American Library in Paris — YA Submission Workshop 2019

American Library in Paris — YA Submission Workshop 2019


The Long Game of Short Work by Claire Polders

Summary of the Workshop

WHY submit short work

  • Makes you a better writer and self-editor (honing your craft) 
  • Helps you stay motivated (the long game)
  • Allows for experimentation (self-exploration and analysis)
  • Brings you an audience with feedback (communication, mirror)
  • Makes a path into the writers’ community (relationships)
  • Creates a collection of work
  • Draws attention and makes you look committed

HOW to submit 

  • Submittable. Electronic submissions. Free / Fee / Tip Jar
  • Follow the guidelines and be nice
  • Cover letter. Be short, polite, and honest. Provide everything they ask for. Bonus points: mention what you loved in their lit mag. Or explain how you’ve heard of them. Don’t: summarize or pitch your submission. See Cover Letter Examples

WHEN to submit

WHERE to submit

  • Read. Submit to lit mags you know. Then match them to your own writing.
  • Read guidelines on what editors want and read their interviews
  • Find lit mags that publish the authors you love
  • What’s the lit mag’s outreach? Their audience and social media presence? Online or print?
  • Do they nominate for awards?
  • What are their success stories? Best of anthologies, Pushcart Anthology. (See Rating Lists here (1) and here (2))
  • Do they edit stories?
  • Do they promote their authors?
  • How much do they publish in one issue / per year?
  • Do they pay for stories  / charge a sub fee? (Writing budget)
  • See Submission List


  • Be Selective. 5 at the time. Use feedback from some rejections to improve work.
  • Be patient. 1-3 months is normal. Sometimes it takes 12 months or more. 
  • Submit in Tiers. 
  • Contest Submissions for Emerging Authors (only compete with peers)
  • How to stand out. Editors are not trying to be mean, but they do read to reject. So: follow guidelines, avoid spelling errors in work and cover letter, edit and re-edit, grab the reader’s attention quickly: your best stuff needs to be upfront. See: Tips for Submitting


  • Rejection is unavoidable and to be expected at every level. Short work. Contests. Finding an agent. Long work. Awards.
  • Even JK Rowling received numerous rejections when she pitched the series’ synopsis for Harry Potter.
  • Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up. Develop a thick skin.
  • Don’t take it personally. Usually it’s just timing and circumstance. Rejection is often a disappointment, but it is not a verdict.
  • See rejection as a learning experience. Aim for a 100 rejections a year.
  • Tiered rejections: when a magazine asks for more work, you can truly take this as an encouragement. Your short piece almost made it. See: Different Tiers of Rejections
  • If you stop submitting your short piece when it has not been rejected by at least 20 editors, you have not tried hard enough
  • But: some pieces may not be your best work. Accept that, too, and put them aside.
  • Write more. Get better. Submit more. Keep going. 
  • The writer who makes it, is the writer who doesn’t give up.


  • Check your rights before you sign a contract or agree to publication.
  • Work with the editor on revisions
  • Promote your publication (and always thank the editors)
  • Social Media: don’t only promote your own work. Participate. Be human.
  • Create an Author Website
  • Write Reviews / Comment on the short work of others
  • Accept opportunities for Interviews, Podcasts, Presentations, Workshops


  • Take some time off, step back
  • Change the font (size)
  • Analyze the stories of others to recognize your own faults
  • Edit in layers: developmental editing (story arc and character), line editing (sentence structure, flow, word use), proofreading
  • For developmental editing, write a summary using only the action, only what we can see (no interior thoughts and emotions)
  • For line editing, read with only one focus at the time, such as action verbs, descriptions, smells
  • Read the text aloud
  • Be honest: if you’re bored, your reader will be, too
  • Cut and trim. Editing is often reducing. Kill Your Darlings.
  • Some later stage fixes: 
    • Replace adverbs with stronger verbs (walk quickly vs run)
    • Replace other adjectives with stronger, more precise nouns (soft fabric vs silk)
    • Eliminate unnecessary adjectives (white snow)
    • Eliminate often overused words (really, very, just, completely, quite, begin, start, see, hear, but, etc.)
    • Eliminate passive voice (unless you use it on purpose)

Concrete Submission Advice


—>  KEEP A SPREADSHEET of what stories you have submitted where and when. Not every lit mag works with Submittable. Some want email submissions or have their own systems, so you need to keep track of it all. When a story gets accepted, you must withdraw your piece elsewhere. This is important: No greater frustration for editors who all are volunteers than to discover a piece they like has already been published. Don’t give anyone a reason to be angry with you. Don’t reply surly to rejections. Don’t send a new piece to the same lit mag each month. 


  • your full name
  • your address
  • your email address
  • title of submission
  • genre of submission (fiction, poetry, non-fiction, artwork, graphic story)
  • word count (if prose)
  • where you’ve recently published (if applicable)
  • whether this is a simultaneous submission
  • one or two sentences that prove you read their magazine (mention a poem you loved, or a story writer you now follow)
  • a ready-to-print third person bio (if asked for)
  • where you go to school or whether you’ve done any creative writing classes (optional)

Cover Letter Example in Submittable

Dear Editors,

Please consider my short story “X” (1,700 words) for The Y Review.

I read and loved “ABC” from Jill Doe. My story is not as postmodern as hers, but our themes are similar I believe.

I’m an undergraduate author from Ohio currently living in Paris. My short stories are forthcoming in A Review and B Magazine. My poetry has been published in the C Lit Journal. Currently, I’m writing my first novel.

This is a simultaneous submission. I will, of course, notify you immediately if the story is accepted elsewhere.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Kind regards,

Author’s Name
Author’s address and phone number
Author’s website
Author’s Twitter handle / Facebook Page or Profile

Cover Letter Example as a real letter:

Magazine Name
PO Box 123
City, State, Zip Code

15 February 2019

Dear editors and readers:

I am hereby submitting my short story “Story Title” (3,240 words). This story has not been submitted elsewhere.

My Bio:

X’s short fiction has been published recently in Magazine A, Journal B, and Another Lit Mag. Her short story “Story” won the 2018 X award for Y fiction. She will start her MFA in fiction at Z University in Fall, 2019.

Thank you for reading.

Author’s Name
Author’s Address

—> CHECK YOUR RIGHTS before you sign a contract or agree to publishing.

Most magazines ask for First Serial Rights as well as the right to archive your work on their site indefinitely. This is fairly standard. 

What is important is that you see a phrase such as: “After publication, all rights revert to the contributors.” 

Or:  “Copyrights of all work published in X remain with the author.”

When in doubt: ask the editors!

—> ADVICE FROM EDITORS: What Editors Say about Submissions

Submission List

Lit Mags Specifically for Younger Writers

Lit Mags with a Special Young Adult and/or Middle Grade Category

Lit Mags with a Young Audience & Special Interest in Young Authors

Submission Opportunity Sites