Just like there’s a language of, say, France or finance, there is a language of literary publishing.

In this language, I am no longer conversant (Daily Prompt); in fact I’m rather rusty.

Used to be, on a Friday night, I’d pore over the latest edition of the library copy of the Writers Market*, which was dog-eared from all the other aspiring-writer English majors who’d done the same before me. (I led a thrilling social life.) This door-stopper of a book was the bible of publishing. Study this tome, and one could at least sound like they were publishable.

Note that this language of literary publishing is a second language to the language of literary writing. Or should be.

Write. Write well. Write a ton. And only then worry about acquiring the language of literary publishing. That’s my advice. Why?

Because it’s like Greek (unless you’re Greek).

Have you written a novel manuscript? Yes, the Writer’s Market can help here. (If you’ve been following, you know this is a sore subject for me, currently in a state of heavy revision.) You might say, I’m working backwards, having already written up an agent query letter and a synopsis, and allowing myself to consider my–and my book’s–marketability. Let’s just say I’m prepared.

Have you written short stories or poems? Okay, there are a bazillion literary magazines and journals listed in the Writers Market, so you’re sure to find several that are spot-on for your work. Think you’ve got a real gem? There are contests to which you can apply. Some have entry fees, some don’t. Some journals pay. Many don’t. Many take online submissions. (Online submission sites like make submitting to journals much easier.) A few holdout journals still require that you snail mail your story. Most won’t accept stories or poems that have been published before–even on a blog. Some will say they don’t want simultaneous submissions. (That means you’re supposed to wait months, until you receive your rejection from one journal, before you can submit the piece to another.) I’m quoting an MFA prof of mine, loosely here, when I say: “Ignore that nonsense.”


Really, in this day and age of the tweet, it’s funny how old-fashioned the language of literary publishing still is. I mean, a cover letter? Do people even read those?

Maybe. A few journal and magazine editors probably do. So…

Publishing language lesson of the day: the cover letter. Hopefully this example, mine, will take out some of the guesswork. (Simply replace my pertinent info with yours, and you’re good to go; don’t have pertinent info, just keep it simple by including the salutation, first line, last line, and closing.)

Dear Fiction [or Poetry] Editor [insert editor’s name if you’ve got it],

Thank you for considering my story [or poem], “TITLE.” My fiction [or poetry] has appeared in Sou’wester, Carve Magazine, and DASH Literary Journal and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I am an Ohio native with an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently, I’m working on a novel and stories about vision and visions in the Rust Belt. I blog as Rust Belt Girl.

All best,


Are we fluent in the language of literary publishing?

Not yet, but baby steps…

Stay tuned, and Happy Weekend!

*Giving you a lot of love here, Writers Market! Got a copy with my name on it? Dog-eared or not, I’ll take it!



12 thoughts on “Speak the language of publishing

    1. Once you’re ready to submit, I highly recommend It makes it so much easier, and tracks where you’ve submit and the outcome. Of course, the downside is that it’s so much easier for everyone, so the journals that use Submittable probably get a ton of submissions. But it can happen. I don’t submit a whole lot and managed to get two acceptances over the past year submitting through the service. Keep writing, and best of luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This post was timely for me. My writer’s group spent last week drafting and giving critiques on query letters. They are certainly an art unto themselves. Half prose, half sales pitch. Also, that’s a pretty impressive backlist in your cover letter. Congrats on publication in a Pushcart nominated mag.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The agent query letter is a beast, isn’t it? So tough to whittle down the gist of a whole novel into a couple hundred words! Good idea to get a whole group to critique them. Good luck! And, thanks! To mention the Pushcart nomination or not in the cover letter is a big question. Some writers feel that there are so many journals that submit to the Pushcart Prize anthology these days that it doesn’t mean much. But it means something to me, so I keep it in there. Hopefully one day it’ll be a win.


  2. Learned a lot here. I’m also pleased to see the advice, “Ignore that nonsense.” That tends to be my rule anyway, but now that you’ve endorsed it… hmmm?
    Things may be looking up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Yeah, if a journal says that they don’t want simultaneous submissions, but they promise to get back to me in a month or two, that’s one thing. But it’s crazy to tie up the process for as long as six months–sometimes more–when I’m up against hundreds of other submissions. My prof went on to say, worst case scenario is that two journals will accept your work at the exact same time, which is pretty unlikely. And, really, that would be pretty awesome. Plus, if you submit through a (free) service like, they make it easy to withdraw your submissions, so once your piece gets accepted, you quickly withdraw from the other places you’ve submitted. It can all get so complicated–thanks for checking in!

      Liked by 1 person

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