It was a hundred years ago, but were we were once working towards our MFAs. There was an odd moment when, at the end of the first semester, the professor of Workshop invited us to his home for some food and to discuss literary journals in the context of submissions. This was late 2002. His home was nice, and whether intended or accidental, it had an instructive quality that we, too, could have a big house in 25-30 years by writing and publishing in the journals we were to talk about.
What I remember most from that event was that Antioch Review “tended to publish a lot of dark stuff.” I watched my friend and classmate, with an affinity toward the dark, underline this journal a few times in her notes.
Reflecting on that dinner today, I recognize that a Creative Writing Professor of, then, 20+ years, with a few books under his belt, a Best American Short Story, and many other sought-after credentials, he really didn’t know much about any of these journals. He knew a decent amount about the ones where he knew the editor, or served as fiction editor, or had previously been published. Even as someone who had been in this field for quite a long time, he really didn’t know what any of them tended to publish. He certainly didn’t know max word counts, submission windows, response times, or any of the other things we bump into. I don’t even know if Antioch Review still publishes dark pieces. Or if they ever did.
I appreciated the effort. No other professor even tried to be helpful in this pursuit.
Since 2002, technology has come around in the form of Submission Manager and Submittable to at least help reduce the obscene amount of paper waste for literary journal submissions. All the journals have websites now. You don’t have to buy a copy of Writer’s Market to get all of the information. The industry is headed in the right direction, but it’s still acting on ancient traditions, still way behind practically every other industry, and still horribly inefficient.
In an age where I can track the location of the pizza I just ordered or get 2-day shipping on most everything in existence, being totally in the dark for months on end about a piece of art that took (sometimes) years to create is more heartbreaking than ever. The rest of the world embraced technology and became more efficient, transparent, and fast.
We don’t believe this site solves ANY of the issues we just mentioned. We KNOW we have reduced the wasted time we used to spend researching which magazines to submit to, only to find out they aren’t open, aren’t accepting work of our length or theme or genre, or don’t allow simultaneous submissions, or they will get back to us in maybe a year or maybe not at all.
We have cut through all the current bullshit that we can cut through. We did this for ourselves to help ourselves. Now we offer this to MFA students, a tool we wish we had when we were in graduate school.
Here is how we determined the list and structured our listings.
The Slant Rhyme POV
Duotrope, which is likely the most comprehensive warehouse of literary journals, as of April 2019, stated there were 7,208 journals to submit to. We applaud those efforts, but that size of number isn’t helpful in making decisions about where to submit, who is best, and the like. But it is the universe of journals from which we will pare down into our own quality, green planet.
Our task here is to figure out how to narrow down the list effectively.
You are in a writing program, paying money for (or being awarded) a good education, plus time to hone your craft. You should be first submitting to high quality journals. For one, your work should be good enough to compete at this level. And for two, we presume that you are looking to make some sort of moves with your degree and talents, and your publishing credentials will matter.
Keeping the above in mind, we have narrowed the list down via several methods listed in sequence below.
7208 down to 556
We pulled the Pushcart rankings from 2014 -2019 from Clifford Garstang’s awesome work creating rankings by year. If a journal has received a Pushcart nod in the past six years, they are on the list. Plus we added in the Best American Rankings as well. That total list is 556.
Some Unilateral Chiseling That You’ll Want to Understand
We removed a few other pieces just based on being super smart + having some big ol’ opinions on how some journals operate.
We removed presses because you have to submit a full manuscript. This is a pretty obvious cut here, as we are just aiming for the standard poem/short story/essay submissions. We may eventually get to book submissions, but that is for another day.
We removed any journal that refuses simultaneous submissions. Personally, we used to just blow right through these notes. How are they going to tell? And hey, if we get blacklisted because we remove a piece from their queue, I ain’t madatcha. I got a publication out of the deal, and now I have chiseled down to 7207 other journals I can concentrate on, cha-ching. Send me all those poetry monies now, please.
But now, seeing the full light of day on this practice, just fuck these guys. By our data, all journals take an average of 87 days to respond. We have about a .5 – 2% chance of getting any one piece published. If we only submitted one piece to one place at a time, if the numbers proved normal every time, it would take somewhere between 4,350 and 17,400 days (that’s 47 years on the bad end) to get something printed.
Refusing to accept simultaneous submissions is a journal’s announcement that they don’t care about writers and only about how hard their jobs are if someone removes a piece from consideration that they liked because they were taking too long to make a decision. Act faster. Tell writers they have reached new levels of readers. If you only accept 1% of what is submitted, this isn’t that much work for pieces you are serious about. This is lazy.
This practice should end. When we get time, we will publish a page about all the journals who either refuse or discourage simultaneous submissions.
We removed any journal that doesn’t allow electronic or email submissions. This is just gross. There are a couple platforms ready to be used. Email is free. We worked in literary reviews in the pre-digital days, and the amount of paper printed and tossed is staggering. There is no excuse for this in 2019. Luckily, there aren’t many still doing this, but they should all know better.
We removed any journal that refuses to respond with rejections. There aren’t that many that say things like “if you haven’t heard from us in six months, assume we aren’t going to call you.” That is so fucking lazy I can’t believe any journal would actually print that. The New Yorker can get away with stuff like that. Not every journal is a kingmaker.
Are They Open?
This is probably where we have wasted the most time in our lives: Researching a journal that seems to be a good fit only to find out they aren’t open for another six months. So, we removed any journal that isn’t accepting submissions on any particular day. Every journal with a listing on the site will be open for submissions with the caveat that they often extend or shave down their submission windows without telling anyone. If you spot something that isn’t open or should be listed, hit us up.
556 down to 143
Bear in mind that not all 143 take poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. 143 journals is still a lot of ground to cover.
Individual Journal Listings
When you find your way to a listing page, you will have some questions already removed. You will know they are open. You will be certain they have operated on a high level of quality because they all have some industry-recognized clout. The rest of the questions are specific to your piece, so we have combined all of your questions into a tiny little space without additional fluff, like what date the journal was founded.
Here is our journal listing for TriQuarterly:
Submission Dates: OPEN Mar 1 – May 31
Genres: Poetry | Fiction | Non-Fiction
Max Poems/Submission: 6 poems
Max Poetry Length: None specified
Max Fiction Length: 5000 words
Max Non-Fiction Length: 5000 words
Pushcart Rank Poetry: 137.2
Pushcart Rank Fiction: 57.0
Pushcart Rank Non-Fiction: 50.0
Best American Poetry Rank: 29
Best American Short Stories Rank: 15
Cost to Submit: $2.00
—> Submit Poems Electronically
—> Submit Short Stories Electronically
—> Submit Essays Electronically
Stated Response Time: 6 months
Evidenced Response Time: 116 days
If you find you are needing additional information in this view, please let us know. This is what works for us, but maybe you have other ideas. We will try to incorporate them.