Tip #7: Follow Submission Guidelines and Read the Publication
Most publications tell you exactly what they want and how to send your submissions. Follow their directions! And don’t submit without reading the publication cover to cover. When possible, read the last six issues at a minimum, sometimes available online or at your local library.
To find submission guidelines, google the name of the publication and “submissions” or “writer’s guidelines.” They’ll tell you the kinds of pieces they’re looking for, word count, and whether to submit as an attachment or paste your piece into the body of the email. They may also tell you what they pay. (A caveat: There are some outdated submission guidelines floating around on the Internet. For example, the old submission guidelines from the New York Times Travel Section tell you about an end-page essay that hasn’t run in years.)
But there’s a lot of valuable guidance from editors available on the web. Here are three examples. If you google “Ladies Home Journal submission guidelines,” you’ll find the email address for submissions, lead times for publication, average article length, and more. The Smithsonian magazine’s writer’s guidelines tell you the magazine will only accept proposals via its online form, and that you’ll hear back within three weeks regarding your proposal. The Sun magazine will only accept hard copy submissions sent to the street address on its website.
Sometimes submission guidelines list upcoming themes. Skirt! magazine, for instance, lists monthly themes for the print edition of its magazine. Anthologies like Traveler’s Tales tell you which anthologies they’re soliciting for, along with deadlines.
If you follow the guidelines the editors provide — from word count and form of submission (email, snail mail, etc.) to content — you’ll be ahead of the game.