If you’re a writer who’s interested in achieving lofty “literary” heights, then you’ve likely dreamed of your work appearing in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Atlantic, Tin House, Narrative Magazine and more. And who can blame you? These publications have been going strong for decades, and have had some serious big-hitters within their pages (hello, Joyce Carol Oates).
But if you’re looking to get some publications under your belt, I’m here to tell you that these literary magazines are probably not the best place to start. Their acceptance rate is extremely competitive (think less than 2%), and they take months, sometimes even years to come back to you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother submitting to them, or that they’ll never accept your work, but that you should be strategic about it, widening your net to get a few more pubs under your belt first. Think how good your author bio will look when you do eventually submit to them – it’s better to show that you are widely published and not a literary snob.
“Literary magazine” is a broad term, and has come to mean so much more than the “traditional”. Thanks to services like Submittable, it can encompass print and online, can publish several genres, and various forms: fiction, essays, poetry, visual arts and more. If you broaden your mind and look for publications that perhaps do not fit this traditional mold, you’ll instantly give yourself so many more creative outlets to submit to, thus massively increasing your chances of getting published. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my top 50 alternative literary magazines to submit to.
Your target criteria
Realistically, if you’re just starting out, you should target literary magazines:
- That have great websites
- That publish digital-only editions
- That are just starting out or less then a couple of years old
- That are genre-specific
- That charge no more than $3 per entry on Submittable
- That have decent social followings
- That rank on Google
- That actually get back to you
Top 50 literary alternative magazines to submit to
In alphabetical order, here are fifty of my favorite literary magazines to submit to (and yes, I’ve been published in and rejected by a fair few of these, and have so much respect for them and all of their editorial teams!). Note: this list is not exhaustive; it is simply an aggregation of a few that I personally like. I have tried to include the weird and the wonderful, across multiple genres, old and new, print and online. If I am missing anything obvious, or if you would like to be included, please let me know:
All work must contain three elements of the journal’s choice. A great prompt for poets in particular.
A newer literary journal that publishes hybrid, risk-taking work.
A publication dedicated to amplifying Black writers and people of color. They provide workshops, performance series, and ample opportunity for fiction and poetry publication in their magazine and via competitions.
An online and print magazine for “open-minded millennials”, publishing fiction and poetry anthologies.
All too often, sci-fi is pushed out of bounds of literary consideration – well, to hell with that. Asimov’s is one of the oldest and best, publishing a wealth of quality submissions.
Positioning itself as “unashamed, unadorned, and unafraid”, Atticus Review is for more experimental, hybrid genre writers.
Slick website, broad categories to submit to, writer spotlight interviews, contests – I recommend submitting for the website alone.
A big hitter and so naturally more competitive, but super unique in that it solely publishes content around illness, health, and medicine.
9. Bourbon Penn
Is your writing a little odd? Then rejoice! You’ve come to the right place. The cover art is creepy as hell.
A newer online literary journal for flash and short fiction.
An imprint of Ember Chasm Review (see below) that publishes darker fiction. They are moving to digital issues rather than singular stories and poems, and are about to increase their pay. Yay!
12. Carve Magazine
A print and digital magazine with a gorgeous website and well-deserved following.
13. Chestnut Review
A literary home for stubborn artists and writers who crave resonant, narrative literature.
14. Crack the Spine
“We will always select madness over method”. Enough said. They are an online magazine, and also publish print anthologies.
Craft only accepts well-crafted pieces (naturally), publishes on a rolling basis, and runs regular competitions and awards.
Not the best website in the world, but a very nice editor, and the published edition is nicely produced and sold on Amazon.
17. The Dark Sire
A quarterly online and paperback magazine that in the subgenres of gothic, horror, fantasy, and psychological realism. Another lovely editor!
18. The Drabble
An online publication that publishes “drabbles”: flash fiction of 1,000 words or fewer.
Slick website, and they’ve always sent me the loveliest rejections, so they get a mention.
20. Fractured Lit
The “future of flash”, Fractured publishes some of the best flash (1,000 words or fewer) and micro (100 words or fewer) work on the internet.
21. Freeze Ray
Publisher of pop culture poetry every quarter.
22. Ghost Parachute
A newer, classy collection of flash fiction. They “passionately promote” the writers they publish.
23. Gone Lawn
Super-fast response times and partial to “odd animals”. Need I say more?
An award-winning, Vermont-based literary magazine publishing work by both well-known writers and promising newcomers.
A quarterly, UK-based print magazine committed to publishing the best in creative non-fiction from around the globe.
Their online submissions are open year-round. They publish everyone from first-time authors and Roxane Gay.
Image is a faith-based journal, in the broadest sense. It publishes fiction, essays, translations, and artist profiles under the lens of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.
28. Into the Void
An award-winning print and online quarterly literary magazine published quarterly, it centers on diversity and art. A legit, established magazine that’s worth a punt.
Publishing online poetry and chapbooks, Lily Poetry is a newer journal that allows free submissions.
30. Longleaf Review
With a focus on #OwnVoices and the outsider narrative, Longleaf accepts a range of creative work on their classy online platform.
31. Monkey Bicycle
They moved from print to online, publish stories daily, and even publish one-sentence stories!
A nonfiction literary journal of the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Bay Path University. Clean, accessible website.
Publisher of weekly book reviews, short stories, research notes, occasional interviews, essays, and “other surprises”.
34. One Story
One Story is HARD to get into – they only publish one, single story every three weeks – but my, what stories. Worth a punt.
A classy website centering on political and social justice. I was discovered in their “Emerging Fiction Voices” category.
36. Paper Brigade
The Jewish Book Council’s annual literary journal, Paper Brigade offers a prestigious publishing platform for Jewish writers.
37. Passager Journal
Publishes work from writers over fifty years of age. Although they prefer hard copy submissions, you can still send via Submittable.
38. Pif Magazine
Pif positions itself as an e-zine, and publishes screenwriting, cover art, reviews, classifieds and more.
39. The Pinch
The Pinch is a bi-annual literary journal produced by the students of the University of Memphis MFA Program. Beautiful, modern website.
40. Pipe Wrench
A newer mag (and beautiful website) featuring longform stories and associated fiction and art on that same theme.
41. Post Road
Publishing bi-annually, this NYC mag oozes style, sophistication, and “literary” vibes.
42. Pulp Literature
A Canadian-based small press, whose slogan is “Good Books for the Price of a Beer.” Can’t argue with that.
A Berlin-based journal that represents underrepresented voices. Their website feels a little inaccessible, but I’ve found their editors to be friendly and timely with their feedback.
Although a more established, “traditional” lit mag (it was founded in the 1950s and has published many famous authors), its website is pretty bold and modern, which is rare for college lit mags.
45. Slice Magazine
Slice’s mission is to bridge the gap between new writers and established authors, publishing both side-by-side.
My alma mater. Cool website, cool editorial staff, cool publication. They don’t sell through amazon, but through a Maine-based indie bookseller.
A poetry journal with a threadbare, yet appropriately poetic website that publishes six times per year.
An imprint of Platypus Press, Wildness accepts work that delves into the unknown. Its website looks more than a literal journal than a website, but that’s okay.
49. Witness Magazine
Witness is for the extraordinary and the bold, and features work from known and unknown writers.
Much more competitive but effortlessly cool, Zoetrope is a film-based site for writers from Francis Ford Coppola, offering screenplay and fiction contests.