How to submit to magazines

We get it, you are so excited to submit to magazines that you polish your story 100 times but forget the housekeeping tasks like the content in your email, a bio that is readable, providing a cover letter to the correct literary magazine etc. As Editor-in-Chief of Buck Off and a board member of previous magazines, it may be easy to forget those small things but magazine staffs have and will judge the shit out of you.

I will say sometimes it’s the complete opposite—sometimes the bio, cover letter and email are worth publishing but the submission itself is meh. Instead of a lashing out at you writers, I’ve decided to provide a little guide so your submissions to wherever you send them, are being taken seriously and are based on the quality of your work, not the distractions of your mistakes. Enjoy this month’s top 7 pet peeves from editors on your submission:


Editor Pet Peeves:

  1.      Your cover letter is directed to a different magazine. Magazines, including Buck Off, get a lot of submissions. A good way not to impress us is to direct your submission to some other magazine and not even attempt to at least change the name at the last minute. This leads into the next pet peeve.
  2.      Simultaneously submitting your work. BUCK OFF DOES NOT CARE IF YOU ARE SUBMITTING TO OTHER MAGAZINES BUT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TELL US IN YOUR COVER LETTER AND EMAIL!!!! This is one of my personal pet peeves. The reason? If we know you are submitting elsewhere, we will be sure your submission gets a thorough read through and decision. If we love it, we want to let you know ahead of time to lock you in the next edition. If we are still deciding and we get an email from you stating you were published elsewhere, we are less inclined to see any submission by you again and may rethink our policy on accepting work that is being simultaneously submitted.
  3.      The guidelines were clearly not read and you break a dozen of them. I can’t stress this enough. Each magazine has their own guidelines so do not treat every magazine as a ‘glove fits all approach’ or you may notice your work is being passed up. These guidelines can vary to being specific on what genre’s they publish (or what they do not publish), how they want your work submitted (some are all about attachments while others rather you copy and paste, or go through a submitting service), the font to use, and their reading periods. Don’t be that ‘guy’ or ‘girl’ that just submits whatever because you think your shit don’t stink. Professionalism is everything, even in the realm of B.O. (Though we have been lenient in the past because that’s not a promise I can keep).
  4.      The submission itself isn’t spellchecked or is using a word incorrectly. Please read your work out loud and have a friend edit to catch what you are unable to see. If it makes anyone else feel better, for a recent paper I submitted to school (a policy memorandum), instead of putting ‘Executive Summary’, I put ‘Executive Summery’. Thankfully it was a draft and my Instructor made the comment along the lines of ‘a nice breezy summer day’ in track changes. I was mortified yet I couldn’t stop laughing so please, have some extra eyes on your work. This leads great into the next pet peeve.
  5.      You rushed your work to make a submission deadline. Now read this line a million times until it sinks in: Do not rush your work to make a deadline. Most magazines have rolling deadlines and if you miss one edition, there will always be the next one. It’s better to submit your best work. Period.
  6.      You argue with the editors once receiving a rejection. If the work isn’t right for the magazine, arguing isn’t going to change the minds of the staff and publish it. If anything, they will never accept your future work because you sound crazy and it will seem as you are trying to convince us and yourself that your work is great. Be professional.
  7.      You’re too casual with your submission, to the point it looks lazy. We have seen more than a dozen submissions that start off with ‘hey, here’s my submission’ and an attachment. We cringe at this and some magazines won’t even accept a submission that doesn’t have the basic minimum (bio, cover letter etc) and can clearly see how little the submitter thinks by submitting this way. Worse, is submitting art and providing a link to a public page of the art you are submitting (or story). This is a huge NO-NO! Only a few times so far have I replied to a writer/artist to follow the guidelines and re-submit. Most of those few never wrote back. Talk about a bad impression. Editors have amazing memories so bring your ‘A Game’.

Professionalism is everything and considering how cut-throat the art and literary world is, presenting yourself to the best ability will give you the upper hand. You will make mistakes, that’s a given, but the point is to minimize those mistakes and discipline yourself. If your work is amazing, allow magazines to see this without having to fight the clutter of mistakes.


~This post is by S. McClory

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