It might be obvious to follow the submission guidelines of each literary magazine you submit to, but I’ve been tripped up myself because I wasn’t diligent enough, or thought I knew when I didn’t, and I’ve been teaching long enough to understand that following instructions isn’t that easy, or even self-understood. I wouldn’t say success depends on following the instructions, but failure certainly often comes from not following them.

So, my rather obvious point today is: Follow the guidelines.

  • Check each literary magazine’s website before you go to the trouble of sending your work. They do update them (Well, most do. If I see one that hasn’t been updated since 2008, I worry.) Before I published my list of the best literary magazines that don’t accept simultaneous submissions, I went to all those websites, and guess what, some who’d been on my list were now saying they do accept simultaneous submissions. The Kenyon Review was one of them (their reading period starts today!), and was rather happy to see that because that is one of the most acclaimed literary magazines in the U.S.
  • Double check their reading period (they often change), and don’t send when they don’t read. Duh, I know, but I had to say it. Online submissions thankfully usually prohibit you from committing that faux pas but with snail mail submissions, you’re in control. Apropos those, sometimes they want you to send to a genre editor, or indicate the genre on the envelope.
  • Watch out how they want you to prepare your manuscript. Some require you to take off your name, something I tend to slip up on. I’m no saint here, I’ve gotten notes back from editors to please resend without my name.
  • Heed the word limit, particularly for online magazines who feel readers are not going to read on the screen what would amount to a 20-page essay. There have been a few places I really wanted to submit a particular piece to but couldn’t because of the word limit.
  • Mind the theme issues. These are tricky because often it means you can’t send them anything because you have nothing that fits their current theme, but take note of upcoming ones, perhaps you have a piece that fits.

Should you feel bogged down now with all these administrative details after reading this, you have every right. Submitting is an administrative chore and in no way related to the creative pursuit of writing. But if you want to be published, you have to deal with it.

Alright, I’m done with being “Captain Obvious,” as my son would say, but please share if there are any obvious pointers I missed.