Whether you’re new to submitting or a seasoned submitter, you probably dread that “Please enter a cover letter” box on Submittable, especially if you’re unsure of what to include. The words “cover letter” might seem a little too official (and, if you were an English major, reminiscent of trying to gain employment…especially if you’re still trying to gain employment).
So why would a journal want you to write a cover letter, anyway? Can’t you just send them some work and get on with your day?
Well, a cover letter can, and for many journals, does make a difference–it’s not necessarily going to get you rejected, but it can help editors know whether your stuff gels with what they’re looking for and gives them a sense of who you are. At the very least, it can help streamline the process when you get accepted, since they’ll already have your bio and will just have to update it. Everybody loves some copying and pasting.
So, what do you even put in a cover letter?
See below for insights and an example of a cover letter from our very own editor, Nichole Rued, and feel free to download a copy for your future reference!
If you’re like us, you probably get (maybe overly) excited when you see a /, an * or a font that’s in a different color than black. And, you get doubly excited if you can figure out how to use them yourself without overdoing it or doing it for doing its sake. Most journals welcome playfulness, and every journal wants writing that’s doing something new.
But, if your writing is at the House of Leaves or A Visit from the Goon Squad end of the spectrum (that is, if it’s all over the page or using multi-media or something like that) you might need to set your sights on journals with an experimental focus. Since we’ve pored over journal listings looking for homes for our own experimental work, we thought we’d save you some time by putting together a list of places to start.
If you’ve been submitting work for awhile, Diagram might sound familiar to you, but we couldn’t not include it on our list. It’s probably the #1 journal out there for experimental writing (and they take art, too!). They even have backslashes in their submissions guidelines:
“WE WANT art and writing that demonstrates / interaction; the processes / of things, both inner and outer; how certain functions are accomplished; how things become. How they expire. How they move or churn, or stand.”
Diagram publishes a wide variety of writing, from pieces using Microsoft Track Changes to videos and reviews. Diagram is well-known and well-established, so it can be hard to make the cut–make sure you send them only your best work and that their journal is the right fit for it (see here for help submitting to journals).
Storm Cellar publishes a variety of work, from work that is traditional in form to work like this. Here’s their vision:
“Storm Cellar is a literary journal of safety and danger. We place a special emphasis on the Midwest, but even more emphasis on amazing writing and art. We aim to display aesthetic ambition as well as the work of authors and artists who are under-represented in the Anglophone literary world. We want everybody to get weird and enlightened and learn and fall in love and have superpowers. We want to surprise and delight and horrify and provoke. Storm Cellar is not a distraction but a cure for boredom.”
In short, their aesthetic varies widely, but they do like weird stuff. Storm Cellar is a good journal to submit work to if you have a few publications under your belt (or even if you don’t). It’s always useful to check out their archives or purchase an issue to see how well your work aligns with the work they generally publish.
Hypertext Magazine publishes work both online and in print, and they pride themselves in publishing emerging and established writers alike.
Here’s what they want in terms of writing:
“We’re currently looking for writing that presents the world in new and startling ways. We want to see writers take chances, push forms. In fiction and essays, we’re looking for stories written by and about all ages and types of people, stories that change the way we view the world. We’re looking for carefully crafted writing that amazes and inspires.”
Send them some fiction, poetry, or essays, complete with italics, numbered lists, sectioned pieces, second person works, or writing that takes risks.
Paper Darts publishes both literature and art, leaning toward the short and the strange when it comes to written work. Right now, Paper Darts is only publishing flash prose, but they occasionally open it up for poetry, too.
Here’s how they capture their vision:
“We publish new work by uncommon voices that you just can’t get anywhere else.”
Paper Darts publishes online, but, like Hypertext Magazine, also publishes in print. Paper Darts is open to new voices and encourages the weird and unfamiliar.
*Paper Darts is currently closed for submissions, but keep them on your list for when they open again!
Now you have a starting point for getting your experimental work out into the world. Keep checking back for additions to the list, new insights, and tricks of the trade. Subscribe or show us some love by following us below or catching up with us on social media.
Where do you even begin? Read on! (and download our infographic!)
With literally (see what we did there?) thousands of journals out there, it can be hard to know where to start when you finally have something you can feel confident in (or at least okay about) submitting.
If you’re new to the submissions process, check out this downloadable guide for how to get started. It includes where to find publications, how to filter out those that might not work in terms of what you’re looking for in a journal (or in terms of what they are looking for in regards to your work).
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