1. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego

    Publishing Short Stories and Creative Non-Fiction in Literary Magazines

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Anthony Martin, Apr 18, 2013.

    I poked around the forums and did a few searches for threads about submitting to literary magazines and found very little. I started this thread with the hopes of starting a conversation about this topic, as the lit mag submission process is one that I am constantly involved in and learning from.

    For starters, I am ever-searching for best practices when it comes to cover letter format for short stories submitted in electronic form. The Missouri Review posted a rather informative blog on this topic, which I suppose is a good place to start. The advent of Submittable is certainly worth mentioning as well, since this tool provides a "Bio" field in your profile that is automatically populated when you submit this way.

    Does anyone have any tips or resources about short story cover letters?
     
  2. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Reading the submission guidelines is probably the most important thing to consider when submitting. Other than that, I tend to follow a fairly basic cover letter format. I address the letter to the fiction editor (I try to find the actual name of the person). In the body of the letter I include the title of the story and a rough word count. If they ask for a bio, I'll include it after the name of the story and the word count, and then I sign the letter. And that's basically it.

    I remember reading an article about a famous writer who once sent a cover letter that looked something like this:

    Of course, a new writer probably shouldn't follow this format.
     
  3. jeepea
    Offline

    jeepea Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2013
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Colorado
    I don't think you need much more than the name of the story and word count plus a brief reference to your last couple of published stories. If you don't have any, I wouldn't mention it.

    The belief that writing a great cover letter will help get your piece published just isn't true. The last magazine I submitted to didn't even want a cover letter. They're only interested in the quality of your work. The fact that you dazzle them with a brilliant cover letter will quickly fade if they put down your story after a couple of pages. Write the best story you can, follow the submission guidelines and hope for the best. I think the first sentence in the last paragraph of the blog you linked to says it all:

    "A professional cover letter is all we ask, and even minus that, if the work is excellent, we don’t really care."
     
  4. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    Amen

    Both of these responses were helpful--thank you. Though I always follow the guidelines and keep it brief, I sometimes find myself in no man's land when the guidelines are vague or unspecific. It helps to know that other writers keep it simple and acknowledge the move away from wordy cover pages. Maybe for my first novel...

    Have you had success placing stories in literary magazines? If so, what was the "rejection curve", so to speak? I'd imagine that, like me, most writers that consistently submit to literary magazines experience a developmental period in which they are rejected often and, thus, learn the ins and outs of getting your work included in a literary magazine.
     
  5. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    About 4 years ago, I tried submitted to The New Yorker and Harper's Magazine (crazy, I know). I got rejected from Harper's, and I never heard back from The New Yorker (which I had expected). I was disappointed when I got the rejection, but looking back, the story I sent was pretty bad. I submitted another story to Glimmer Train a few years later and got a personalized rejection, so I'm happy about that.

    Despite the rejections, I would still recommend aiming high and submitting to the most prestigious and/or highest paying market first and then working your way down. There's no reason to sell yourself short.
     
  6. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    It's funny how far a personalized rejection goes amidst all the form rejections, isn't it?
     
  7. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    many years ago, i got very nice, complimentary rejection letters from from all three [ny-r/harper's/gt]... the stories were good ones and well-written, but weren't 'right' for the first two and just didn't make the cut for gt... a disappointment, but at least a 'good' one compared to what it could have been [i.e., telling me my work was garbage]...

    the gt-submitted story was subsequently published by a similar magazine and i was paid for it, so don't feel badly if you lower your sights from the top/'best'... being published and paid should be the main goal... and when it happens, regardless of who's paying you, it feels GOOD!

    love and hugs, maia
     
  8. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    So, Harper's and The New Yorker accept unsolicited, "unagented" submissions? I figured that, given the circulation and prestige of these publications, they didn't.
     
  9. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Yes, they do, though they don't publish stuff by new/unknown writers very often.
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    anthony...

    agents don't normally rep short stories and articles, only books... so with few [if any] exceptions, all material submitted to magazines would have to be 'unagented'...
     
  11. Krishan
    Offline

    Krishan Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    37
    I seem to recall William Shunn having a detailed guide to submitting to literary magazines on his website. Now when I look I can only find information on manuscript format (which is still, of course, very useful). Did I just imagine there being more information there? Here's Shunn's website, for anyone who is interested: www.shunn.net/format.

