Literary Journals: A Starting Place

For many beginning writers, publishers aren’t the place that they want to get started.  While some publishers will be very much into the idea of getting the first publication out for a writer, many major publishers may also feel like this is a gamble.  There will be no record of how your work has done.  There won’t be a definite audience out there.  There’s just a lot of questions about how it will work for you.  It’s not that they don’t want you, but that they’re not sure of how you will do.

So where does a writer go?

Literary journals should be where you turn to next.  These people aren’t going to be there just to help you, but to create interesting compilations of literature.  There will be ones for poetry or short stories or just about anything you can think of.  There are literary journals that use Submittable (an online service for submitting writing) and there’s literary journals that want you to send emails.  But regardless of how they take submissions, they want the first publication rights to the pieces that you’re working on.

Why are these a great starting place?

You’re only putting a little bit of yourself out there at a time and a lot of literary journals don’t require you to pay a thing.  There are some that require a fee, but usually it isn’t that much.  There are even contests around literary journals that will pay money for things that you’re submitting.

What about rejection?

Well, rejection is always an option when it comes to writing.  There’s no way around it.  You are going to get rejected from more places than will accept you, but each time is a learning process. But the best part about getting rejected is that you can move right onto the next place.  You can submit many things to tons of different people and as long as you’re keeping track of what you’re doing, you’re probably going to find something eventually.

What happens when I get accepted?

If a literary journal accepts your piece, then the first thing is to contact any other place that you might have submitted that piece.  Submitting the same piece to multiple place is usually referred as simultaneous submissions.  These are completely acceptable for many literary journals, but you’ll want to double check after that.

Now, literary journals want the first publication rights to your piece, so you’re going to wind up having to wait to publish that particular piece again until it’s already been printed and sent out in the literary journal.  After that point, the piece is yours again and you can do whatever you want with it.

What’s the point of publishing like this?

By getting your work into literary journals, you’re going to have a more solid audience.  Your publisher might think that you will have some places to go with your book to talk to people about the fact that you’re published.  You’re also going to have shown that your work was good enough to go other places.

Submitting works to literary agents has slowly gotten me adjusted to working with the idea of publishing myself.  It’s also helped me get over rejection.  Now I’m sometimes excited for a rejection.  I want to see if the literary journal had anything interesting to say to me about my piece.  And if they did, then I start thinking about what I could do with revisions or with the next piece.

Of course, more literary journals than not come out with form rejections and those are perhaps the most disappointing things to get, but there’s definitely more good that can come out of it than otherwise.


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