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How to Submit

Memoir writer Eileen Toomey, whose poem was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Cleaver Magazine, gives us starter tips for submitting to literary magazines.

By Eileen Toomey

December 14, 2023

After receiving the email from Cleaver Magazine about my poem, Immunotherapy,” being nominated for a Pushcart Prize, I had to put my head between my knees. The Pushcart Prize was something that happened to other people, an honor unlike anything I’d experienced before. 

During those first moments, I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath, but later that day, as the news settled, I thought, “Why not me?” I have been submitting to literary magazines since October 2016. Although I have received numerous rejections, I have also built up a literary resume, learning the market along the way. The nomination for “Immunotherapy” would never have happened without the effort I invested because nobody would have seen it!

Through Project Write Now, book inc, and various workshops and programs, I have gotten to know so many talented writers who are not submitting their work outside of classroom settings. Writing, that in my opinion, is ripe for publication.

Whether it’s a poem, a piece of fiction, or, for my Memoir Incubator cohorts, a self-contained chapter that could be published on its own, if you believe in your work, there’s a good chance someone else will, too.

The following are some basic starter tips for submitting to literary magazines:

1. Set up a Submittable account. Organizations (such as literary magazines) use Submittable to collect and review digital content and applications. The platform is easy to navigate and will keep track of your submissions and responses.

2. Go onto NewPages Call for Submissions. Visit NewPages for a free and user-friendly website listing of literary magazines with open submission calls. Review the list, make sure to read magazine examples, and submit your work if inspired. Most magazine websites either offer the latest issue or archival content.

3. Every publication has its own guidelines; follow them to the letter. These magazines can be overwhelmed with submissions, and they won’t read your work if it doesn’t adhere to the guidelines.

4. Don’t get bogged down by the bio! It doesn’t matter if you have zero previous publications, everyone starts somewhere. Keep it concise and relevant to your writing journey. Here’s my first online bio: Eileen Toomey went to Columbia College, Chicago, and studied the Story Workshop Method of Writing. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Baltimore. This is her first publication.

Here are some magazines I’ve had success with:

  • The Rumpus: edgy and modern, though challenging to get into.
  • Cleaver Magazine: publishes emerging artists in the early stages of their careers as well as established authors. 
  • Oyster River Pages: a quality website with individual poet interviews.
  • The Eastern Iowa Review: published my first personal essay. The editor was kind and easy to work with.
  • Museum of Americana: my first online publication, Published my first poem “Cattle Trucks” based on a submission request for poems about modes of transportation found in NewPages. 

Here are some magazines that keep rejecting me but that I love anyway: 

Higher Tiered (harder to get into)

  • Another Chicago Magazine
  • Baltimore Review
  • Bellevue Literary Review
  • Boulevard
  • Chicago Review
  • Electric Literature
  • Rattle

Not quite as competitive:

  • Chestnut Review
  • Frontier Poetry
  • Palette Poetry
  • The Forge Literary Magazine

According to data from Duotrope, a subscription-based searchable database of submission opportunities the average acceptance rate for literary magazines is 1-2%. That means for every 100 submissions received, only one or two are accepted for publication. With such low statistics, submitting almost feels like buying lottery tickets, but … you’ve got to be in it to win it! With the Pushcart nomination of “Immunotherapy,” I feel like  I just won a jackpot. I’m so glad I submitted. 

Eileen Toomey

Eileen Toomey’s works have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, The Rumpus, Oyster River Pages, and more. Her poem "Immunotherapy" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Red Bank, NJ with her husband, Michael.

Eileen Toomey’s works have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, The Rumpus, Oyster River Pages, and more. Her poem "Immunotherapy" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Red Bank, NJ with her husband, Michael.