Assignment: Literary Journal Review

Students explore literary journals and learn how to find them

We don't want students to blindly submit work to journals and magazines they know nothing about. It is also part of the initiation into the writer's life to become familiar with the literary journal market -- the kinds of journals out there, what is typical and atypical, and what they could be reading in order to be competitive when submitting. The goal of this assignment is to send students out into the lit journal world and familiarize them with it.


Step 1:  Separate the Wheat from the Chaff

For this assignment, students review literary journal listings on, Writers Market, or and identify 10 undergraduate literary journals where they might want to submit their work.


Or, if they write in a particular genre, identify 10 magazines that publish their genre. Of these 10, they then choose 4 to investigate in depth.


Step 2:  Journal Review

Once they have identified 4 publications, they review the websites of each journal to see if the journal posts sample stories, poems, creative nonfiction or other content online. If so, they read sample fiction from the most recent issues (published in the last 2-3 years). They needn’t read every single story. Their task is to get a feel for the journals, enough so that they can  1) compile a profile of each of them and  2) identify some current trends. Their goal is to get a general feel for the journal or magazine and a feel for the writing currently being published.


Step 3:  Journal Profile

They write at least 1 single-spaced page for each journal. They begin by describing their method for selecting each publication. What criteria did they use? What attracted them to this journal over the many others? What stands out about it? et cetera. They then provide information such as:

  • When was it founded?
  • What is it’s circulation?
  • Cost of subscription?
  • How many issues published per year?
  • What genres/ types of work does it publish?
  • Is there a word limit for submissions?
  • When does it accept submissions?
  • Are there any fees to submit something?
  • Are there any yearly contests they can enter?
  • How does one submit — online, through the mail?
  • How many pieces does it publish each issue on average?
  • Does it publish previously unpublished authors?