The Quill

Dear Writing Peer Consultants,
I’ve been writing my own poems and stories for a while now. I’ve edited them, gotten opinions from my friends, and even had some of them workshopped. I think I would like to take the next step and submit something to be published, but I’m not sure what I should do. How do I get started?
Aspiring Writer
Dear Aspiring Writer,
Putting your work out there is exciting. There’s a vast world of journals and magazines publishing short fiction and poetry. However, there are a few key things that you should be aware of.
Firstly, you need to match your writing to a place of publication well. You should research the place you’re sending it to and read some of their issues to get a feel for what kind of writing their editors prefer.
Some places will even give you a sample copy, digital or otherwise, to interested writers or subscribers, and every place will have a webpage clearly laying out their submission rules and suggestions, including content guidelines or copyright rules. You can either select something from your finished work that you believe would be a decent fit for the magazine or write something new for them.
Note you should do your research regarding the magazine and make sure it’s legitimate. Check and see if it has a reputation on major organizational websites or appears frequently on lists of good publications.
For example, the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has a massive list of excellent publications under its membership requirements page.1 Additionally, their organization supports a remarkable blog called Writer Beware that seeks to help writers avoid scams.2
Next, assuming you’ve completely edited your work for submission, you need to put it in standard manuscript format. There’s a host of online tutorials for doing this, and, while it may seem complicated or peculiar, it’s actually not that difficult. It is, however, very important in order to come across as professional.
Finally, you need a query letter. This letter is far more simplistic than a letter for sending a book to an agent or publishing house. It is addressed to the magazine and lets them know what type of work you’re sending them, including the title of the piece and its word count. It follows a standard business-like format that is easily accessible on the web.
Once you have your publication selected, your story in proper manuscript format, and your query letter, you’re ready to go. Follow the publication’s submission method carefully and good luck!
If you have any additional inquiries or would like further help, please feel free to come in to the LAC located in the Bradner Library.
Best Wishes,
The Writing Support Studio