Writers that are starting out may find it difficult to get published anywhere. Don’t even think about getting full novel manuscripts out there. It’s hard when you have no publishing experience behind your name.
But there’s a saving grace for people that don’t have any publishing experience yet. Literary magazines are great for getting publishing experience. A lot of them want unpublished work.
Unfortunately for new writers, it’s still hard to get your work published in literary magazines. Some of the bigger name literary magazines are harder to get into, but there are tons of literary magazines out there for you to look at. Not only that, but one piece can sometimes be submitted to multiple literary magazines at a time. This is called simultaneous submission. As long as the magazine allows it and you alert them to the fact that it’s out there, most magazines don’t care that the piece is out there.
There’s another piece of unfortunate news for writers that are looking to get published in literary magazines. That is the fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of time getting rejections. If you’re already discouraged, then I want you to stop and take a breath. Literary magazines do themes and change over time. What doesn’t fit one literary magazine might fit another. When you’re looking to submit to literary magazines, you need to really get involved. You need to know what they’re looking for. You need to know what kind of style they lean towards.
There are some literary magazines that might actually tell you what they’re looking for, but those are few and far between. The best way to do this is to read the literary magazines themselves. This might mean going online and looking at the digital archives. This might mean searching out physical copies of the literary magazines.
In San Francisco, I found a bookstore that was full of literary magazines and magazines for writers. Not only did I pick up the Poets & Writers Magazine for Jan/Feb, but I grabbed Poetry’s January edition (Poetry being a literary magazine for…y’know, poetry), Glimmer Train’s most recent publication, and Tin House’s most recent publication.
And why did I pick these up? Because Glimmer Train and Tin House are places that I aspire to get published. But right now, I know that I need to work on getting published in smaller places to start getting the ball rolling. Those places are dreams. And it’s good to know what they’re doing.
If you’re looking at literary magazines that are run out of colleges, then try each new school year. The staff for those literary magazines change almost every year. The themes will also change. What didn’t work last year may fit this year. It’s really not something that you can predict.
So how do you get published in a literary magazine? You try, try, and try again. Even if you’re rejected, you need to just keep on putting yourself out there. Eventually, someone will pick you up.