Editor's Life: 6 Suggestions When Submitting Your Work for Publication

And apparently, are also boys with spiky orange hair.

I have been living much more as an editor recently than as a writer.

This is okay because I realize life is never perfectly balanced--there are times when you are heavy on one thing, light on another.  I try to look at my life's balance over a year and not a month.

This month has been all about Crab Creek Review & the upcoming Fire On Her Tongue anthology.  Both publications had deadlines on Monday, it was nutty.  Now there's a little rest period while others proof and do corrections. Ahhh...

Before becoming an editor, I thought there was a lot of mystery behind literary journals.  There's not.  There's a lot of work, (unpaid work), loose ends, reading, following up, decision making, and dealing with finances.

Here are some things I've learned and might help you as you submit--

1)  Professional over quirky is better.  

I know we're writers/artists, but I prefer a cover letter that is easy to read and to the point, not anything on purple-scented paper or with weird images embedded in the email submissions.

I am more likely to take a writer seriously if they can take themselves seriously.

Personal Faux-Pas as Young Writer (part 1)-- Handwriting a giant "Enjoy these poems!" and making a unique drawing on a cover letter to the Paris Review (age 23).

2) Read the journal or learn about the journal before you submit.  If you're awesome, subscribe or buy a sample copy.

This little thing will save you time and money in the long run and may introduce you to a new poet or writer, or a journal you'll want to receive at your house.

Personal Faux-Pas as Young Writer (part 2)-- Submitted poems to Parnassus: Poetry in Review without *getting* that it publishes REVIEWS and critical writing, not poems.  Duh.

3)  Read the submissions guidelines and follow them.

While it might feel like jumping through hoops, all the guidelines were put into place for a reason. I know ours were and they help us when we read your work.

Personal Faux-Pas as a Young Writer (part 3): Too many mistakes to name.  I've sent too many poems, sent them to the wrong address, sent them the wrong time of the year, yadda, yadda, yadda.

4)  Try not to take things personally.

If they don't get back to you on a timely basis, most likely they are overworked, stressing out and behind.  They most likely aren't inconsiderate, just busy and overwhelmed.  I would guess the majority of literary journals the editors are unpaid (or paid little) and that they have another job, commitment, or are raising a family.

The editors at Crab Creek Review have full-time jobs, part-time jobs, little kids at home, big kids at home or in college, are authors/writers themselves, other commitments, AND are all working to publish this journal on a volunteer basis.

Realizing how much there is to do at a literary journal has allowed me to submit without being annoyed at how long it took to hear from a journal, etc. because I realize how much there is to do AND read.

Personal Faux-Pas as Young Editor (part 1): Thinking I would never get behind in reading submissions, then did.  More than once.

5)  In you simultaneously submit, let journals know asap if your poem or story is accepted elsewhere.

This was my surprise as an editor.  Not knowing I'd fall in love with poems and stories, then when accepting them, learn they are not available.  I hadn't realized how attached I'd get to someone's work, how disappointed I'd feel when we couldn't publish it.

When this happens, I don't hold a grudge against the writer. I know we're doing the best we can and sometimes we forgot, make mistakes, and cannot be perfectly organized.  I have sim-subbed and haven't meant to, but it just came down to bad record keeping on my part (Personal Faux-Pas part 4), so I tend to be easy on writers.  Other editors may not be so easy, just be aware of that.

6)  If the journal takes 4 poems, submit 3 poems you think they'd publish and one poem you think they wouldn't. 

This sounds like bizarre advice, but my friend (and poet/editor/publisher) Lana Ayers gave me this and it's made a huge difference.  Oddly, it seems the one poem I think a journal won't like, is the one they take.

I'm not sure why this is?  Maybe we read a journal and see lots of poems on herons and think, "Oh, they'd love my heron poem" and the editor is in her office saying, "Geez, enough with the heron poems, people!"  So the 4th poems, which has nothing do with herons or anything else the magazine has published recently, is accepted.

I'm not sure.  Just it's a good mentality as a writer, it's not your job to try to read the editor's mind, it's your job to do good work and submit the best of it.

Good luck!



  1. So helpful. I will share this with my poetry workshop!

  2. #6 would never have occurred to me. I need to get some submissions out this weekend. I'm going to have to try this.

  3. I think the writer with the orange spiky hair has great descriptive powers.

  4. #6 just put a little bit of fun back into the submission process for me. I'm already looking forward to selecting these Trojan Horse poems.

    Do you have any thoughts on order? Should you bury that poem at the end or in the middle of your miniscript (that's how I think of the little batches of poems that we submit). Or does that not matter, once they arrive on the editorial desk?

  5. Always always appreciate your advise & wisdom from all your experiance.

    Thanks Kelli~!

  6. Fabulous tips, Kelli! I'll share this far and wide.

  7. I absolutely LOVE #6. You are right. I've had acceptances where I've said to myself "Really? THAT one?" I just never made the connection of continuing to do that in future submissions.


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