Let’s get this out of the way: Poetry ain’t going to pay the bills. (Unless you’re Terrance Hayes, maybe.)
But if you’re willing to put yourself out there and perfect your craft, it could provide some extra cash. And that goes for all creative writing. There’s a market for it, if you know where to look.
Trish Hopkinson, a poetry blogger, has been a product director at a software company for the past 19 years, but she’s been a writer her whole life. In 2013, she launched her blog as a creative writing portfolio, but it quickly morphed into an essential resource for general creative writing advice — especially if you’re looking to get paid.
Jerrod Schwarz occasionally contributes to Hopkinson’s blog but mostly uses it to find paying literary publications. He is managing editor of Driftwood Press Literary Magazine and a creative writing instructor at the University of Tampa.
Both Hopkinson and Schwarz shared advice with The Penny Hoarder on how to get paid as a creative writer.
What You Need to Know Before You Submit Your Work
Honing Your Craft
It’s tough sharing work that you’ve spent countless hours on, especially if it’s your first time. Receiving feedback on your pride and joy is one of the most difficult things about the creative process. But the sharing part is just as important as the writing part.
“If you want to work on your own craft,” Hopkinson said, “certainly join a local writing group, exchange work with friends, help critique other [writers].”
She said that there are plenty of opportunities to share your work, including Facebook groups.
“It doesn’t help a writer at all to keep everything to themselves or close to their chest,” she said. “You gain so much more sharing with other writers and helping other writers.”
Yes, putting yourself out there is a huge part of creative writing, but thankfully it’s not the only part. There’s another secret to becoming an accomplished creative writer, something you can start doing right now that doesn’t require interacting with another human being:
“Read,” Hopkinson said, deadpan. “You really can’t read enough.”
Getting Set Up
The creative writing world runs on Submittable. It’s a submission management website that just about every literary magazine uses, whether it’s your local university’s poetry magazine or The New Yorker.
If you don’t have an account, Schwarz suggests starting here. Creating an account is easy and free.
“I use Submittable at least every day. I’m on Submittable constantly,” Schwarz said. “It’s what any magazine on the literary side uses.”
Schwarz also recommends DuoTrope. Accounts start at $5 a month, or $50 for a year.
“It is a paid resource, but it’s certainly worth having if you’re starting out,” he said. “You get pretty amazing statistics that are as specific as percentage of people they publish, percentage of people they reject, how many people they publish per issue. Sometimes contact information.”
That contact information is extremely useful.
“Familiarizing yourself, being really personal, addressing editors by name, if that information is available, is my biggest advice,” he said.
Submittable offers a cover letter section attached to each writing submission. That’s a good place to get personable, Schwarz said. Another good option is to reference your submission in a follow-up email to the corresponding editor — if you can find their email address.
Be prepared to submit. A lot.
Some submissions won’t ever get read. Some might take months for a response. But the vast majority will — gasp — be rejected. Rejection is another crucial part of the creative writing process. It happens to everyone.
“Rejections can be hard, but in most cases they’re brief and kind of canned,” Hopkinson said. “I have one particular poem that was rejected 31 times before it was published.”
Schwarz echoed the same idea. He said that he’s been denied hundreds of times.
“Rejection never means failure,” Schwarz said. “A rejection isn’t a dismissal of your work; it’s always an opportunity to make your work better.”
He recommends following up after a rejection to ask about ways to improve.
“As an editor, we like to talk about writing a lot,” he said. “You’d be surprised with how many editors are willing to share that kind of information.”
Literary Magazines That Pay For Creative Writing
So you have a few poems or short stories that you really like. You ran it by some friends and maybe even a creative writing group. And you created your Submittable account. Now you’re ready to send them off. Below is a curated list of literary magazines based on a few factors: They don’t charge submission fees, they pay for your work and they accept submissions year-round.
Both Schwarz and Hopkinson highly recommend doing a little homework before submitting.
“Spend a little time with the literary mags you’re interested in applying to,” Hopkinson said. “Get a feel for their aesthetic, read a couple of pieces, look through a couple issues.”
Submission guidelines are also extremely important to follow. Each publication is slightly different.Hopkinson said there are enough reasons to get rejected as it is.
“You don’t want your work rejected based on a technicality,” she said.
Description: Catapult is an independent print and online publication. Its website offers a host of resources for emerging writers, including creative writing classes and workshops.
Accepting: Primarily narrative nonfiction — lyric essays, personal essays and reportage (500-6,000 words).
How to submit: Via Submittable or email
The Deaf Poet’s Society
Description: The Deaf Poet’s Society is an online journal that highly encourages deaf, disabled and chronically ill writers and artists to submit their work. The journal publishes nearly all forms of creative writing as well as visual art. For a suggested donation of $10, editors will give tailored feedback on submissions, too. In-person workshops and community programs are available in Pittsburgh, Washington D.C. and New York.
Accepting: Poetry, prose, reviews and visual arts.
How to submit: Via email
Description: Isacoustic is a new experimental poetry journal that publishes first online then aggregates the poems into a quarterly print publication. It’s notable for an extremely fast response time, typically within seven days of submission. Pro-tip: An interview with the founder shows a heavy preference for poems that are abstract and image-heavy.
How to submit: Via email
Description: Kahini is an international magazine published 11 times per year to email subscribers. Though based in Hawaii, its name is derived from a Bengali word meaning “tale.” The publication offers several monthly virtual workshops and lectures. It is part of the Literature Africa Foundation and Writing Our World, which provides educational services to youth in East Africa.
Accepting: Poetry, prose and cross-genre writing.
How to submit: Via email
Description: An online hub of poetry news and discussion, Poetry Nook is an excellent resource for budding and veteran writers alike. Though not a magazine per se, it does offer a weekly poetry contest with deadlines every Sunday. Contests are for members only, but making an account on its website is completely free.
How to submit: Create an account to submit to an active weekly contest.
Description: Serial dubs itself a “pulp fiction” magazine. New to the market, it’s looking for genre fiction submissions for its inaugural print issue due January 2019. From there, Serial plans to publish every other week.
Accepting: Any and all genre fiction (500 to 10,000 words).
How to submit: Via email
Description: Also new to the market, Zizzle will publish hardback issues starting this fall. With a mission to spark lifelong passion for reading, Zizzle is primarily focused on fiction for young adults.
Accepting: Young adult fiction (500 to 1,200 words).
How to submit: Directly through the website
Adam Hardy is an editorial assistant at The Penny Hoarder. He recommends patience when submitting. His Submittable account still has several pending submissions from years past. Read his full bio here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.