Getting published in literary journals takes research, time and ability to tolerate rejection. If you’ve got passion and persistence, give it a try.
In Canada, literary journals can be seen as a training ground for new writers. Some book publishers look at publication in literary journals as proof of a writer’s ability, professionalism, and dedication to the craft. A portfolio of publications in these journals can help when you approach an editor with a book proposal.
Competition for publication in Canadian literary journals is fierce, but if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Know your journals. Every literary journal has its style and preferences. Go to the magazine store or the library and read the journals you’re thinking of submitting to. Does your work match the tone and quality of the work being published? If not, don’t waste the postage. Save your writing for a venue where it fits. Here’s a list of Canadian journals to get you started.
Read the journal’s submission guidelines. Most literary journals post their submission guidelines online. If not, you can contact the journal and ask them to mail you a copy. Pay particular attention to word count limits and months of the year that the journal accepts submissions.
Don’t write about your pets. Seriously. Also avoid cliche topics and story lines, a stream of consciousness narratives, and genre fiction. There are markets that publish these types of writing, but literary journals are not the place.
Triple-check your spelling and grammar. Editors are very busy. If they encounter a spelling error or a basic grammar mistake in your submission, chances are they’ll stop reading. Show them that you’ve taken the time to prepare your work.
Write a brief, professional cover letter. Address your letter to the editor. Introduce yourself and any previous publications you have. If you have many, stick to the most recent or impressive, and if you have none, don’t mention it. Instead list any writing courses you’ve taken or awards you’ve won.
Make it easy for the editors to reply to you. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope with your manuscript. If you are submitting from outside of Canada, enclose Canadian stamps or an International Reply Coupon. If you wish to have your manuscript returned to you, make sure you enclose enough postage to cover the costs. An email address is also important.
Keep track of what, where and when you’ve submitted. Keep good records of what you’re sending out. You don’t want to send the same work back to a journal that already rejected it. Literary journals discourage simultaneous submissions – that is, sending your story to more than one journal at a time – but most will accept simultaneous submissions as long as it’s stated in your cover letter. If you get an acceptance from one journal, you must immediately notify the others that you’re withdrawing your submission.
Be prepared to wait. Small literary journals are usually understaffed and overworked. Expect to wait at least three to six months before you hear a reply. If it has been longer than this, you can email the journal and politely inquire about the status of your submission.
Get comfortable with rejection. A small literary journal in Canada will get anywhere from 1,000 – 1,500 fiction manuscripts a year, and of those will be able to publish approximately 10. Even well-established writers get rejected. Keep this in mind when you get your rejection letters. If you get any personal comment from the editor, congratulate yourself. Then hang the rejection letter on your wall, take a deep breath, and send your workout again.