I made a breakthrough over the weekend. I entered the information I’ve been collecting about different literary magazines and their reading windows into a spreadsheet. Now I can easily sort all of the reading periods by deadlines and what month I want to include them in my planner. I also added spreadsheet pages for contests, paying poetry markets, anthologies and community events.
As there are thousands of literary magazines and I only intend to introduce 365 in my planner, I decided to begin my exploration with magazines that pay their writers. I noticed that many journals are now using Submittable and charging a submission fee. I feel like it won’t be worth my time if I’m losing money for my efforts, so my focus is on journals with no fees that pay writers anything at all upon publication. I was happy to discover that there were more paying markets than I thought and separating my spreadsheets into fiction and poetry revealed even more opportunities if I can muster enough courage to submit my poetry.
Proof of concept
The first month of the year isn’t over and I’ve already missed a ton of deadlines for both reading periods and contests. My research has revealed that the journals that pay the most have tiny reading periods of only days per year. I was also shocked to see that the The Pushcart Prize XLIII: Best of the Small Presses 2019 Edition (The Pushcart Prize) is already at my local library. How is that even possible?
I began to get frustrated and overwhelmed, but I reminded myself that the purpose of this research experiment is to be prepared for next year. The missed deadlines this month and the beginning of next only support my theory that a successful submission is planned well in advance.
A new problem
Journals charging submission fees and contest entry fees aren’t the only monetary issue I see with my heightened submission plan. Each journal expects submitting writers to become familiar with past issues before submitting. Many journals provide some stories to read online, but most suggest that one purchase an issue or get a subscription.
I understand that the journals need to make money and it’s important to read what the journal prints. I want to read as many literary magazines as possible, but if I was to purchase 365 magazines at fifteen to thirty dollars an issue, I would have to spend between $5,500 and $11,000 only to read one issue which isn’t really enough to get a feel for a publication as a whole .
I want to make money, not go into debt, so my submission goals are now limited to journals that have story samples available online, journals I can find through my library system and journals that have stories in collections that I can get from the library like The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Short Stories.
With all the time it takes to read enough short stories to familiarize oneself with literary journals, I don’t know when submitting writers find time to write. I’m hoping, through this experiment, it will all click by next year. I’ll be familiar with the journals, know the deadlines for the ones I want to submit to and have a year’s worth of stories to submit. Ah, I really am a dreamer.
Though I made some of my January goals, I changed my mind on others. I started writing the possession story for the Dark Regions contest, and I still like the idea, but I didn’t want to feel that dark right now, so I let that story go for the moment.
I read some of the winning stories from the Nelson Algren Short story contest in The Chicago Tribune archives, but I still want to read more of his work and write a story specifically toward that contest, so I put that off until next year. From learning about Nelson Algren, I’m also learning about Studs Terkel. I’ve noticed that there are literary magazines inspired by these gentlemen. I look forward to learning more about them.
Though Sixfold sounded interesting, with everything else I’m doing right now, I didn’t have time to read everyone’s entries, so I put that off for another time as well.
Through my deadline collection, I also found many February first deadlines that I will put on the January pages for next year, but not stress over for now. I want to have time to get familiar with each of the journals and not send stories out only because there are deadlines. Everything about this process is showing me that I’m on the right track. Submitting stories is for planners.
The Planner Pages
With February fast approaching, I’ve worked out some more rough draft pages. I want to start each quarter of the year with large goals for the three months. Then each month will have more specific goals and a list of specific deadlines for that month. Here’s what I’m going to try for the First Quarter and February:
I hope you will download them and experiment along with me. I’ll be adding more deadlines to the February Deadlines page as they come up and will update accordingly. I look forward to your feedback about what you like and don’t like about the design and content as well as whether you find the format motivational.
If you know of any deadlines to add to February, please let me know in the comments.
The daily pages for the first week of February will be posted on Thursday.