Dispatches | September 04, 2012

September 1st is the loose opening day for submissions in the literary magazine world. Some magazines open on August 1st or even October 1st. Others go for the middle, opening on August 15th or September 15th. And some magazines, like, say, this one, are open all year long. But for the most part, with the universities back in session, September 1st is thought of as the time to start getting your submissions ready to send out into the world.

All of the staff members of The Missouri Review are writers, too, so we’re constantly on both sides of the submission process: we send work out, we take work in. Because of this, here are a couple of real quick Dos and Don’ts (“There is no try” – Yoda) in regards to your submissions.

DO read the guidelines. Ours are right here. For the most part, it’s all the same from magazine to magazine—a manuscript free of coffee cup stains or donut crumbs, contact information so we can say “We want to publish this!”, etc.—but every magazine has its own peccadilloes and quirks when it comes to a submission.

DO send us your best work. Feverishly writing the first draft of your magnum opus late into the wee small hours is good. Firing that sucker off to us the next day probably isn’t. All good work needs a little refinement, a little marination. Be patient with your work.

DO NOT send inappropriate work. By that, I do not mean pornography. I mean work that fits TMR’s aesthetic. Andre Dubus, in an essay about writing and publishing, wrote that often he would write a particular scene into a story and think to himself “Well, there goes the New Yorker!” He was familiar with the work they published and knew, particularly many decades ago, that certain things would not get printed in their pages. He read the magazine. With that …

DO read a copy of The Missouri Review. Every literary magazine says this, of course: always read a sample copy before submitting. And, yes, you can get our current issue here. It’s particularly important for us because we’ve had the same senior staff here for almost twenty years, and Speer has been here from the beginning. Unlike a magazine run by a graduate program, where the staff turns over completely every year, we’ve been here the whole time. A sample copy helps you.

DO consider online submissions. There are lots of good reasons to submit online, but most important is that it is so much easier to keep track of your work. Postal submissions, unfortunately, do get lost sometimes. Online submissions don’t. You don’t have to, of course: we accept paper submissions, too. In which case …

DO NOT forget a SASE. We’re not gonna track you down if you don’t include a SASE with your paper submission. We have a great big box on top of a filing cabinet in our mailing room that says NO SASE. It’s like a well for lost souls only … well, it’s just a box of battered envelopes. But you get the idea. Include a SASE!

DO be patient. Our response time is six to eight weeks, which in the lit mag biz, is pretty quick. We have four issues to fill, so we’re reading all the time. If that isn’t fast enough for you, or you want to know how fast other magazines are responding, use Duotrope to check out stats independently reported by other writers.

DO see what else we have to offer. Our website was revamped last summer—why not check out our blog (of course, you’re here now, but, you know what I mean), our podcasts, our Poem of the Week, stories like this one by Amy Hempel or this one by Russell Banks or this essay by Cheryl Strayed, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed. If you’re in the Columbia area, you’ll find us at readings at Tate Hall, Get Lost Bookshop, and Orr Street Studios. Come say “Yo!”

DO NOT hesitate to contact us. Maybe this quick and dirty guide hasn’t answered your questions. This page has all the answers, and if not, down at the bottom is an email address to contact us. We’re always happy to help.

DO keep writing. I mean, what could be more important, right?

Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye