Best Worst Advice For Submitting to Literary Journals

It’s time. You have been writing all year. You’ve got a strong selection of pieces, and you are ready to send them out for final judgement by the Publishing Gods. Follow this advice to seal the deal and be famous forever. Wait, best, worst, advice. Ok, so, DON’T follow this advice. I repeat, DO NOT follow this advice. Instead, read it, invert it and then, BE FAMOUS FOREVERRRRRRR.

1) Do not let anyone else read your work:

I know. It is tempting. And your innermost self may be like, show my writer friends, show my mom. Other writers may recommend you have friends and/or mentors offer editing and revision advice, but then you run the risk of your work not being good, not being good enough, or of it needing, ughhhhhhhh, revision. On the other hand, if it is bomb af, you run the risk of it being stolen! So really, your best bet here is to just keep it to yourself. Trust me on this one. I am telling you this because I love you.

2) Be incredibly informal in your submission letter to the editor:

I just want to say that I am fairly confident in this suggestion. I can only imagine how rad it would be to receive a submission letter with a YO greeting or a WADDUP. So cool! It would be as though you guys are already friends! And even better, the insinuation of that friendship might guilt the editors into choosing your piece. I think this is def a genius approach. Additionally, be sure to talk about your dog, what you have been up to, stuff you are into etc. This will let the editors know you are a real person, a real interesting person. Plus, reading submissions is probably the only job they have, so liven it up a little!

3) Only submit one poem OR one very, very long story:

It is a competitive writing world out there. You need to be memorable. And what is more memorable than a mic drop? Nothing. This is my third bit of advice when submitting: leave ‘em hanging, leave ‘em wanting more. You might ask, how is a very, very long story submission a mic drop? Because, it should be so long that the readers think they are in the throes of a full on novel, when, MIC DROP, it is just your submission to a journal that only publishes flash fiction! BOOYA!

Or, mic drop that one poem on them. This will assert confidence in your own talent and unveil a bit of mystery. Are the submitter’s other poems this bad/good? If they only submitted one poem to us, where else have they mic dropped these gems? Is this submission accidentally incomplete? Regardless of the interpretation, one thing is for sure, the submission is memorable.

4) Soup up that Bio:

Your bio blurb should be looking like an index of the most popular literary publications. Alright, maybe not the most popular. Re-do: your bio blurb should look like something epic happened. And as an emerging writer, this is where your creative inclinations come in to play. Cram everything into that bio; you won the D.A.R.E. essay contest in middle school? Put that in there. You and your girlfriend stapled some poems together and made a “zine” for a high school project? YAHTZEE. Beef up that bio! List every single online “publication”, big and small. I am talking about every. single. one. Quantity over quality. Editors care about one thing when it comes to an author’s bio – stuff they cannot identify or locate.

5) Never read the journal where you are submitting:

Let me explain. You might think that you would want to know what the journal you are submitting to typically publishes, because this could inform your submission, right? WRONG. Knowing a journal’s genre and style preferences will only limit your submission possibilities! In fact, it limits their own potential as well. By submitting a poem written in the shape of a house to a flagship Southern narrative literary publication, you will 1) blow their minds, 2) spin those blown minds’ wheels, 3) possibly change the entire trajectory of the journal, and 4) probably revolutionize submission expectations worldwide. Just sayin’, the mission is yours should you accept it.


Write on! You got this! Blaze your own trail in the submission process! XOXO

adele advice


Adele Elise Williams is an MFA candidate in poetry at Virginia Tech. She is a pastry chef and dog mother to an ornery and manipulative English Bulldog.


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