For most authors, finding a publisher for your manuscript seems like a daunting, insurmountable challenge. There are so many writers out there, and yet so few publishers and agents who are accepting queries. And when a publisher or agent asks for a biography—or worse, a CV—along with your submission, what are you supposed to include if you’re not famous, established or part of the literati?
If you’re having this problem, you may consider investigating the lesser-known world of literary magazines. While you may be familiar with a few of the larger publications—, , —there are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands) out there. They often publish annually (or biannually or even quarterly) and each is essentially a curated anthology of new work by emerging and established authors. And like every publishing house or agent, each literary magazine acquires different types of work and has different ways in which you can try to submit your content to them.
So what are the benefits of literary magazines to new, unknown authors? Importantly, there are a lot of them, and each one is looking for something slightly different. Some only publish poetry, like . There are others, like , who prefer work from emerging writers. Still more— is one LGBT example—are dedicated to specific demographics of writers. Chances are, no matter who you are or what you write, there are at least a few literary magazines focused specifically on work like yours.
The other benefit of literary magazines is that they have their own readership. While you can buy many literary magazines in bookstores, most readers are subscribers; they receive the magazine issue after issue because they generally like the type of work the editors choose to publish. This is great for new writers who may not have a readership of their own: The lit mag will bring the readership to you. The readership might be small, but it will be dedicated and passionate and targeted where your audience is concerned.
Literary magazines are also usually active within the larger literary community. Whether it’s holding readings, promoting authors’ work in the community, or just making its readers and contributors aware of the goings-on in a particular city or state or region, association with a literary magazine can only help you start to interact with the writers and readers around you. This can help raise your profile and build your fan base.
Plus, each publication in a literary magazine is a line you can add to your CV. Approaching a publisher as an unknown writer is hard. But if you can show that a number of people have already been willing to take a risk by publishing your work for public consumption, publishers and agents may be more willing to, as well. Some lit mags even pay contributors. Though it’s never enough to make up a living wage, it can be a nice bonus that comes with certain publication credits. Keep in mind, however, that paid publications often have much more competition than those that are unpaid, and it’s not necessarily a reflection of the magazine’s quality.
So gather up a few poems, a short story, or an excerpt of your fiction or nonfiction manuscript that makes sense as a stand-alone piece, and get submitting. You can find a list of magazines that accept the type of work you write in various places online. , which runs its own magazine, has a great .
Submitting to a literary magazine is much like submitting to an agent or a publisher — but don't be put off by that! Each lit mag has its own specific submission requirements, so make sure you check their websites and follow those guidelines. Take these submissions as seriously as you do other queries; editors at literary magazines are equally as busy and hold themselves to the same level of professionalism as agents and book publishers; you should do the same.
It’s okay to send the same piece to various magazines, like you would with agents or publishers, but make sure you indicate that it’s a simultaneous submission, and contact the lit mag as soon as you’ve agreed to publish the piece somewhere else. This often means that you’ll need an organisational system to keep track of where you’ve sent which pieces.
Meet a Literary Agent at New York Drinks!
Fancy meeting up with a couple of New York's best literary agents to discuss your work? Then book your free place at the LitFactor Meet Up, on Tuesday, December 17
For more information visit: http://litfactor.com/component/content/article/148-meetup-tuesday-december-17
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