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A Publishing Primer

Mon Sep 26, 2016, 9:02 AM
You asked for it, so you got it!

Based on this poll, you, our community, want to know more about Publishing. We will be posting publishing opportunities around about every month, now, specifically for literary magazines. But what does that mean for a novice who has never submitted before?

Let me break it down for you.

There are tons of lit mags out there, journals, reviews, and small presses. Some are more reputable than others. So the first step is

Find Your Market

The market is the audience you are targeting, so you should have an idea of your genre (sci fi is great but what type? Hard, soft, etc?) and the demographic of your audience (young? old? between? all of the above?) But even if you get it narrowed down there can be a veritable mountain of places to submit to which can get confusing. There are a few great sites that compile markets and magazines into an easy to search format, the largest being . Sadly, Duotrope is no longer free, but for a writer that plans to submit several stories to several markets, the subscription is worth it. There are other places, such as which focuses more on Sci Fi and Humor, and and are also good places to start. For literary fiction you can also check out

And, you might run across a few smaller mags just by doing a quick google search for lit mags as well. So, how can you tell if something is a publication worth your time? There are several things you want to check:

Quality of Work. Look for high-quality writing. . If well-known writers are publishing in a particular online literary magazine, the publication is probably reputable. If you don’t recognize the names of any writers, Google some of them.

Masthead Information. Look to see who is editing the online journal. If you Google the editors’ names, what do you find? This can tell you a lot.

Calendar of Publications. Look for publications that publish on a regular schedule. Do not assume just because the website exists or the copyright info says the current year that the magazine is still active. Check the current issue and calls for submission to be sure.

Number of Published Issues. How long has the online magazine been around? Because some literary magazines open and fold so quickly, you’ll want to be sure you’re submitting to a literary magazine that is going to be around for a while.

Reading Fees. These you want to watch out for. It doesn't necessarily mean that because a magazine charges a reading fee that it is a scam, but, there are reasons to do research and avoid them, especially if the fee seems high. 3$ is fairly standard for publications that do require them. Above 5$ is high. Sometimes fees are only offered for expedited read. You need to weigh your likelihood of being published or if you're just tossing money at them with little hope, and if you would be paying the same as a postage for a postal submission of the same caliber. Be very wary of anyone that says you must pay for your own publication, this is likely a scam. (For more on the great debate on reading fees, try this helpful article.)

For more advice on what to look for in terms of reputable publications, check out this article.

Research The Publication

Once you have determined a few magazines in your genre/style you feel likely to get into and have determined to be reputable, it's time for you to put in legwork. You should never simply submit, that will lower your chances greatly of getting into the publication, especially the higher paying places. So here's some Do's and Don't's:

  • Read some of the previous issues of the magazine to get a feel for what they want.
  • Read the market's submission guidelines very carefully. Make sure you meet all the requirements.
  • Prepare your manuscript ahead of time. Make sure it is well edited and proofread before sending it.
  • Get a Submittable account. They're ever more useful by the day.
  • Create a system for yourself  to track your submissions. Even a simple excel sheet of where you submitted and on what dates, what your response was, will be helpful.
  • Cast a wide net. Don't pick only one publication and count on it. Have a handful for each story you want to send out.
  • Ignore publishing industry etiquette. Learn to write proper queries and how to fill out submission forms properly.
  • Assume you can bend those submission rules because you're that good. Your submission is likely to be thrown out before anyone reads it if you can't prove you can follow basic guidelines.
  • Put anything you want to submit to a lit mag online. Many magazines require first publication, and will count a site like deviantart is a publication (you have essentially self published it). You can sometimes get away with first drafts as long as you rework them enough for Google not to recognize them. Turning off sharing does NOT stop someone from finding your deviation if they search for it, and, even if you store a deviation or taking it down, it can still take some time for Google's cache to clear. Be aware of this.

Submit Your Work

Now it's time to submit your work. When you're going to submit to a market there are several things you want to look at in terms of how you do it. Become familiar with the following terms, and check to see what the magazine allows and doesn't:

Multiple Subs: This means the magazine will allow you to submit more than one piece at the same time. More often you will find this for poetry.

Simultaneous Subs: This means the magazine will allow you to submit the same story to multiple markets at the same time. However if they allow this and you do this, you MUST withdraw your piece or let the other markets know immediately if one accepts you and you choose to publish there.

Reprints: If a magazine accepts this it means they don't care if a story has already been published somewhere else.

