Submission Bonanza! How-To Step 2: Finding Literary Magazines

submission bonanza logo 2 copySubmission Bonanza! How-To Step 2: Finding LitMags

One of the lessons that really hit home during my Submission Bonanza! was that I need to be more choosy about the literary magazines that I submit to.    Now that I have a few acceptances under my belt, I realize that I may have sold myself short in my submission process.  Before starting this challenge, I was just excited to have my work ‘out there.’  And in some ways I still am.  But after my first acceptance, when I had to contact all the other magazines I had submitted to and ask them to withdraw the submission that was accepted, well… I was kind of sad to be withdrawing some of those.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great to get acceptances and I’m looking forward to seeing the publications, but next time around, I will be a little more thoughtful in choosing which literary magazines I submit to.  Many magazines are looking for unpublished pieces so that they can have first time rights and once you give those away, it’s much more difficult to find places that will want to publish a piece.

Here are some general things to think about when looking for magazines:*

Do you want to get paid?

My own Submission Bonanza! challenge started as a labor of love and I wasn’t at all thinking about getting paid.  But now that I have racked up some acceptances, I’m a little more keen to be compensated for my work.  A lot of magazines offer contributors copies as payment.  Others offer a small, token payment of $5-20 USD.  Still others pay by word, line, or page.  One of my favorite payment systems is automatic consideration in a contest, which means the chance of a bigger monetary prize and a contest to put on your CV, in addition to publication.

 Are you willing to pay to submit to magazines?

A lot of magazines that I found asked for a small ($2-3 USD) reading fee if you submitted online.  This means that you don’t have to spend the time/money to print your pieces, get envelopes, and pay for postage for your submission and your SASE for the response.  This could be a reasonable trade-off, especially if you are looking to get paid, or if you are submitting to magazines abroad.  If you do a month-long Submission Bonanza!  at the end of the month you will have spent about $90 USD and have 30 chances to get paid and published.  On the other hand, there are plenty of magazines out there that don’t charge a reading fee, even some that compensate writers, so you just need to decide what you are comfortable with.

 Do you want to be in print or online?

There’s something really satisfying about seeing your work and your name in print.  A lot of print magazines have years of prestige and awards behind them.  But, as brightonsauce said, there are very few people reading print literary magazines these days.  Perhaps you could reach a bigger audience with a small online magazine than you could with a small print magazine.  There are also a lot of litmags out there that have both print and online editions.  This is just something to give some thought to as you look for magazines.

What kind of rights are you willing to give up?

I am not a copyright lawyer, so I am not going to try to explain the legalities of the different kinds of publications rights.  But, I will direct you to this article and this article, both of which I found useful when I started thinking about publication rights.  What’s on your blog seems to be a little bit of a gray area.  I found magazines that specifically said personal blogs counted as being previously published and also found magazines that said that this kind of publication was not considered by them to be previously published.  Just to be safe, I took down the pieces I was submitting from my blog, but it was something I had to wrestle with a bit.

Are you submitting online or by mail?

I was fortunate enough to do my Submission Bonanza! from a tiny island in the Caribbean that did not have a post office.  So, this made this particular decision quite easy for me.  A lot of literary magazines that I found charged a fee for electronic submissions but not snail mail submissions.  I also found quite a few that no longer accepted submissions by post.  Just something to consider as you search.

Do you want to submit this piece to other magazines?

Luckily for us writers, most of the literary magazines that I looked at accepted simultaneous submissions, which means you can submit that piece to other magazines as you wait to hear back from them.  If you plan on submitting your work to more than one magazine at a time (which I highly recommend!) make sure that they all accept simultaneous submissions.

There are a lot of tools out there to help writers find magazines that they can submit to.  One of the most popular is Duotrope.  You can currently use their free trial to give it a go, but they have recently gone to a paid subscription service.  It’s $50 USD per year and helps you keep track of deadlines and submissions, so a lot of writers find it invaluable.

If you don’t have the funds to invest in Duotrope, never fear!  There are lots of resources out there for writers who are looking for markets to be published in.  The one I’ve personally used the most is Poets & Writers, which has a free search function where you can search by payment type, genre, or format of the magazine.  (This one is also recommended by Mary MacAvoy.)

You can also take a look at The Submission Grinder, which is another one of my favorites.  The platform is still in Beta mode, but their database is growing rapidly and they are quickly becoming a good, free alternative to Duotrope.  This one is easily searchable using lots of different criteria, so it’s incredibly useful.  One drawback is that it only looks at magazines that accept fiction, so if you’re looking to submit nonfiction or poetry, you could still use it (since a lot of literary magazines accept multiple genres) but you’ll have to do a little more research to weed out the magazines that accept your genre.  (And Rachel K. Jones finds this one useful, too.)

There are also lots of lists of magazines.  For example, I personally was interested in magazines that were affiliated with Writing M.F.A. Programs, so I used this list.  Maybe you want to be in a Top 50 magazine, so you could use this list.  Perhaps you know you want to submit electronically, so you could use this list.  If you’re looking for magazines that are particularly edgy, you could look here.  Maybe you just want a giant resource of lots of magazines, so you could look here or here.  I personally was looking for magazines that accepted online submissions, did not charge a reading fee, accepted simultaneous submissions, and were reading in the summer months, sothis is the list I came up with.

Goal for this week:

Compile a list of magazines (I would recommend double the number you are planning to submit to) as possible candidates to submit your work to.

*More info on how to match your specific pieces to magazines will be coming in a future post.  For now, keep your eye out for magazines that publish the genre of pieces you have, match your criteria from the questions above, and that you like the feel of.

15 thoughts on “Submission Bonanza! How-To Step 2: Finding Literary Magazines”

  1. Thanks for the mention/link above and also for following me. I hope you saw that earlier today I posted about and linked to your submission bonanza from both and, which also generated tweets from my two Twitter accounts. I love what you are doing and how you are sharing what you learned. Inspiring and invigorating! Thanks!

      1. Hi, I’ve just realized you are following my work site. You might be more interested in following my blog, where I do my writing. It’s

  2. Thanks for this font of great information presented so well. Nothing like personal experience to bring understanding! I’d like to include a link to this article on a new Helpful Links for Writers page on my site. Would that be alright with you?

  3. My new year’s resolution was to enter 3 competitions over the course of the year, but now I think I might need to seriously upscale my ambition for next year. I have found the Submission Bonanza inspiring but also really helpful.

  4. Thanks for liking my latest post and for compiling this information; I’ve finally made the decision to pursue my writing in earnest, and posts like these are invaluable!

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