This writer’s Life: Submissions

the best way to know what we want is to read our journal
I buy and subscribe to journals, but I have neither the money nor the time to subscribe to and read every journal I submit to. I wish I did. However, I tend to interpret this as “We don’t know what we want either.” This is especially true when the journal is run by students, which means there’s huge turnover in the staff every year.

we do not accept simultaneous submissions
Then I’m either not going to submit or I’m going to simultaneously submit anyway and just not tell you. I’ve actually stopped identifying simultaneous submissions in my cover letter anyway

we only accept hard copy submissions at this time

please only send us your best work
I’m never sure what this means. I never send something that I don’t think is ready (though it often turns out that I’m wrong, apparently), but it’s foolish of any journal to think that writers don’t target different publications for different pieces (and it’s foolish of writers, I think, to not do this). But implying that I’m going to send you something shitty and super rough is a tad bit insulting—and it’s not going to do anything to stop writers who send off first drafts.

we currently charge an online submission fee; we wish we didn’t have to, but it’s hard to make money in this business, and this charge covers our printing costs; really, it’s no different than what you’d spend to print and mail a piece, etc., etc., etc.
Yes, actually, it is. And while I like the appeal and ease of online submissions (see my third point here), I’ve actually worked for a few different journals, and when submissions are electronic, reading is also electronic until a piece has made it really far in the process. I see this as a way to recoup costs, yes, but not costs that used to be absorbed by the writer. (As an aside, I like how PANK allows writers to choose whether or not they want to make a small donation with their submission.)


  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    The best way to know what we want is to send us something we want — and we don’t know what that is until we see it. I mean that.

  • Laura Citino Laura C. says:

    I feel that same way about #1. Especially after working at Willow Springs, where Sam always impressed on us that the journal DID NOT have an “aesthetic,” that there was no such thing as a “Willow Springs story.” I think more journals are like that in all actuality; I just assume they say that because it’s a chance to encourage people to buy the journal.

    I buy/subscribe mostly through contest submissions etc. One Story has a cool thing where you get a discount subscription if you submit (whether or not it’s accepted).

    • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

      Laura, I think WS has an aesthetic — I just think it’s broad and elastic.

      • Kathryn Houghton Kathryn says:

        And not one that can be easily defined. There’s no “right” type of story for Willow Springs. I always felt it was broad, and we’d take pieces that spoke to us, even if they were unlike anything that had ever appeared in the magazine before.

        Though of course, now I’m left wondering how I’d define whether or not a piece “spoke” to us, which is probably just an exercise in futility.

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