Most places will accept Electronic Submissions (through Submittable, or their own format, sometimes via email), though some are still old school and only accept Postal Subs. In that case, you're to foot the bill for the postage.

Make sure your manuscript follows all stipulation and you haven't gotten your wires crossed and accidentally sent the same thing out multiple times (that aforementioned excel sheet is helpful!), and then send those stories out!

Now, about payment.

There are multiple types of payment.
  • Some contests have a flat fee of x$.
  • Some places will not pay you but offer you a copy/two copies of the journal shipped to you for free.
  • If a market pays, and it isn't a set fee for a contest or anthology, they will either pay by the word, or pay royalties.
Pay by word: Paying by the word goes in three tiers normally: Token Payment (under 1 cent per word), Semi-Pro (between 2 and 4.9 cents per word), Professional (5+ cents per word). These are not exact, and sometimes approximate what will be paid. Check the website always for all details.

Royalties: The trick with royalties is to find out who is marketing what you're going to publish and how much effort they will put into it. Royalties will not help you if no one buys the anthology, or whatever it is.

Remember to start small.
I can't stress this one enough. Evaluate your choices by the payscale. If you are just starting out, don't expect to go pro right away. Yes, a publication needs to be worth your time, but you also need to be worth theirs. Starting small will give you submission practice so you don't make a big mistake with a big publication that could hurt you down the line.

Further Info

And there you have it. There's the short short version. If you want to know more, you can check out the links provided, or any of these articles from previous Project Educate journals:

Project Educate: Lit Publishing WeekPublishing Week
Welcome to Publishing Week hosted by CRLiterature and projecteducate!
What can I expect from this week?
This week we'll be delving into the depths of literature publishing. :iconwooooplz: Oooooh, spooky and scary stuff, right? Not really. Okay. Well, maybe a little, but we'll help make it less so! We'll tackle everything from general resources to what it's like to be on the publisher's side of things. Here is a handy dandy schedule (:new: NOW WITH LINKS):
Publishing Week
Intro by HugQueen
10 Reasons to ALWAYS Read Submission Guidelines by SadisticIceCream 
How To get Published 2.0Publishing Week
It's been a little over 15 months since since I last wrote a "How to" Guide to Publishing for Project Educate. And guess what? Nothing has changed in the last 15 months. The greatest change to happen in Lit Mag submission is the ability to submit your work online. And some of the more established journals just want you to get out your SASEs. My previous article is still available for perusal.  It was written specifically in regards to poetry submissions, but the general tenants hold for other lit subs as well. 

However, I'm sure you all are craving that mineral
I mean, ahem, new and pertinent information Now with GIFs! 
Here's the breakdown: 
First catch your hare.
And by that I mean, write something. Write something that you want to have published. Write something that you will still want to have published once you've shopped it around to j
What Is a Chapbook?Publishing Week
I'm so glad you're here. Because, as a poet and chapbook author, I get this question a lot. AND, since chapbooks are an important part of poetry publishing -- both in terms of what we consume as readers and what propels us forward as career poets -- any poet with publishing aspirations should know about them!
The Short Version:
A chapbook, sometimes referred to as a pamphlet, is like a mini collection of poetry. Usually between fifteen to thirty pages (though some folks say anything under 50 pages is a chapbook), these are like little samplers of a poet's work. Usually the chapbooks are pretty cheap, between $6 and $12, which also makes them super fun and easy to collect for readers.

Traditional Publishing or Indie Publishing?Publishing Week
So you want to publish your book? In this day and age, usually the next question is: should you go Traditional or Indie? Confused 
It's a hard question to answer but I think it's something that only each individual can decide for themselves.
I decided to go Indie after several tries over ten years of submitting my manuscript to publishers, getting feedback, re-writing the book and then submitting again. Over and over the feedback was that because my work wasn't mainstream science fiction that the publishers weren't prepared to take the risk. I came to a point where I realised that I needed to decide if I wanted to keep trying to get Traditionally published, and likely end up rewriting my book into something I never wanted it to be, or if I wanted to go Indie. Now, I've never looked back since I decided to go Indie. It was hard work with a very steep learning curve but it was all worth it. I love the control of being an Indie
A Quick Guide to Publishing ResourcesPublishing Week
A lot of you are probably familiar with my extensive Publishing Resources List, and if you are, you probably know that it’s gotten rather…unwieldy. :shifty: This article will serve as a quick guide to the most essential resources I’ve collected, so you don’t get too overwhelmed when you’re starting out.
My Idiot’s Guide to Lit Mag Publishing and Idiot’s Guide to Book Publishing are two good overviews of the most popular types of publishing. Another great resource for those of you hoping to publish books is this chart, which covers the differen

Happy Submitting! Look for our Publishing Opportunities every month!

