Now journals will note if they don't accept simultaneous submissions, otherwise it's expected. Most accept simultaneous submissions. Everyone should submit simultaneously! Expect to be rejected a lot--and don't take that as a sign of the story's quality. I had a story that was eventually in the O. Henry anthology, and it was rejected 26 times before a (wonderful!) journal picked it up. It's a long game :)

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Thank you for tackling this. We launched Esoterica, in part, to give a much needed venue to writers. Those A-list publications you mention are spectacular but frankly impossible to penetrate unless you have an in, or a very good agent. People shouldn't stop pitching them (I do for m own writing!) but it's akin to winning the lottery. Most of all, I recommend that writers send their work out widely (and simultaneously) and keep in mind that all their smaller publishing credits do help build up credibility and an audience, so that they can pitch agents/publishers with more authority.

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Mar 16·edited Mar 17

I can dump a few resources here that may help.

Erika Krouse has some great resources on submitting, starting with some practical and encouraging submission strategies:


And a stupendous list of literary magazines, arranged in tiers:


For tracking submissions (i.e. in place of George's spreadsheet), I use The Submission Grinder, which also allows you to search for markets:


Note that it's a bit better for genre magazines than literary ones, but it's very good for any. Other options are Duotrope (paid, but more comprehensive, especially for literary magazines https://duotrope.com/) and ChillSubs (newer, hipper, not as comprehensive but seems to be growing fast https://www.chillsubs.com/).

Note that many, if not most, literary magazines *do* accept simultaneous submissions now. Being able to withdraw quickly and easily online makes a difference.

Happy submitting!

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I wonder if these stats will help folks to hear: Over the last 30 years, the New Yorker has published five of my stories and rejected at least 15 more. Harper's has published one story and rejected a few others. The Atlantic has only rejected me. When it comes to the major magazines, I'd guess I hit under .200. For those of you aren't baseball fans, hitting under .200 is known as Mendoza Line and it is decidedly not a compliment.

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Thank you for creating this thread. I am the current non-fiction editor and past associate fiction editor for The Coachella Review, a literary magazine out of the University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert Low Residency MFA program. Here is a link to the our submissions page:http://thecoachellareview.com/submissions/ . (Submissions are currently closed while we create the Summer 2023 issue, but will open again soon for the Winter 2023 issue.) Like other responses mention, we accept simultaneous submissions.

I encourage all of you writer people to submit, and please know that getting a decline does not mean your work is not publish-worthy.

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If you live in the US and can move to another country, do it. It's a matter of Big Pond vs Little Pond. I have a young friend in Ireland who asked for advice about getting his first novel published and wondered about coming to the US. Hell no! I said. Stay in Ireland and make as many friends as you can. He got an MFA in Galway and made friends. Now he has a 4 book contract and a career. And maybe a movie deal. This American pond is just too full of fish.

Same story with a twist for another friend in the UK. She started a publishing company and got a fair amount of attention because she was in Scotland, and it was a fine book list and a magazine (Earthlines). Eventually she sold the press and focused on her own writing. Several books later and a huge following...she's doing very well. Both of these writers are good writers with stories to tell. But living in a Little Pond made their paths so much easier.

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I recently had a conversation with other writers about online publishing and I recalled those early days in my career when I submitted to and published poems in the mimeograph magazines—the ones where the editors used staplers! Yes, the handmade magazines. And those other magazines where the editors used Kinko's or similar stores to make their magazines. How many of those little magazines still exist? Have they all migrated online? And I also recall how those magazines often or mostly published blue collar poets, the ones with jobs far outside of book world. But when I look at the online magazines, the contributor bios are the same as the bios in The Paris Review or Kenyon Review or the like I think we might live in a literary culture where the MFA is now the standard even for the smaller magazines—proverbial "in." Is this a good thing? Bad? Neutral? I do know those handmade magazines of the past were far more likely to publish the impolite.

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Many of us (especially those starting out) stand little chance of getting into the top-tier magazines. George mentioned "Best American" and "O. Henry Prize" collections; in addition, there are the Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and Best Microfictions (for those who write flash and micros). Litmags who submit nominations to those awards, and those who win, are great places to add to our own versions of George's spreadsheet. (You can also track your submissions on Duotrope, a great resource to find both publications and literary agents.) There are lists published by Clifford Garstang and Erika Krouse (a search will turn them up) with ostensible rankings of the various publications. ChillSubs and Submittable are additional resources for finding pubs to submit to.

