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So you think you have a pile of poems the height of a mountain and want the world to know about it, or have found that 'call for entries' hyperlink on your Facebook feed and want to contribute? This blog post tackles the sometimes testy and frustrating issue of submitting your creative/critical works to journals and/or magazines for publishing.
Submitting for magazines and journals are substantially different from submitting for a novel or your own collection of poetry because as an anthology, the works in each issue share the share creative trajectory instead of carving a distinctive individual voice, and hence each voice must lend a hand in shaping the overall creative composition of the issue.
It is important to have the mindset that any submission that is yet to be published is still a draft, no matter how polished it is. Journals and magazines, depending on the number of submissions that they have to go through, can take anywhere from 2 weeks up to half a year. Thus, your mindset should be that until the work appears in its final state on the page, online or offline, it is still a work-in-progress and can be changed (or even retracted) at any time. Although this sounds like a roadblock for the ambitious writer, it actually can work in your favour if you play your cards right. Like shopping at the supermarket, until you have purchased your groceries at the cashier, you still have a wide variety of brands to shop from if you change your mind suddenly. Likewise, if your work has yet to be published, and the publisher has yet to contact you for a confirmation to publish your piece for that particular journal/magazine, you can still select another journal should you wish. However, that being said, do remember that goodwill is equally important and non-committing to publishers may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Now that we have establish that a writer can 'shop' for journals/magazines, how does one start? One useful way to test the water is to read the creative direction of that particular journal/magazine. If you are submitting your science fiction prose to a magazine specifically focusing on teen romance, it is highly unlikely that it will get published (unless your teen romance is set in a dystopian future where there are androids and self-driving cars). For magazines with a more general creative direction, it helps to view their back catalogue of published works to get a sense of the standard that the magazine is looking out for, and to see if your work aligns with the creative vision of these works.
On a technical level, to help build goodwill, it always helps to adhere to the submission guidelines determined by the magazine. This will make it easier for both sides as critical works will be in a clear and recognizable format that makes it easier to review and edit, For creative works, it is important that one sticks to work count guidelines so as to prevent too much back-and-forth editing, Nobody wants to consistently chase a writer to cut down the word count like an errant student. For both, remember to keep to the font type and spacing stated (especially you comic sans people!) so as to make the reviewing process easier. Remember this simple equation, easier to review = more likely to be published.