Literary Journal Submissions: Don’ts

Yesterday Mots Justes shared some tips on how to put together a submission that will endear you to the editors and staff of a literary journal. Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t use fancy letterhead. Readers are interested only in the content of the cover letter and especially the submission. And don’t package your submission in an elaborate folder system—your submission will just get separated from it unceremoniously and the folder co-opted for office supplies.
  • Don’t submit handwritten material, and don’t send correspondence on scraps of paper. Even typewritten submissions feel unprofessional these days.
  • Don’t address your cover letter to another literary journal. I’m not picky about correct editor names or spelling—there are too many opportunities for error in my name to be touchy about it—but at least get the title right.
  • Don’t tell us in the cover letter what the story is about. Let us discover that for ourselves. Doing so is especially detrimental if the story doesn’t deliver on the cover letter’s promise.
  • Don’t lie. You never know who is processing or reading your submission, and Google makes it easy to verify or debunk claims.
  • Don’t tell us you’re a long-time reader if you’re not. At our publication, I ship the books to subscribers myself, and I know what stores they’re sold in. In other words, you’ll be found out, and false flattery will get you nowhere.
  • Don’t send cash in lieu of postage. This is a pain for the staff to deal with and may delay response time.
  • Don’t let stray material slip into your submission envelope. SCR once received a form thank-you for donating $8 to a Lutheran organization.
  • Don’t take it personally if a literary journal sends your cover letter back to you. If you’re submitting several poems or stories to several titles, this is our way of letting you know what submission we’re passing on.
  • Don’t hesitate to share any additional advice on submitting to literary journals.
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1 Comment

Filed under business of writing

One response to “Literary Journal Submissions: Don’ts

  1. Good advice, yes, yes. But didn’t SCR perhaps need that receipt for the Lutheran donation? You never know, could come in handy.

    I was just surfing my RSS feed and ran across this site. Hmmm. Excellent recommendations, all. I’ve been working on a piece for Poets and Writers along this vein. I’m calling it: The Ultimate Strategy Guide to Literary Journal Submission. Eh?

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