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Writers of essays, poetry, and short stories generally share similar experiences when submitting their work to literary journals and contests. We have to do a number of administrative tasks:

  1. Find writing contests and literary journals/magazines
  2. Research each journal/contest to see if we’re the best fit
  3. Read the guidelines and format. Some markets are quite persnickety with their guidelines. Not only might they impose spacing/font restrictions, but they might require page numbering and explicitly mandate the page numbers appear in a certain corner of the page. Or they might require a certain subject line for email submissions. Some mandate cover letters too!
  4. Avoid simultaneous acceptances. This means we need to track our writing submissions and have a plan for responding to literary journals and contests when a piece of writing is accepted by two places at the same time.
  5. Oh, and let’s not forget write a solid submission, and revise it upon rejection before submitting it elsewhere.

Failing to do any of these tasks could immediately disqualify your submission–and that does not entitle you to a refund of your submission fee!

You might remember that last spring I went on a creative writing submission strike. I was frustrated with the time and administrative efforts that submitting entails. I wanted time to write.

I used that time to write. As I recently announced, I completed the first rough draft of a short story collection that’s inspired by my genealogy research. I started submitting to contests again a few days after I finished the rough draft.

Now I’m doing things a little differently, and here are my parameters:

  • One week only
  • Fiction-focused
  • Pub Factor

What do these mean? If I come across contests, I add a reminder to my calendar on the first Monday of the month during the month of the deadline. When that Monday rolls around, I make time that week only to submit. If I don’t get to them all, oh well. I’ll at least submit to one.

I’m also skipping (for the most part) poetry submissions. I’m hoping to get a few fiction credits this year to cite in my query letter this fall when I start querying for a literary agent.

When it comes to Pub Factor, I consider the publication’s characteristics: the market’s reputation, if an agent is judging/selecting pieces, and prize money/compensation. I try to only pick markets that ‘score’ high on one or all of these points.

I submitted to about a half dozen contests/journals for March. Now I don’t have to think about submissions again until early April, and there are only three markets on my calendar. For now.