Writing Contests and Literary Magazine Submissions Tips (in Canada)

Long gone are the days when young writers had to send out their manuscript by mail to the nearest literary magazine. Yet, while there is a less doom-and-gloom feeling to submitting your work (with less mechanical stress of stapling the manuscript wrong), there will always be the lingering publication fear.

You are submitting your creative pieces, which means bearing your soul for critics to, well, critique. Here are some tips to make the process a little bit easier. 

Top 4 Tips for Submitting your Manuscript

1. Always check the size requirements 

Most fiction and creative non-fiction submissions have a limit of up to 3,500 words

Poetry submissions are more varied. The limit is usually up to 5 poems, in a short to medium range. 

2. Get acquainted with the application Submittable

Submittable is a secure online management application that directly connects your downloaded manuscript with the magazine organizer.

Some literary magazines require you to submit your work directly to Submittable, instead of going through their website and using Submittable as the medium.

In Submittable, you have to create your account before you’re able to submit your work. As with any work, it’s best to do this before the deadline so you don’t rush and potentially mess up your profile or your submission requirements. 

Tip: click the “optimizer” option when setting up your Submittable account! It will create a list of contests that you might be interested in. Plus, the list is organized by deadline date so you can plan out your contest calendar more easily 😉

3. Check the Organization’s Guidelines 

While some magazines will keep the MLA format style (12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced, top right numbered pages), most have their own formatting guidelines that you must follow.

If the guidelines are not listed in the contest or submission page, check the magazine’s About page and find their format or editing guidelines.  

4. Check (and balance out) the Fee

Remember that submissions to magazines (open-call or year-long submissions) should be free, but contests usually require a fee.

The more popular literary magazines will ask for a high fee to enter their contests (I have seen fees up to $45).

Yet, there are also lots of magazines that make their contests free of charge in Canada, especially magazines or organizations that are just starting up.

If you are planning to submit your work to more than one organization, keep track of the fees and balance out the value (monetary or non-monetary award) with the acquainted fee. 

More Resources for the Aspiring Writer:

My Top 5 Favourite Short Story Contests Right Now

Recommended Reads for Aspiring Writers

  • On Writing, Stephen King (Amazon $19.80)
  • Tell it Slant: Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola (Amazon $19.52)
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, Amy Einsohn (Amazon $41.16)
  • The Elements of Style, William Strunk JR. and E.B. White (Amazon $12.29)
  • The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, Alice LaPlante (Amazon $21.15)
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey (Amazon $14.85)

Recommended Resources 

from the Oxford English Dictionary website

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – https://www.oed.com

The OED not only outlines the meaning of words but also its origin (etymology), its history and its pronunciation. Moreover, the OED has over 600,000 words from both present and past, meaning if you’re into Old or Middle English then you can grasp its meaning even if the word is no longer in use. While the OED requires a subscription, most universities and colleges do make it available to students. Including the University of Toronto, the University of Cambridge, and the Milton Keynes College. Make sure to check your school’s writing resource page and see if it is also available to you! 

from JSTOR website

JSTOR – https://www.jstor.org

This website is an archive of scholarly journals that contains primary sources, research studies on old and modern texts, and support for your own research endeavors. Similar to OED, most universities and colleges have this resource available to students, so make sure to check your school’s writing resource page to get your JSTOR login link! 

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