How well does Submitit work?
Since our inception, Submitit has helped get 65.8% of our stories or essays accepted for publication by literary journals. Yes, you read that right. Nearly two-thirds of the stories or essays we submit find their way into high-quality literary journals. Here are the details.
Do you have a list of recent acceptances?
Well, as it happens, we do! You can see our Testimonials & Publishings page for a selection of testimonials and recently published stories and essays. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
How much do you charge for your services?
Please see our Services page for our current rates.
How involved will I be in the whole process?
As involved as you'd like. You'll approve (or decline) any edits or formatting changes we make to your story or essay. You'll sign off on bios, story blurbs, and cover letters. You'll review our recommended journal list before we make any submissions. We'll even include journals of your choice (although we may push back ever so slightly on journals that we think are poor matches). In short, we'll do the heavy lifting, but you'll be involved every step of the way, and we're always open to your suggestions.
How do you choose the journals in the Submitit algorithm?
The journals in our database range from established top-tier journals, such as The New Yorker, New England Review, and McSweeney’s Quarterly, to smaller, less well-known journals, some of which may be just getting started. The top-tier journals represent the pinnacle in literary journal publishing, but they also have the lowest acceptance rates (usually hovering around 0–1%).
That’s why it’s important to target some of the smaller, and often newer, journals. But we don’t include every journal that comes along. We’re looking for ones that show some evidence of potential staying power: a professional and attractive website; a clear mission statement; affiliation with a larger organization, such as a university; a solid and preferably expansive masthead; and so on. There is no question that journals—even top journals (Tin House, Glimmer Train, Seattle Review)—come and go, but we do our best to choose journals that we think will be around for a while.
How do you match my story/essay with literary journals?
We consider a number of factors:
First, based on stories and essays we’ve recently read (since editors change, we only go back a few years), we’ve rated each journal in a number of categories (for example: prose lyricism, difficulty, topicality, experimentation, humor, etc.). While we do consider what journal editors actually say they’re looking for, we tend to emphasize what we’ve actually read, an approach that, we think, better measures a journal’s true preferences. All of this goes into the Submitit Algorithm.
Second, we rate your story/essay in the same categories mentioned above and begin to make our matches, using said algorithm, accordingly.
Finally, we consider where you are—professionally, technically—as a writer. Are you looking to get your work published for the first time? Emphasizing smaller or newer journals might make sense. Do you already have a strong track record? We might target primarily—or even exclusively—top-tier journals.
What styles or genres of stories and essays do you submit?
For now, we’re comfortable with all types of “literary fiction,” from relatively straight-forward writing, with simple prose, clear story arcs, and traditional character development, to riskier or more experimental writing, which may play with form and language, and may offer greater challenges to the reader. Because of the nature of what we do (i.e. read, read, and read some more), we have wide-ranging experience with just about every style of fiction out there, excepting “genre fiction” (see below).
We are also comfortable with nonfiction (what we often call "essay" writing), as long as it falls under the category of "creative nonfiction." We define creative nonfiction as nonfiction that shares many of the attributes of fiction: character(s), story arc, often figurative or poetic language; another way of putting it: in an alternate universe with no access to “facts” and “truth” (kind of like ours?), creative nonfiction and fiction would be nearly indistinguishable.
Eventually, we plan to work with genre fiction (e.g. fantasy, horror, mystery) and poetry. Please check back soon.
Do you prefer print to online publications?
Maybe just a little, but we don’t exclude online journals. It’s a wonderful feeling holding in your hand an actual print journal that includes your story or essay. But many of the best journals (and most of the less well-known journals) publish exclusively online. As we discuss below, there are many reasons why you might want to get a story or essay published, either print or online.
What are my chances of getting published?
We’ll be honest about this: Your chances aren’t great. Top journals are close to 0%. Even newer journals—at least ones worth submitting to—typically max out around 10% (when statistics are available). And, of course, much depends on your actual writing and the story/essay itself.
Because we target journals that tend to publish work similar to yours, we obviously think working with Submitit greatly improves your chances, but we don’t know many writers who realistically expect to publish every story or essay they send out. Here’s a hockey metaphor: Historically, most of the best hockey players scored on fewer than 20% of their shots. But, needless to say, they scored on 0% of the shots they didn’t take. (Or baseball: Batting .300 will get you into the Hall of Fame.)
Do you edit my story/essay?
As part of our standard submission packages, we do not edit stories or essays, other than minor (irresistible) copyediting. We strive to keep more focused editing/consulting separate from our standard submission services. More details can be found on our Services and Editing pages.
Do you offer any guarantees?
We do not guarantee that your story or essay will be published. As mentioned above, getting published is hard. And, obviously, we only have so much control over your work. Ultimately it is your story or essay that will be accepted or rejected by literary journals.
But we do guarantee that we will carefully read your work; we will thoughtfully and strategically come up with a list of journals that we think may publish your work; we will submit your work, correctly formatted, as specified by each journal; and we will be available if you have any questions or concerns. If you’re not completely satisfied with our performance, we offer a full refund within 30 days of receiving your work.
How do you protect my privacy? What do you do with my story/essay when you're done submitting? How do you manage our "shared email"? (You know, stuff like that.)
For the answers to these kinds of questions, please review our Terms of Service. If any of your questions are not answered here, or if you have any concerns, just let us know.
Do you charge for journal submission fees?
Submission fees, if any, are not included in our rates. Most journals charge a small fee (usually $3–4) for submissions, while many others are free. An estimate of $2/journal will be added to your initial invoice to cover the eventual cost of these fees. If the cost for submissions turns out to be lower than our estimate, we will reimburse you after the completion of services. It’s worth noting that we typically avoid the few journals that we think have excessive submission fees (Narrative Magazine, for example). (On that note, we also typically avoid journals that require paper submissions; luckily, only a few of these are left.)
Many journals take the summers off, but there are plenty of journals that accept submissions year-round. For most writers, we recommend submitting when your story/essay is ready: winter, spring, summer, or fall. However, if after analyzing your story/essay and plugging it into our algorithm we notice that a high number of your target journals are closed for the summer, we may recommend waiting until the fall.
So getting published in literary journals is tough. Why bother?
Here are some of the reasons our own writers seek to publish their work in literary journals:
Getting your stories or essays out there is a great way to get noticed. You just never know who may stumble upon your work. A famous writer looking for a writing friend? An agent? A publisher looking for a new voice?
If you’re working on a novel or a collection of stories or essays, the task of finding an agent, and eventually a book publisher, will be much easier if you’ve had a handful of your stories or essays published in literary journals. It immediately separates you from most of the competition.
Same with a novel, especially if you manage to publish chapter excerpts (although these excerpts should work autonomously). But even if your chapters don’t lend themselves to stand-alone publishing, having other publishing credits in your name should help in eventually finding agents and book publishers.
Writing is a lonely endeavor, with few victories, even for the most successful writers. Getting your work published now and then is a welcome diversion from the solitude of most of our writing lives, a welcome pat on the back.
Sending out your work is also a good way to assess the quality—or at least the appeal—of your writing. Submitting a story or essay to ten or twenty literary journals—including several that statistically are relatively accessible—and getting nothing but form rejections may be the kind of feedback that will encourage you to develop and refine your writing in some way. You might also consider using Submitit’s editing or consulting services (see our Services page). Yes, getting rejected can be disheartening, but it can also be an important learning experience.
Notice we didn't mention money. If you're hoping to publish in literary journals to make a living, please reconsider. Journals do not pay well (or, often, at all). These little publishing victories are steppingstones (and everything else we mentioned above). The worth, we believe, is beyond monetary. (Here's a longer article from our blog on this topic.)