Nobody has time to read all the magazines before submitting, so I think instead of reading a few pieces in your genre from one or two issues, and making sure the general aesthetic appeals to you.

Most places allow for simultaneous submissions these days, and some of those that don't (e.g. Threepenny Review) tend to respond promptly, which is nice. All of these guidelines tend to be outlined on the "submit" page of any litmag.

Good luck! Submit to a few places, revise the piece if it doesn't land, and submit again. That's my approach.

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I think it takes a certain kind of person/energy to send things out repeatedly and weather rejections. It has turned out I'm not that kind of person. So I don't do it any more. I only ever did it in the past rarely. I will tell this story because the publication no longer exists. There was a while there where I was climbing Glimmer Train's ladder. They had all these tiers of recognition. I continued to send them stories, thinking, any day now I'll crack the top 2 or 3 and finally get in print, but it never happened. And not only did it never happen, I never got any nods of recognition from them ever again. Which is fine, name of game, etc.. But I admit I found it bewildering for a while. Later I realized there were too many variables at play for me to have any real idea of what had happened and that I should, as they say, move on. It did have an effect on me for a time, a kind of depressive one. Putting one's eggs in one little basket isn't a good idea, and I was guilty of that, though I also sent things to other places occasionally. So as I say, I think I'm just someone who is not made for what seems to me to be a needlessly brutal process. There's talent, there's luck, and there's something else, too. Call it a determination to see your words in print. I've known people like that. And some of them get published. And maybe that is the culmination of the process for them, a validation. One person in a friend's writing group said they had made 3 hundred submissions in one year. That must be the same things going out to lots of places, not 3 hundred different things (hello, simultaneous submissions). How many yes's that added up to I do not know. I don't know where the creative energy goes when so much energy is put into getting a notch in the score card. And honestly, I have never written anything that I felt needed to get so urgently into print. Maybe I don't have the belief in my own writing that those who do manage to get published do.

As a practical matter, I have found and still do find the question of where to submit to completely overwhelming and confusing, no matter how many articles and journals and lists I've read on the subject.

Sorry if this is depressing for anyone to read! Go get your work published, and best of luck to you!

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These comments alone are worth the price of my subscription, George 👏

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I started submitting last year and documenting my journey of rejections. I've totaled around fifteen, but then I realized traditional publication is antithetical to my goal of putting stories out into the world with urgency. I get honest feedback from readers, have a great community of readers and writers and enjoy the process of engagement. Some editors reading my work here have provided wonderful insights. I won't get that from a literary journal. I'm confident in time the law of averages would allow me the honor of being published, but I'm at an age now where the waiting does not work in my favor. I will write, publish on Substack and self-publish hard copies. One day I will probably slip into obscurity, but my stories will be told and read, and I will have no regrets.

As far as the process, I can confirm what many have said already. The Submission Grinder is a wonderful tool, and keeping track of submissions publications, documenting rejections and from who and how often is critical to success. It's a tedious process sometimes, but it helps to get a feel for "the game".

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Per paid critiques:

I have a writing group with whom I'm fortunate enough to share my work and get honest and constructive feedback. I also have a couple of close friends who are good readers from whom I occasionally ask to look something over. With the help of those folks, I get my stories pretty far down the line (many revisions, lots of things to think about). One such story, I'd submitted to maybe 5 different publications or contests. They all rejected it. But one of those places, The Masters Review, had the option to pay (I think $40?) and receive an editorial feedback letter. At the time, that seemed like a no-brainer, since I felt the story to be good but clearly enough, not quite there. I paid the fee and maybe a month later, received a 3-page editorial letter, chock full of very detailed reactions, reflections, points of appreciation, and yeah, affirmation. The sticking point, this editor said, was the ending. He gave a pair of very simple and clearly articulated reasons why it didn't work, specified what he felt was missing, and suggested utilizing a much more potent scene that comes a few pages earlier as a possible ending. I saw right away that he was totally right. The feedback made perfect sense to me and so, based on this editor's response, I did another couple rounds of revision and sent it out again. Not only was it accepted right away, but I later found out that it had placed as a finalist and a semi-finalist in two contests.

