Tag Archives: writing credits

How many litmags can you name?

On Delicious, I continue adding to my lengthy list of all types of publications that include creative writing in their pages. The list is a good resource for writers who would like to accumulate publication credits. The last time I counted, it included more than 4,000 sites. Most writers are aware of relatively few of them, just as they’re unmindful of how many creative writers are competing to be published. It seems to me this is the hidden source of immense frustration: an unrealistic or uninformed perspective, easily rectified.

I appreciate the fact that technology has permitted writers to connect directly with readers without first obtaining the approval of literary tastemakers. The big picture (which I should refer to as the market), inclusive of all readers, is far beyond the scope of what interests me personally. Occasionally, I encounter a writer whose work is likely to meet with commercial success, although it isn’t work I would want to endorse. When it comes to selecting writers to represent, my criteria are miles apart from other literary agents.

Naturally then, the literary publications I find appealing will amount to a tiny subset of what’s available. More than ever, there’s something out there for everyone—readers and writers. To each his own.

I’ve blogged about litmags that:

Are among the new breeds

Focus on literary travel writing

Are well established

Get a lot of attention online

Publish the creative writing of physicians

Want stories about mental illness and recovery

Had attractive websites

Take a look, for example, at the five impressive publications pictured.

Writing for literary arts and pop culture websites

One way for authors to attract a little extra attention is by writing articles, reviews, or blogposts for any of the established or up-and-coming online magazines devoted to literature and pop culture. Some of the sites have much larger readerships than an individual’s blog typically can attract.

Of course, money is always nice, but if a writer needs exposure as much as or more than payment, then the opportunity for publicity alone might be worth the effort involved in writing a short piece. Most readers won’t know whether the author was compensated for an article, so the quality of the contribution should always match the writer’s reputation or aspirations. At the same time, the author probably should think of the endeavor as volunteer work for a worthy cause, not an avenue to a paying gig.

To capitalize on the exposure each time their work is published, writers learn to compose effective contributor bios including their web addresses. Readers won’t take the time to search for information about an unfamiliar author unless prompted with a URL.

Quite a few literary websites are calling for contributors these days. A few are listed here:


The Nervous Breakdown

The Good Men Project

The Millions

The Rumpus

Fairy Tale Magazine

All Those Wasted Hours

Largehearted Boy


> Language > Place blog carnival

Write Hacked (formerly LiveHacked.com)


The Flaneur

Smith Journal

The American Mercury


Passages North


The State


Paper Darts


Parenting Express



Brittle Paper

Paper Droids


If you know of any others like these, feel free to leave their URLs in the comments section.

Literary agents who accept queries only from previously published authors

Writers’ laments very often are not unique, which could be one reason writers tend to enjoy each other’s company. In any occupation, being able to communicate shared experience easily with jargon creates camaraderie and perhaps even a comforting insularity. Unfortunately, new writers sometimes have trouble interpreting the complexities concealed behind their experienced colleagues’ platitudes. Even more difficult for aspiring authors is accepting the fact that there are no ironclad rules that will help them write well or get published. There’s an exception to every guideline.

There are exceptions to rules. There are rules that need to be broken. And there are rules that seem unnecessarily restrictive and simplistic because they are designed to achieve effects that aren’t explicit.

I’ve been thinking about a restriction that seemed odd when I first heard of it. In fact, when writers began to mention it to me, I thought it might be an exaggerated rumor. But it’s not. There are several literary agents whose query guidelines specify they will consider inquiries only from previously published authors.

Coincidentally, all of my clients had books published before they contacted me. The more I think about it, the more I suspect this made them appealing as prospective clients, but not in the way one might automatically assume.

It could be that, to some agents, an important distinction between a writer who has been published and one who hasn’t is the nature of expectations. A radical method of eliminating any contenders who are unrealistic about the amount of work involved in getting published is by considering only writers who’ve already been through the wringer. Unfortunately, the method also eliminates new writers who have been thoroughly educated by others or who have carefully conducted the necessary research on their own.

Why isn’t every agent willing to explain matters to prospective clients, to break the news of harsh reality gently to anyone who asks? Shouldn’t that be part of the agent’s job? I guess I don’t want it to be part of my job if I can easily avoid it. Too often, the bearer of bad news makes an awfully handy target.

