HOW TO BE A GOOD EGG
If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I left off with this novel idea: “Gatekeepers are people, too.”
The gist? Literary journals are run by people who, like us, are passionate about good writing. They work in a challenging business with limited resources, at organizations that are often understaffed. Be nice to them.
YOUR HOMEWORK, PART 4: SELECT TEN JOURNALS YOU LIKE.
(I’ve curated a list of 100 snazzy journals right here https://www.tanyakwhiton.com/editing-services/literary-journals/, and you’ll also find several resources at the end of this post).
Take an hour. Read their “About” pages. Read a sampling of stories, poems, or essays. Find out who the editors are. Follow them on Twitter. Heck, friend them on Facebook. Comment on their blog posts, like their fan pages, and share links to content you enjoy. And wait, here is a truly radical idea: SUBSCRIBE to one or more of these publications!
NOW, LET’S TALK SPREADSHEETS
Create a new spreadsheet in Excel.
Here are the columns your spreadsheet should include, in whatever order makes the most sense for you:
- VENUES: name of journal, with URL (I use the URL to submission guidelines, rather than the landing page)
- TITLE OF YOUR STORY, POEM, OR ESSAY
- RANK: 1–3 (1=I’d be ecstatic to be published by this journal or magazine, 2=I’d be pleased, and 3=I’d be satisfied)
- DEADLINES: reading periods and/or deadlines for contests
- EDITOR: where possible, list and address the editor specific to your genre in your cover letter
- NOTES: this is where I put my subjective response to a journal, based on my own aesthetic and personal values and professional goals (see post #2) in this series.
Additional things you might add:
- COST: I track costs for tax purposes
- REPORTING TIME: for contests and manuscript subs
- RESEARCH: I add URLS and info about new journals as I happen upon them, so I have an ongoing list of venues to research, evaluate, and add to my master list
- NO-GOs: I list journals I know I won’t submit to, to avoid confusion or repeating research I’ve already done
YOUR HOMEWORK, PART 5: FILL IN THE INFO
For each of the ten journals on your list, fill in the information listed above. I recommend ranking journals as you go. Add notes about things you might share on social media: a journal whose mission you respect, even if it isn’t a good fit for you, or a story, poem, or essay you particularly enjoyed. Then, each week, when you’re working on submissions, there is a ready made opportunity to pay it forward by supporting one of the journals on your list.
OVERCOMING ORGANIZATIONAL BLOCKS
To touch back to post #1 about blocks: several writers who responded to my query on Facebook said they were overwhelmed by the number of journals, had trouble prioritizing their writing, struggled with disorganization, or had poor time management skills.
I confess that I was pretty overwhelmed when I set out to create my hit list. First, I felt I had to create a comprehensive overview of EVERYTHING before I could proceed (perfectionism!); second, time spent researching journals is time not writing; and third—I think this is the most challenging block I encountered—if I created the damn spreadsheet, I had to then SEND out my work and risk being rejected.
I began by narrowing the field. I’ve recently written several flash fictions, so I found a list of online publications that publish very short stories and essays. I then used my “template” of aesthetic, professional, and personal values to evaluate the journals. Then I sent to my top-ranked journals (1=ecstatic!) and noted the date submitted. I also (nerd alert) use the color fill feature in excel—green=sent, yellow=next up, and red=rejected. Red also equals send a NEW submission, immediately.
Since then, I’ve added journals that accept short stories. I spend a couple of hours each month researching new journals, tracking current submissions, and sending out new stories. Note: update your sheet at least once a month, or risk losing momentum.
That’s it! It took me some time (approximately 40 hours) to do all of the leg work described in these three posts, but then, I was developing a class on the subject and creating a system for myself to use. I’ll bet you can do it in twenty. Best of luck!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR WRITERS
Where to get information:
AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs)
Teachers, did you know you can adopt a lit mag for use in your writing classes? Go to CLMP (Community of Literary Magazines & Presses).