Was it worth $40? No questions. Would this be true for every story or every publication? Who knows. But that one experience made me eager to take advantage of future opportunities for paid editorial feedback from any magazine I'm interested in.

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So much spot-on information here. I wanted to address those questions that you posed to editors, being that I am one (Oh Reader magazine—always open for pitches, always paying writers. Note: our content comprises essays on books and reading, and we don't publish fiction).

1. What's it like, wading through all of the manuscripts?

Well, our process is based on pitches, rather than full manuscripts, which has its pros and cons. On one hand, it's very easy to spot a good pitch, because the author will have a solid understanding of the story that they want to tell, and will be able to distill that into a paragraph. On the other, it's never guaranteed that the story we receive will stack up with the pitch, so it's useful to be able to see examples of an author's previous work (whether published or unpublished).

Not to belabor the overworked editor angle, but there is a certain kind of exhaustion that comes with assessing hundreds of pitches, and this is exacerbated by the prevalence of submissions that are not a good fit. To your point, George, the number of submissions that we receive that are clearly not sent with our magazine in mind is staggering. Some don't even seem to register that Oh Reader is a magazine about reading (not travel, or makeup, or philosophical musings on breakups). To any writers reading this, please, for the love of all that is good and decent in the world, and for your own good and the editor's sanity, PLEASE know the outlet to which you're pitching, and send something appropriate.

2. What's the difference between a story you reject and one you publish?

There are a few things that contribute to this decision.

- Have we published a similar piece recently? Your pitch might be a good fit for the magazine, but too similar to something we've run already. That's why it pays to read the pubs in which you'd like to be published.

- Is your idea unique? We receive a lot of vague pitches that are similar to one another. Flesh out your idea; why are you the right person to tell the story? Why is it a good fit for our audience? What makes it stand out from stories that you might read elsewhere? We love a personal angle—a piece that can only be told by you.

- Have you provided examples of your writing? We can often ascertain your standard of writing from a pitch alone, but if the pitch is intriguing yet we're not sure about your writing style, it's great to be able to see other examples.

- This one is not a rule of thumb, but something that stands out to us when assessing pitches: show a little personality. There's a rigidity that comes with pitching (probably because it was hammered into us that we must communicate professionally, which has led to a glut of submissions that sound like job applications—this doesn't showcase your voice). We're people, too. Treat us like a new friend—not too familiar, but friendly enough to share a joke (keep 'em clean) or pose a question.

Okay, this has become an essay. I shall leave it here, but please feel free to ask questions if you have 'em. And thank you, George, for sharing your brain with us (figuratively, of course. Though if you're offering pieces, I'll take one).

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Nobody so far has mentioned building up & relying on a library of craft books---good books on craft!, essays on craft!, truly helpful books on craft!,not that stuff with titles that begin "How To. . . ". (and which a certain publisher churns out like sausages), I mean James Wood & George's book, of course, & Lisa Zeidner whose written the best book on POV & Peter Turchi & Robert Boswell---there's a solid and, surprisingly, long list of excellent books on writing. What I like best about these, aside from their affordability, is that unlike a class or a workshop which (unless its recorded) is pretty much a one-shot deal, you can go back to these old friends again and again and again until you finally get it. Not that I haven't benefited from classes (I have!), but having in hand & in the very form I'm aiming for has been invaluable. You can test your own work against the wisdom you'll find in those pages without leaving your workroom.

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Here is a list of magazines you can submit to ranked by Pushcart awards.


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A paid reader/editor seems essential for the writer like me scribbling in the wilderness: not in a program tutored and read by knowledgeable instructors, not part of a writers' group and more alienating, living in an adopted country when all I write about is the country of my youth!

I've not been in total isolation. I've had a few valuable readers who've given good feedback, but you mustn't wear out your welcome with requests to re-read re-drafted work, which is where the life of fiction takes off.

I've had very mixed experiences with editors for hire. Once I felt like a sap, with the other, privileged.

Editor X, (highly recommended) gave me a six-page single spaced response as per our agreement. The first three pages were example of what she loved, cut and pasted. After my flattery died down. I felt cheated. The rest was kind of meandering and unclear. She even got a character's name wrong,

My other editor was a wonderful mentor who gave far more than I paid him and after two years, it was time for me to leave the nest and for him to make some decent money. It was a wonderful, home-schooled education.

Even unpublished writers need to be read and reviewed. I just wish I had the money for more editing for hire.

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