Tumblr Lktaa7sjaw1qzhvg4o1 500 by doughboycafe


Add a Comment:
saevuswinds Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016
Thank you so much! This was very helpful and detailed :)
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2016  Professional Writer
Quite welcome!
Lily-Lucid Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for all this! It's really helpful! Do you know if novel publishers will count anything posted on Deviantart as self-published?
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016  Professional Writer
Mostly I'm going to say err on the side of caution. Posting full chapters is probably not smiled upon by most traditional book publishers. Excerpts could be ok if they are promotional but, is it worth taking the risk? My personal policy is always to scrub the internet before I submit.
Lily-Lucid Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Okay gotcha. Yeah I was a little concerned.
palaeochannel6 Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016
Good stuff! One thing, though; I believe 'multiple submissions' refers to submissions in more than one category rather than just more than one piece at a time. For instance, a packet submission of 5 poems as well as a separate submission of short stories at the same time or during the same reading period. Many markets discourage this and ask that you wait for a response before you submit in the same or another category. Some don't mind submissions in multiple categories from the same submitter.

Also, some stuff about 'Simultaneous Submissions', because this can get confusing even to someone who's been at it for a while:

For poetry, most markets ask that you don't withdraw the entire submission if individual pieces are accepted to another publication, but rather remove only those accepted.

Different publications have different rules for withdrawing pieces if they're accepted elsewhere.
Many allow you to simply add a note on Submittable detailing which individual poems you want to withdraw. You can do this by clicking the 'Activity' tab while viewing your submission, then leaving a comment in the field.

Some ask that you email the poetry editor directly and withdraw the necessary pieces.
It can vary.

Poetry Magazine asked me to 'request' edits using submittable, which needed to be approved by the admin. Then the protocol is to delete the accepted poems from the file, update the cover information, and re-submit. Vine Leaves asked me to re-submit the entire submission even though one poem was still in consideration, for some reason.

Some, like Sycamore Review, ask for an email. If this is the case, often an email header like "Partial Poetry Withdrawal" will work. Address the email to the poetry editor(s) by name or, if that information isn't available (it should always be available, red flags if it isn't), to the first listed editor in the masthead or, generically, to "Poetry Editor".

If the publication does explicitly allow simultaneous submissions (I've always abided by the rule that if it doesn't mention it, don't do it), but it doesn't give specific guidelines on how to do this, I usually look to see if the publication has comments enabled in the 'activity' tab in submittable. See, this gets confusing.

Some publications disable comments on Submittable. If you do see an option to leave a note on your submission to that publication, then withdraw the pieces using this function. If the publication has disabled this option, then generally the next option is to just email the poetry editor directly.

"Poets&Writers" has one of the most comprehensive, free and searchable databases of literary markets looking for unsolicited submissions.

That's always a go to. Search by pay scale, genre, print/online, etc.

doughboycafe Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016  Professional Writer
Thanks, all really helpful, because as a prose writer, I know little about how poetry works. Definitely crucial to know how the simultaneous subs for poetry works. Hey by the way I've got a publishing q&a thread up over on the forum, want to stop by and field questions about poetry?

As far as multiple subs goes I've always seen it at least for prose, and in things like anthologies, is that they're allowing you to submit two pieces for the same thing. But then I've also seen it like, we're a magazine that does speculative fiction so you can try a sci fi piece and also sub a horror piece or something, depending on what they're looking for, like you said. Also I've seen sometimes it's asked for in terms of poetry, like, we need 5 pieces from you and we'll pick 2 or that type of thing. Is it very frequent?
palaeochannel6 Featured By Owner Sep 27, 2016
I'll pop over to the thread!

It's frequent that magazines will ask for a packet of several poems. They usually have minimum and maximum requirements to give them a good idea of your work. The most common seems to be minimum of 3 and maximum of 5 poems, some ask for much more but they overwhelmingly ask for a minimum.

I'm glad these topics/outreach exists! When I first thought about submitting, I was so intimidated by everything that I gave up for a while.

I'm glad I got back in there, though!
BATTLEFAIRIES Featured By Owner Sep 26, 2016
:heart: rvmp 
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