Saturday, December 6, 2014

How to Get Started on Publishing Your Work: Themed Issues and Anthologies

I recently updated this post from a couple of years ago:

One good starting place for writers who are new to submitting their work for publication is to begin with theme issues of magazines and themed anthologies. Publishers announce they are looking for work for a themed issue or anthology by putting out a call for submissions. Calls for submissions often appear on several websites and in magazines. Probably the most useful listing right now for publications in the U.S.A. is the  New Pages site, since it is updated several times a week. Other sites are also very helpful, including Poets & Writers Magazine, which has a comprehensive list of publications looking for new work, and Poetry Flash. 


Joyce Jenkins, editor of Poetry Flash
I’ve recently bookmarked another site called writingcareer.com that focuses only on publishing opportunities that pay writers. It has sections devoted to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. 

There is also a site called Writer's Relief that has a page just on anthologies that are looking for work, although they are now charging for subscriptions to their service. I also visit a website that lists calls for submissions in the U.K. and in other countries outside the U.S., called The Poetry Kit. Another good site for international publications seeking work is 15 International Magazines Seeking English Submissions. I’ve also been consulting The Review Review, a website that also has some good calls for submissions.

Why begin your publishing career with themed issues of magazines and anthologies? For those publications, editors are keenly interested in work by writers from a particular group or region, or work written on a specific topic. They tend to be much less interested in whether you have published before, or whether you are a well-known author. The editor(s) of the magazine or anthology might also solicit work from well-published authors, but that’s all the better, since your writing, if accepted, might appear side-by-side with the writing of an author you admire.

When you submit work to a themed issue or anthology, be sure to read the guidelines extremely carefully. The editor’s phrasing will give you a sense of how loosely or strictly the publication is interpreting the theme.

As an illustration of how to make use of a call for submissions, here’s one (no longer current) from the website of Slipstream, an excellent poetry magazine: We are currently reading for another theme issue (#32) for which we will explore ‘Cars, Bars & Stars.’ A poem could include any combination of the subjects or only one. Creative interpretations are encouraged.” Clearly the editors are leaving the theme fairly loose, as they indicate by the phrase, “Creative interpretations are encouraged.” You have some leeway here.

Here’s an example of a stricter theme I saw a couple of years ago on the website of Poetry Flash: “Windfall, A Journal of Poetry of Place is accepting poems about places in the Pacific Northwest for its spring issue. Submit up to five short poems that should not exceed fifty lines each.” This is much more specific. You don’t have to actually live in the Pacific Northwest to submit, if I’m reading this correctly, but you do have to write about its landscape and/or geography. The length requirement is also very specific, and would rule out any poem longer than a page and a half. You have to pay careful attention to those details when you are submitting, otherwise you are wasting your time and the editor’s.


Some journals, such as Slipstream, often publish theme issues, and those are ones where you might want to check their website regularly, to see what their latest theme is. Another good example of this is Spillway magazine, edited by Susan Terris. You may not think of a work you’ve written as being about a specific theme, but if you look with the lens of that theme, you may discover a side to the work you never saw before.

Other recent posts about writing topics: 
How to Get Published: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5
Getting the Most from Your Writing Workshop
How Not to Become a Literary Dropout
Putting Together a Book Manuscript
Working with a Writing Mentor
How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
Why Write Poetry? 
Poetic Forms: IntroductionThe SonnetThe SestinaThe GhazalThe Tanka
How to Be an American Writer

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