5 Myths About Literary Magazines and Journals

Many people give out advice about submitting to journals. Some are well informed while others are not. Here are five myths about submitting to journals that may have evolved from this misinformation that are worth dispelling.

Print journals are better than online journals

Writers may believe that print journals are inherently better or more prestigious than online journals. This notion may exist due to many excellent and older journals being print journals and also due to the idea that something in print may be more legitimate than an online journal. These feelings are understandable, but misguided. Many older print journals are transitioning to the digital world. Choosing to be an online journal does not make a journal illegitimate or frugal. An online journal allows more readers to discover your work, often comes with a more visible social network, is cheaper for other writers, and allows a literary magazine more flexibility with how your work is experienced. Many journals are transitioning to having an online component. Dismissing online journals based solely on how your work is displayed is only your loss.

The longer the bio, the better it

Many writers believe that longer bios will make them look established and worthwhile. A post doctorate degree, published book, and your cute dog may be something you are proud of, but a good journal will only care about your poem. Just recently I heard a story about a poem being submitted by a sibling of a well-known terrorist to a prestigious journal. The bio was very interesting, but the poem was not all that good. It wouldn’t do the journal or the readers justice to have published those poems even if the bio was extremely interesting and saddening.  Editors care about the actual poem. Try not to impress them with a long bio. Plenty of famous writers have submitted excellent work and never submitted a bio.

Knowing someone makes it more likely you’ll get accepted

You may find yourself making many connections as a writer, and often times it’s easy to think that because you and John are great friends, that John will be more likely to accept your work based off of that friendship alone. Let’s be realistic. Editors are connected with many talented writers. Yet, each of these editors will be expected to run just a small number of pieces.  Knowing the writer may encourage the editor to fully read that person’s work and even spend a bit more time see if it’s a good fit, but this certainly does not give one an significant advantage of being accepted into the magazine. The journal will want good work featured in their journal. Until your work fits their standards and aesthetic, your work will not be accepted.

It’s not a good journal if it pays

Unfortunately, many literary magazines may not have the means to pay contributors. If you let this fact stop you from submitting your work to excellent literary magazines that don’t pay, not only does it limit the audience of your work and decrease the chance that someone will publish your story, but also it makes you look like a writer who only cares if you get paid. Let’s give some facts. Many journals in history have never paid their writers and typically only pay a small fee if they do.  Therefore, you are only looking at maybe a $25-50 payout for a group of poems or short story. Is this really worth worrying about and limiting the type of venues you submit to?

University affiliated is better than independent

There was a day and age when most major journals were university affiliated. However, with the advent of the Internet and increased distribution options for small presses, the top journals no longer are dominated by university affiliated presses. While it may be worth considering a balance of university and non-university affiliated journals, in the interest of maintaining balance, there is little correlation between prestige factor and press affiliation. Consider submitting your work to independent magazines and Internet journals along with university affiliated magazines.