Publishing Short Stories and Poems - Part 1

On this page, you'll learn about publishing short stories and poems. At the bottom of the page, you'll find links to more publishing advice.

How to publish a poem or short story - Getting started

Most short story writers and poets begin by submitting their work to literary magazines or journals.

It would be unusual for a new author to publish a book-length collection of stories or poems without a previous publishing track record. Publishing in literary magazines lets you build up this track record.

It's a way to get your writing out into the world and participate in the literary community. It is also a way to get noticed by literary agents.


Finding appropriate magazines

There's a huge range of interesting literary magazines out there, both online and offline. Many of the online ones you can read for free.

Your first step to publishing in a literary magazine (after polishing your story or poem until it shines!) is to choose one that's a good fit for your writing.

1) Go to a library or bookstore and browse the literary magazines. You can also find an extensive list of literary journals on the Poets & Writers website.

2) Look for magazines that publish stories or poems with similarities to your own. I don't just mean similarities in terms of genre or form; also look for a similar aesthetic.

Different editors have different tastes. You want to submit to a magazine where the editors love writing like yours. The best way to judge this is the other writing they publish.

3) Once you have found some magazines you want to submit to, check their submission guidelines. You can normally find this information on a magazine's website.

Even if you're using the Poets & Writers database or another publishing guide, also visit the magazine's website for updated information, as there are frequently changes.

Check to see if they are currently accepting submissions and if your work fits what they are currently looking for.

Then, before you submit to a magazine, carefully read and follow their guidelines for formatting and submitting a manuscript. More and more magazines accept online submissions, but not all of them do. Some ONLY accept online submissions. Some have special online submission tools that you have to use. Take note.

Usually, an offline submission will comprise a short cover letter and either a short story or 3-5 poems along with a self- addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the magazine's reply. IMPORTANT: Never send out your only copy of your work!

Unless a magazine's guidelines specify something different, use standard manuscript format for your stories or poems, and use standard business letter format for your cover letter.

You can read about manuscript format here.

If a magazine doesn't say that simultaneous submission (sending a story or poem to more than one place at a time) is acceptable, then, generally, it's considered unacceptable. However, I know some authors who choose to break this rule.

4) Wait.

Magazines often take months to reply to a submission. In the meantime, focus your attention on producing new work.

5) And when the response comes back...

Hopefully, you'll receive an acceptance letter (or phone call!). But chances are, you'll receive some rejections -- maybe many of them -- before that happens. Most writers do.

It truly doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you or your work. It just means you didn't get it to the right editor, at the right time.

Don't sweat it. Just repackage that submission and send it right back out, to the next magazine on your list.

Read Part 2 of Publishing Short Stories and Poems


Publishing Short Stories and Poems - Next Steps

Continue to Part 2 of this guide.

Advice on self-publishing.

Find out how to publish a novel.

More publishing advice.

<< BACK from Publishing short stories and poems to Creative Writing Now Home