In mid-April, Literary Mama hosted its first Twitter chat on the subject of submissions. Here is a recap of our discussion with the LM editors from the various departments. Stay tuned for our second Twitter chat in the fall. For the latest on submissions and our monthly issues, follow us on Twitter at @LiteraryMama.
1. What’s the best advice for unpublished first-timers?
Read widely, read what you’d like to write. Work on your craft. Join writer’s groups.
Read a lot, write a lot, revise a lot, critique a lot. Be patient and be sure your piece shines before you submit.
Find out where your favorite writers have been published and submit. Get comfy with rejection. Submit with friends.
Be brave and honest in your writing. Push yourself to new limits.
2. What word length do you look for in a creative nonfiction/essay piece?
We cap CNF subs at 7,000, but for me that’s rather long. I admit bias towards 3-5K words. Brevity is an art!
3. Are there topics that you are seeing that are overdone? Are there topics you’d like to see more of?
Poetry gets a lot of birth/newborn/babyhood poems. I’d love more adoption, stepparent poetry.
CNF would love to see more unconventional mama stories. LGBTQI, adoption/foster, etc.
The blog would love more After Page One subs: 300-500 words that inspire or reflect on mother-writing. After Page One is a GREAT way to break into LM.
4. What makes a submission unique and catches the eye of an editor?
It is combo of voice, compelling theme, and that I feel genuinely moved and smitten by the story.
No typos or blatant grammatical errors. A cover letter that helps “sell” the submission.
Vivid imagery, startling language, unique perspective. Actively seeking diversity in poetry.
Superior craft and a reflective element. A new take on a familiar topic.
We love a voice that jumps out and writing that is a well-crafted vehicle for that shining voice.
5. How many submissions do you get vs. what’s accepted?
Poetry gets 50/month (March was almost 100!) and can accept 5 per month. Issues fill fast.
It will vary greatly depending on department. Columns doesn’t see as many, mainly because putting a pitch together is pretty labor-intensive.
We probably see 30-50 submission per month in CNF and publish 2 per month.
6. What are general response times for submissions? Does a writer always receive a response?
Automatic response is sent immediately; writers will hear from editors in 3-12 weeks.
7. Any big pet peeves you see in submissions?
I get a little miffed if author has made no attempt to follow pitching guidelines.
Poems are intimate, but craft is important. I want to see a piece that’s been revised with form and style.
Typos/misspellings, attachments, funky formatting, too long cover letter. Keep it simple.
8. Any opinion on simultaneous submissions?
I’ll prioritize subs that say they’re simultaneous–don’t want to lose a good poem.
Allowed, but please tell us in your cover letter.
Please DO tell us if your piece is accepted elsewhere as soon as you know.
9. Any final important tips on submissions?
Don’t take rejection personally. I get too many good poems to publish. Read, revise, resubmit.
You should stick to the guidelines, but don’t be afraid to take risks with your writing.
Read widely in your genre (all genres!). Be familiar with poetry, old and new. Read our site.
We know you’re excited but please be patient. Submissions are reviewed and discussed by multiple editors.
Don’t wait for rejections before submitting to other publications. We accept simultaneous subs for a reason.
Keep writing, persevering and submit.