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Writing Tip from Peter Murphy

Adventures in Submitting

  From the April 2009 Murphy Writing Newsletter, Updated May 2013

The work of researching publications and sending out manuscripts has changed radically with the growth of the web which is both a good thing and a bad thing. In the old days, I had an intimate relationship with journals. As Borders and Barnes & Noble popped up (Sorry, there are no independent stores in my area) it became easier browse through the magazines. I held them in my hands, flipped through them to learn their editors' names, addresses, submission policies and the kind of work they published. When I could, I purchased and took them home. That was a good thing.

Then came the wonderful Dustbooks Directories, Writers' Markets and other print resources which made things easier. However I probably wasted a lot of time and postage sending my work to places that would never be interested in it. And I'm sure many of those editors felt I wasted their time too. Had I actually seen and read those publications I would have known better. That was a bad thing.

It's hard to imagine life without broadband and the revolution it's brought to sending out my poems and essays. More and more journals have websites where I can see their submission guidelines and read samples to see if my work would be a good match. It's also becoming easier to subscribe online which is another good thing, and while I can't invest in every journal I admire, I renew my favorites and try out a few new ones each year, supporting the folks who support me.

Most editors work long hours for little or no pay. I have heard of one who actually refinanced his house and worked a second job to fund his publication. And no matter how flush they might be, most editors could be doing their own writing rather than reading yours.

That said, here are a few brilliant internet tools that will give you up to date information on where to submit your poems, stories and creative nonfiction. It doesn't mean you shouldn't do your homework and read the publications, but like all tools, these will make finding the right places to submit easier so you can spend more time writing.

Resources for Publishing Your Writing

I've scoured the web for submission resources that will save you time and money and help you find a good home for your writing. Here is a list of my favorite resources, all of which I use to "work smarter, not harder." I hope you find them helpful.

Creative Writers Opportunities List is an email list that has been coordinated by poet Alison Joseph since 2005. Each day, she sends out notices of jobs, submissions and contest information for writers of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. The list is up to date and accurate. Subscribe and it will probably be the best daily email you receive. lists calls for writing, art and photography from literary magazines, publishers, writing conferences and more. Since it's updated at least three times a week, you can't get more current than this.

Duotrope has evolved dramatically and is the most useful to me. When I wrote about it four years ago, it listed 2,400 magazines and journals. Today it lists more than 4,600 and includes all three major markets: fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Duotrope has a great search engine to help you locate places accepting simultaneous and multiple submissions while filtering out those not currently accepting work. It also includes a chart with average response times. Be sure to check out their online submissions tracker and subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Pretty useful stuff. They charge a nominal subscription rate, so take advantage of the free trial to decide if it's worth it to you.

Poets & Writers Magazine Classifieds is a valuable free online service where you'll find calls for submissions for anthologies, books, chapbooks, contests and magazines. It also lists conferences, retreats, workshops, etc. Poets & Writers Magazine has been the "Bible of the Business" for almost forty years, so the print edition is worth subscribing to as well.

Academy of American Poets has a helpful Writing and Publishing FAQ which is especially useful for beginning writers. Make sure you read the sections on scams and subsidy and vanity presses. Prose writers will find many of their tips relevant too.

2013 Murphy Writing Seminars, LLC  ●  May be reprinted for instructional use.

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