Getting to Know the Market

Re-posted from my monthly column at FFC.

If you’re new to the submissions game, trying to find markets that might fit your work can seem like an impossible task. How do you learn your way around an arena as vast and varied as the world of literary magazines? Mostly, it just takes a lot of time and research, but if you’re looking for some tips on how to get started, I’ve compiled some of my advice below.

  • Read the year-end anthologies. Of course it’s important to support your favorite journals by subscribing, but if you’re strapped for cash, reading the Pushcart Prize volumes or books from the Best American series is a great way to get to know a lot of magazines for one price of admission.
  • Look for themed journals or special issues. Some magazines theme issues by geographical location or subject matter. Looking for a journal with a theme that fits your story can be a great way to learn about new magazines. If you’re looking to find one, Duotrope has a handy theme calendar that’s a good place to start.
  • Don’t just read the magazine, read the bio pages too. When you’re first learning your way around, author bio pages are a great way to find comparable magazines. You already know you like the magazine you’re reading, and other journals that have published the same writers are likely to have a similar vibe.
  • Stalk your favorite writers. If you stumble upon a writer whose work you would liken to your own, see if they have a website or list of pubs somewhere. You can target the same magazines and guess that the editors who liked their stories are more likely to enjoy yours as well.
  • Talk to your writer-friends. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we’re coy about the submissions process. Don’t be afraid to share information about where you’re submitting and why. Everyone benefits from this kind of knowledge sharing.
  • Finally, when deciding where to send your work, be clear about your goals. This is a really important step and one that’s often overlooked. Where you send your stories should depend largely on what you want to achieve. If you’re looking to get a fancy teaching job, you should sub to top print journals. But if your priority is readership, web-based venues are a better bet.

Those of you who have been submitting for a while, how did you learn your way around the literary landscape?

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