Post: Checklist before submitting to a lit mag


Many publications feature collections of writings, such as short stories, essays and poems. Some include author profiles, interviews, critiques or biographies. The colloquial term for this type of publication is ”lit mag,” which is short for ”literary magazine.” You might also hear a lit mag referred to as a ”literary journal.” 

The first magazine of its type can be traced back to 1684, in France. In the United States, the North American Review was published in 1815, making it the first lit mag in this country. Lit mags typically accept both solicited and unsolicited submissions. To save yourself and the editors a lot of time and effort, you’ll want to be sure to check your submission (preferably more than once) before sending it to request publication.

Make sure someone else has read your lit mag submission

Writers often make the mistake of briefly reading through their own work, thinking it’s great, then sending it to a lit mag, only to be disappointed when it’s rejected. This problem can often be avoided simply by asking one or more people to read what you’ve written before you send it to a literary journal. 

Whether it’s a poem, a story or an essay, allowing someone else to read it is a friendly portal to constructive criticism. If you ask five people to read your story and get zero positive feedback, you might want to keep working on it before submitting it to a lit mag. It’s also helpful to have someone read your submission aloud to you. 

Do not submit to a lit mag without reading the publication

Before you sit down to write with the specific goal of producing a piece of writing as a submission to a literary journal, it would be best if you read the journal you have in mind. The editors who review your work will want to feel like you have a good grasp on the tone of the publication. This is not to say that you must be a cookie-cutter author. However, it is best if you submit something that aligns with the overall style of the magazine you have chosen.

Never write and send immediately—always wait a week, or more

If you sit down and pound the keys for five hours straight, thinking you have created a wonderful story or poem or essay that readers might enjoy, the worst thing you can do is submit it to a lit mag on the spot. Always walk away from your completed work. Let it sit for, at least 24 hours, then carefully read through it again (and, as mentioned earlier, ask others to read it, as well). 

Walk away, yet again, for another 24 hours, and continue this process for a week or more. You might even want to let it sit two or three days in between reviews. Only after your writing has withstood the test of this time of scrutiny should you consider submitting it for publication. 

Check whether the lit mag you have in mind has formatting or submission rules

If you jump the gun and send a submission to a lit mag without first checking if there are submission guidelines or rules to follow, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment. For example, if you send a single-spaced submission to a journal that requires all submissions to be double-spaced, do you think your piece will even make it off the first editor’s desk?

To increase your chances of having a story or poem or essay published in a lit mag, check and double check to ensure that you have met all submission and formatting requirements. 

Don’t give up if a lit mag rejects your submission

Just because one publication rejects your work, doesn’t mean all lit mags will do the same. If you get shut down on your first try, you can be proactive in several ways. First, ask the editors for feedback and suggestions on how you can improve the submission. Make revisions, then send it to another literary journal. You must find a publication that is a good fit for your writing. If your dream is to have your writing published in a lit mag, keep working, until that dream becomes a reality.