Writers, students, and friends, here’s your toolkit for submitting to literary magazines. This page discusses the importance of adhering to submission guidelines, crafting cover letters, withdrawals, queries, and tips on organizing submissions. If you have any questions or suggestions to improve this page, let us know. If not, let’s jump write (no, not right) in.
The submission guidelines page for The Lumiere Review can be found here.
Every journal has different submission guidelines, and tailoring the content and format of submissions can feel like a painstaking process. However, some literary magazines will automatically reject submissions that do not follow guidelines. On the flip-side, following them will show your dedication to submitting to a magazine. All editors appreciate an adherence to the guidelines they put on their submissions pages.
Here are a some DOs to keep it mind:
Find out the type and quantity of work a magazine is accepting. Don’t send in poems when they’re only open to fiction. Don’t send in 5 poems when they only accept 1-3. Chances are, these submissions won’t be read.
Check the format of your written submissions. If a journal specifies attachments in a single Word or PDF document, don’t send in 5 different Word docs of poems. If a magazine reads blindly and does not want identifying information (name, email, bio etc.) in the document, remove such information.
Keep the subject of the email/submission in mind. Arguably, the subject line of the email (or in Submittable, the title) is the first thing an editor sees. If a magazine specifies “NAME – GENRE” and you put “submission” in the subject line, editors may heave a little sigh. If a magazine does not specify a subject line, “[GENRE] Submission” is the way to go.
If magazines specify not to include a cover letter or biographical information, do not send those in.
And some DON’Ts:
Don’t misgender or mislabel editors. Just don’t. Greetings can be as simple as “Dear Editors” or if a magazine specifies the editor (ex. “Please direct submissions to our Poetry Editor, [NAME]”), address it to them.
For email submissions, don’t CC multiple magazines in a single email. Editors are not inclined to give their attention to impersonal submissions that have also gone to 10 other magazines. Same thing goes for receiving forwarded emails previously sent to another magazine.
Don’t send simultaneous submissions or previously published work to places that don’t accept them. And as an overarching rule, don’t send racist, homophobic, abusive, NSFW work.
Cover Letters and Biographies
Cover letters don’t determine an acceptance or rejection, but it can make or break an editor’s day. Here’s a sample cover letter. Feel free to use it as a template, use part of it, or use as inspiration to create your own:
I hope you’ve been doing well. I am John Doe, a young writer from New York. I’d love to make a submission of 3 poems titled “Festival,” “Dream,” and “City.” These pieces were inspired by the effects of urbanization on my identity. I’ve been following The Lumiere Review for quite some time and have a lot to admire about your latest issue. In particular, Lucy Brown’s “Poem” deeply resonated with me. Hopefully, my poems will resonate with you as well, but regardless of your decision, I thank you for considering my work.
My third-person biography is below.
John Doe is a writer from New York. His work has been published in The New Yorker and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. You can find him on Twitter @johndoe or at www.johndoe.com.
Please note that is a simultaneous submission. If accepted elsewhere, I will notify you immediately. Meanwhile, have a great rest of your day.
A note on 3rd person biographies:
For writers new to the publishing realm, biographies can be a challenging component. The more conventional route to writing a bio would be mentioning your country/city of residence, previous publications and awards, editorial work, and website/social platforms. That said, if you prefer not to disclose any or all of these, get creative and quirky!
An avid birdwatcher, John Doe is a writer who resides in the highlands of Albania. He enjoys long and mindless hikes, raspberry biscuits, and reading Sylvia plath. One day, he hopes to fly.
Don’t be afraid to be experimental and unique, whether you are a new or seasoned writer.
Withdrawals and Queries
Most literary magazines accept simultaneous submissions, which means you can submit the same piece to multiple places at once. So when your work is accepted elsewhere (congratulations), you need to notify the other magazines that your piece is no longer available. Some magazines will specify that you should reply to your submission email (instead of sending one in a separate email chain). For magazines using Submittable, you can partially withdraw a portion of your work by sending a “Message” or withdraw your entire submission by pressing “Withdraw.”
If a publication accepts previously published work, let them know of your acceptance elsewhere. You do not necessarily have to withdraw your piece, unless you will not have exclusive rights to your work at the time of reprint.
Your withdrawal messages can be short and sweet:
I’m writing to let you know that my poem “Festival” has been accepted elsewhere and I would like to withdraw it. My remaining 2 poems, “Dream” and “City” are still unpublished and I appreciate your attention to them.
You can also query about the status of your submission if the magazine has exceeded their response time. For example, at The Lumiere Review, our response time is a month and you may send us a query if we have not responded after a month. Do not query about the status of your submission if the expected response time has not passed.
Query letters should serve as a simple nudge to the editors. They may be going through a lot at the moment, so do give them the benefit of doubt:
I hope everything has been going well. I’d like to check in on my poetry submission I made on July 15th. I understand there may have been unforeseen circumstances that have led to this delay in decisions, so please take your time to get back to me. I look forward to your response.
It’s important to keep track of your submissions so that you know when, where, and what to withdraw or query. The easiest way to track your submissions would be by using a spreadsheet (excel, google). As a general guideline, list the titles of works, magazines, dates, and status (accepted, declined, withdrawn). You can also color code and personalize your submission spreadsheets. Maybe add a column for personal rejections or response times. An example is below:
(Best view on a laptop)
|“Festival,” “Dream, “City”||New Yorker||July 15, 2020||accepted|
|“Birds,” “City”||American Poetry Review||June 4, 2020||declined|
|“Flowers”||Poets.org||June 4, 2020||pending|