    Something that I've been curious about is this - several of the better-known magazines in the USA only accept postal submissions. They also specify that you must include a stamped envelope for their response. Living in the UK (where US postage is unavailable) this presents a practical issue. Does anyone have a possible solution to this?
     
  12. Quille
    Offline

    Quille Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2013
    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Toronto
  13. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    Ah, that makes sense--thank you for clarifying. Harper's here I come! :cool:
     
  14. Anthony Martin
    Offline

    Anthony Martin Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2013
    Messages:
    271
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    San Diego
    Is this what you are looking for? I have relied on this guide for a few submissions, though some online submissions request that you do things a little differently than Shunn suggests.
     
  15. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    you should always check each venue's submission guidelines and follow them to the letter, regardless of what the 'norm' may be...
     
  16. Krishan
    Offline

    Krishan Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2012
    Messages:
    144
    Likes Received:
    37
    For formatting, yes, but I think he also used to have a section about cover letters and general advice about sending submissions. I remember, because I used it to help me write a covering letter template that I still use today.
     
  17. Caramello Koala
    Offline

    Caramello Koala Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2013
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Cover letters are not too important I don't think, but then again I'm no authority as I have yet to be published. I only started sending stories off for submission a couple of months ago, and so far I have a bunch of my stories locked away in writing competitions. I have received 3 rejections so far, but 2 of the rejections were from a competition that offers critiques of your story (writers forum) and I found them to be very helpful. While it would be nice to win a writing competition I think I'd have a better chance of submitting directly to magazines, so I might do that soon...
     
  18. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Unless the guidelines specifically say not to include a cover letter, I would include one.
     
  19. Caramello Koala
    Offline

    Caramello Koala Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2013
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    When I said they are not too important I didn't mean don't submit one, I meant that the thing that you should be thinking about is the story, not the cover letter. What stamp you attach to the letter is not too important either, but you would obviously still attach one. No piece of fiction is going to be rejected or accepted based solely on its cover letter.
     
  20. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what are you referring to as a 'stamp' to be 'attached'?

    then what qualifies you to offer advice on how to get published?
     
  21. Caramello Koala
    Offline

    Caramello Koala Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2013
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Wow, what is your problem? You know how when you send a letter in the mail you put a stamp on it? You would 'attach' the stamp to the envelope/letter. I was by comparison suggesting that while it is of course necessary in most cases to attach a stamp, what type of stamp (as in colour, pattern etc) is not as important as the contents of the letter. I was using that analogy to refer to the cover letter, while it is 'necessary' (unless stated not to) to attach one, not a huge amount of thought need to go into writing one. While I have not been published I have submitted many cover letters and I have never once received a letter back saying that my cover letter needed work, and also I know lots of people who have published before, and even some people who work for publishing houses. I am not giving advice, I am offering my opinion, and as this is an open forum I don't need you barging in like the Gestapo every time I make a comment.
     
  22. Poziga
    Offline

    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2013
    Messages:
    521
    Likes Received:
    273
    Location:
    Slovenia
    Hi, i'm new on this forum and also in the writing society.

    I am reading here about sending cover letters and what should they contain, but I would like to know if you have sent e-mails to the magazines first?
    And since I am not from the UK, USA or any other english-speaking countries, do I even have a chance of getting published in American or English magazines?
    I am from the small European country which has its own language, if that matters at all.

    Thank you:)
     
  23. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    No, you don't have to send an email first. Your cover letter is submitted along with your short story. Also, a lot of magazine publish writers from all around the world, so as long as your writing is good, it won't matter where you're from.
     
  24. Poziga
    Offline

    Poziga Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2013
    Messages:
    521
    Likes Received:
    273
    Location:
    Slovenia
    Great, thanks for the info :)
     
  25. Roxie
    Offline

    Roxie Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Messages:
    327
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Aylmer, Canada
    I think the main component to remember whenever you are attempting to publish any genre is the venue's submission guidelines - follow them to a T. Don't try to deviate even a fraction. If the basic submission formatting guidelines aren't respected your submission will be tossed-out without being read. Study the guidelines, abide and apply them to your most polished material, take a deep breath - submit - then comes every author's favorite part the waiting game with fingers crossed.
     

Share This Page