Once you’ve got your writing organized and ready to go, you need a place to send it. How do you find good markets for your work?
It depends on how you define good. Ultimately, you want markets that you would feel proud to have your work in. Early on, I submitted poetry blindly. What that means is that I responded to calls for submission without ever checking out the publications. That was a mistake. Though I got a lot of work published very quickly, it came out in journals I would never want to be associated with. For instance, one of my poems was published in a journal full of clip art images of mirrors in which to write personal affirmations. Is the name of it listed on the Publications & Performance page on this site? No. Is it listed anywhere? Nope.
The second thing you’re looking for is a market that publishes work resembling yours in style, subject matter, or layout–especially when you’re writing poetry. The best analogy is musical genre. You’re not likely to hear hip hop on a classical station. Don’t send your narrative poem to a journal that solely publishes language poetry. Also don’t send your personal essays to a market that only accepts fiction.
Another thing to consider when finding a market is that there are different tiers of publication depending on where you are in your publishing career. You’re not likely to get into The New Yorker early on. Does it mean you shouldn’t try? Absolutely not. But don’t limit yourself by only sending to the big boys. Be willing to start in the proverbial mail room and work your way up.
So how do you find these markets? First of all, read. Read literary journals and magazines at a bookstore or library. Read online journals. Read books in your genre, both by single authors and collected works in anthologies. Find the writers you like. Learn from them. The content of their work will teach you something about writing, but you should also read their bios. In a journal, read the author’s bio to see where else s/he has been published. Then check out those publications. If you’re reading collected works of a writer, look at their acknowledgements. Where else has the work you find most comparable to yours been published? Read those publications. Then read the bios of the authors in there, and so on.
Also, look for unlikely places that publish your genre of work. It may be that a gardening magazine has a section for short stories that have gardening in them. You might even try searches like “gardening short stories” and see what comes up. Try anthology calls for submission as well. Maybe somebody is putting together a collection of poetry about parenting right now. Think outside the box and you may find a journal that doesn’t get enough subbmissions for its literary sections.
Once you’ve got the names of these publications, how can you go about finding them? Use Duotrope’s Digest for poetry and fiction listings and Poets & Writers Literary Magazines listings for poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Duotrope’s has over 2500 listings and sends out a weekly newsletter (if you want it) with recently added paying and non-paying markets, markets that have reopened/closed for submission, upcoming themed publication deadlines, and any other market updates. I like the format of the P&W listings better but Duotrope’s are by far more comprehensive. Once you find a possible market, make sure to read sample work on their website or at least one of their issues, which you can usually buy directly from them, at some cool bookstores, or maybe read at the library depending on how established the publication is.
Is it worth it to buy or use some version of Writer’s Market (Poet’s Market, etc) or The International Guide to Literary Magazines and Small Presses? Not really. You’ll find much more up-to-date information on the web.
Now you’re ready to research.
Photo “Literature 1″ by James 119