Doing the Work: Finding Places to Publish

Image of two signs on a white wall. One says "Elevator" and the other says "Yell into elevator for service. We can hear you really!"

To new creative writers, the array of literary journals available can seem quite overwhelming, and I completely understand that. However, I’d encourage you to do the slow work of navigating this universe rather than hoping for a shortcut. Often new writers will ask, “Where do you think I should publish this piece?” and I’d like to urge you to save your favors. If you’re going to ask a writer to do something for you, I would advise you not to do this. It’s time-consuming for busy writers and teachers to tailor publication recommendations and to brainstorm about this. I will often forward calls for entry or names of publications on my own if I run across a call for entries that is perfect for a writer whose work who I am already familiar with. But in general, I like to discourage this because it’s not actually something that is productive for the writer asking the question. If I make recommendations like this, I know that what I am really doing is short-circuiting a writer’s own development and awareness of the publication universe.

Here’s why: every writer is unique, and every writer develops his or her list of top publications based on individual publication goals, tastes, and careers of writers they’d like to emulate. You should make the list of publications that you aspire to, and you should keep updating it. This should be something you take ownership of for yourself if you are taking yourself seriously as a writer.

How do you find your list of literary journals?

  1. Writers read. So to be a writer, you should be reading literary journals to see who’s doing what and to be inspired and challenged. Noodling aimlessly around literary journals online doesn’t seem “productive,” but it is, and it will be the only way to really get to know the universe where you intend to keep publishing throughout your career.
  2. Start with identifying the “big ones” in your genre. To find these, look in the bibliography of anthologies or “Best” collections to see where the pieces were originally published. In many cases, this list is all you need.
  3. Another way I like to build this list for myself is to follow closely writer I admire and look at their bios to see where they have published. There’s no shame in emulating a writer you admire down to trying to follow in their publication footsteps!
  4. Continue adding to this list by following links from your favorite literary journals online to other publications.
  5. Read and sign up for emails that aggregate and comment on content from literary sites such as LitHub, The Millions, and Electric Lit. This is the universe you want to get familiar with.
  6. Subscribe to CRWROPPS-B, an absolutely essential service that sends out lists of places to publish. Just sorting through these emails is professional development for a writer!
  7. Consult databases including NewPages and the Poets and Writers database of literary journals, using search key words if there’s something specific you are looking for that you can’t find by other means.
  8. Follow writers on social media, as they will often share calls for entries and publications from outlets they admire.
  9. Get together with other writers who are interested in expanding their lists and pool your ideas!
Doing this work enables you to gain the confidence you need in your ability to navigate the world of literary journals. Getting familiar with these outlets will help you understand your competition and gain a deep and complex sense of what literary journals share your aesthetic as well as allowing you to set concrete goals for yourself.
Good luck!

9 responses to “Doing the Work: Finding Places to Publish”

  1. Dear Sonya, Thanks very much for this concise, well-written, and proactive list of things to do to find somewhere to publish. Your list of steps helps make it easier to conceptualize the necessary umphf! required without making it sound impossible. Parts of it even sound fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great piece. I have to confess I sometimes use Duotrope, a submissions site which will find you places to submit based on your criteria. Otherwise, I tend to submit to places that already like my stuff, which is lazy, but works…


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