing contests is a good way to ensure your manuscript is read, since every submission is on equal footing.

Why does it take so long to hear back from journals?

Journals receive thousands of submissions. (Examples: New Orleans Review receives 3000 a year and Plougshares receives 1000 a month.) Chances are it takes them a while to open your envelope. And somebody has to read all those submissions, which takes time. Most journals have more than one reader, which means a manuscript has to make the rounds. Once a pile of maybes is collected, the editorial team has to meet to decide which if any of those manuscripts to publish. In other words, it's a long process. Patience is a writer's virtue.

For more information about how journals work, click below:

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