Business realities change rapidly, and I invest a lot of time in staying aware of new technology and trends. I’d rather spend the rest of my time trying to make money for my clients and, therefore, me. If I feel this way, even though I wouldn’t mind having another client or two, then certainly an agent who already represents plenty of authors might be even more cautious and less approachable.

To some readers, this post might seem as opaque and mysterious as agencies that don’t want queries from unpublished writers. So, let me offer just six examples of answers that are difficult, if not downright embarrassing, to explain to new writers but that seasoned authors often have learned from experience.

  1. Sorry, but I can’t afford to waive my commission fee.
  2. Many agents include developmental editing or copyediting as part of the services they perform for clients, for which they’re paid a (typically 15%) commission only after the rights to a manuscript are licensed (sold). Because editing has a monetary value, it represents an investment in the work. The less editing a writer’s manuscript requires, the more appealing it will seem to an agent.
  3. Licensing agreements, publication agreements, and other contracts are as legally binding as copyright. Misunderstanding a contract is not a legal justification for violating its terms, especially terms that are fairly standardized. In most cases, it’s not an ethical justification either. A writer’s signature on an agreement indicates the writer understands the particulars of that agreement. Writers should always be willing to ask about any contract terminology they don’t understand.
  4. Many, if not most, literary agents are not publicists. Most can refer clients to excellent publicists if asked.
  5. Most publicists don’t work on commission. They get paid up front.
  6. Writers might not be the best judges of their own manuscripts.

Novelist Randy Susan Meyers, one of the co-bloggers at Beyond the Margins, offers her tongue-in-cheek warnings to other writers. There may be no rules, but as you can see, it doesn’t hurt authors at any stage in their careers to gather a little intelligence so they can position themselves to their best advantage.

Do you have some additional insight gained from publishing’s school of hard knocks? Comments are welcome.

Literary journals

A few readers who communicate by email have recently mentioned submitting stories to literary magazines and journals. There’s already plenty of information on the Web about writing queries and how to inure yourself to rejection. It’s work. It’s tough. I can, however, suggest a variety of possible destinations for your submissions, including some you may not have previously considered.

Two websites devoted to helping you find markets for short stories are:

  • Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market Editor’s Blog

Eight years ago, I started haphazardly bookmarking websites for literary journals. Last week, I began updating the list and exported it from my web browser to Delicious in order to share it with you. There might be a better method of sharing, and please feel free to point it out. For now, you can find my bookmarks, in no particular order, at:

If you’d like to suggest literary journals or small magazines, print or electronic, that should be included, please leave a comment. I’ll add them to my list.

Among the individual literary journals’ websites I’ve listed on Delicious are the following four online directories that link to many more literary magazines:

Your local public or university library’s reference section and periodicals databases are excellent sources of information. With your library card number and PIN, the databases are probably accessible through your library’s website around the clock.

When choosing where to send a story, of course you should read each publication’s submission guidelines to determine which are most likely to accept your writing.

You’ll also want to gauge the journals’ reputations. One benefit of sharing my Delicious list is the notations, highlighted in pink blue gray, that indicate how many other Delicious users have saved the same URLs. McSweeney’s is by far the most popular item on my list, which suggests its readers are also likely to be Delicious users. You can learn a little something from statistics that tell you a site was “saved by 3373 other people,” but if you’re hoping to have a short story published to help establish your credentials as a novelist, keep in mind that editors and literary agents have their own criteria. You might find hints on their websites.

The Rejecter recently posted “Short Stories and Credentials,” which provoked a good discussion that provides a rational perspective. A little over a month ago, with his typical openness, Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown also touched on the subject of writing credits in the comments on his blog.

While I was writing this, a friend asked how to obtain a journal article from a database that requires a subscription or charges a fee per download. The short answer is that your local library probably has a subscription to the database and may extend to library patrons access through the library’s website. I’ll answer the question in more detail in an upcoming post.

I enjoy writing about subjects that interest you—not that I actually know what those subjects are. You can always tell me by leaving a comment.