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How to Get Published in Major Markets like The New Yorker, McSweeney's, and The Atlantic Monthly

Updated on May 17, 2011

Are You Brilliant? Because If You're Not, No Plan Will Work.

Publishing stories in the top markets in fiction requires more than just a few quick tips. It requires months and years of careful, close study of fiction. If your writing isn't brilliant, there's a good chance pursuing publication in the premiere magazines is not an achievable goal. Being brilliant is a vital step in publishing fiction. You will be up against the greatest writers in the world. The readers for these magazines will not have time to be patient with your story if they are thrown from it early.

Okay, you're brilliant. Now what?

Read current issues of magazines that you would like to publish your fiction. Without reading them, you will not be able to pick up on the subtle cues and stylistic quirks that appeal to different editors at the individual magazines.

When you are writing, aim short, but not too short. If you can carve your genius prose into a region between 1500-3000 words, you will find it is easier to publish the story at all. This is a very easy length for editors in magazines, who don't have room for 10,000 word novelettes, and often struggle to justify shorter "flash fiction" under 1000 words. Aim for short, tight, dense prose that carries the shimmering power of genius.

Now, each magazine has different guidelines. Sending a story to a magazine outside of their guidelines means you will never, ever hear back on that story. It won't even be read. Why should anyone bother reading stuff that didn't follow the rules when they have no trouble finding stuff that's brilliant that followed their guidelines?

Many magazines are moving towards an on-line submission process to stem the tide of mail that sweeps in from aspiring writers, and create a safer system in this post-p/11 age. The New Yorker runs an on-line submission process, and asks that all writers submit a .PDF file to them, over their website. Most other magazines request Word Documents or Rich Text Files (.rtf). Many still require old-fashioned, postal submissions. Be sure to investigate the magazine directly and follow their guidelines to the letter!

Hey! I was Brilliant and Followed the Guidelines and I was Still Rejected!

Rejection is a part of life. Remember, there are only so many places for a writer to publish and so many open spots, and you're competing against Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Robbins, Tina Fey, and Nobel-Winners like Orhan Pamuk and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who are still alive and writing!

Don't lose heart. It took Joyce Carol Oates thirteen attempts to get her work in The New Yorker, and she's one of the most respected and successful authors in these United States.


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