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Life After the MFA Series
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February 2021
Last month, we discussed how to locate the readership your work needs and deserves. This month, to round out our three-part series on publishing, we are delving into the nitty-gritty of submissions. Today we will seek advice from editors of literary magazines and literary agents about how to get noticed and learn about their submission pet peeves.
Need some guidance on where and when to submit? Check out our Opportunities for Grants, Awards, and Publications for details on which publications and contests are currently accepting submissions, as well as Poets & Writers' Literary Magazine Database, a carefully vetted, searchable list of open markets.
Want a more in-depth understanding of a journal’s mission and its editorial team’s preferences? Don’t have the funds to subscribe to a ton of journals (P&W’s list boasts 800 entries) or order sample copies? The Review Review was made for you. Every week, it offers reviews of literary journals so you can gain a greater understanding of their missions. Of course, you should read any journal before you consider submitting your work to it. The Review Review should help you to identify those journals.
In addition, the Review Review publishes interviews and insider takes on what excites editors about a submission. For example, in her article “What Editors Want: A Must-Read for Writers Submitting to Literary Magazines,” Lynne Barrett provides insight into editors’ perspectives and how to catch their eye, but more specifically, she discusses what to do with that personal rejection. (Hint: they likely want you to take their feedback, reflect on your work, and submit—a new piece—again.)
Have you identified the journals in which you’d love to see your work? Make the right first impression with advice from five distinguished magazine and book editors from the Believer, Milkweed Editions, Tin House, New England Review, and Orion. These editors speak candidly about what they love and loathe and everything in between in this riveting panel from AWP’s podcast series, “What We Hate: Editorial Dos and Don’ts.”
Perhaps you’ve got a completed manuscript in your hands ready to submit to agents. First, take the time to format your manuscript correctly. Who better than to offer some advice on the subject than the incomparable Ursula K. Le Guin? In 2012, she provided a thorough guide in “Some Guidelines for Manuscript Preparation and Submission.”
Next, turn your attention to your query letter. Writer’s Digest's fantastic Successful Queries series presents examples of successful query letters alongside comments from the agents who accepted the work. What’s wonderful about this series is that the agents do not shy away from talking about both the successes of these query letters as well as what was superfluous, misleading, or unhelpful about them.
Here’s another useful breakdown of the querying process: NY Book Editors' article “How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter.”
Once you’ve crafted your standard query letter, you might consider using a submission management system like QueryTracker. This website offers a free service that can assist you in locating agents as well as organizing and tracking your submissions. Similarly, the website AgentQuery offers a database of literary agents that can assist you in your search.
We will end this month with a fabulous tweet roundup from Chuck Sambuchino over at Writer’s Digest. In “What To Know Before You Submit: 28 Great Tips from Literary Agents,” he collects tweets from agents using the hashtag #pubtip with insightful results.
See you next month, when we'll enter the world of contests, grants, and fellowships.
Warm wishes,
Jennifer January
Communications Coordinator & Membership Assistant