Because submissions guidelines should be fairly brief, we have decided to include this section, which contains questions writers frequently ask us in our travels to conferences and book fairs and such, followed, of course, by our answers . . .
Should I query you before sending my work?
No. We’re not agents or book publishers, so there’s no need to send inquiries asking us whether we would be interested in seeing your story or poem or novel excerpt or essay. We will consider all unsolicited manuscripts sent to us during our stated reading period, September 1 through May 31.
Do you take e-mail submissions?
We’re not an e-journal or e-zine, so, no. The work we post online is culled from our printed issues. Neither are we neo-Luddites. Several of us actually enjoy using computers; however, we, like many of you, understand that the computer is not necessarily a labor-saving piece of technology. E-submission, while possibly a convenience for writers, is definitely an inconvenience for us.
What sorts of stories are you looking for?
Our standard response to this often-asked question is no different from that of most other literary publications: read the magazine. If you peruse a few issues, you will discover that we have eclectic tastes, which is what makes concisely answering this question difficult. Inevitably our attempts will be found wanting, especially by those who need a neat, no-stories-about-divorce-in-which-pets-die answer. We are most definitely not looking for timid, ill-conceived, and sloppily written stories whose characters are barely more than ciphers, and whose plots are pedestrian and predictable. Rather, we enjoy—and, more importantly, our readers have come to expect—ambitious, intelligent, and deftly crafted works that defy expectations, works whose atypical characters are embroiled in unique and engrossing situations. Not concrete enough? Need something more specific? Read the magazine.
What types of poetry do you publish?
All types, really. We’ve published formal verse, free verse, confessional lyrics, lyric narratives, long lyric narratives, discontinuous verse, elegies, dramatic monologues, abstract poems, realist poems, surrealist poems, modern poems, post-modern poems, post-post-modern poems, post-confessional poems, ironically self-aware/unaware poems, poems with palindromes, humorous poems, devastating poems, absurd poems, etcetera, etcetera, and on and on. Really, the advice here is the same as that for fiction writers: the best way to get a sense of what we publish is to read a broad sampling of what we have published.
Do you publish translations?
Yes. We haven’t published many works in translation, but we do publish them.
How many stories/essays should I include in a submission?
Use your best judgment, but here are some guidelines: Send no more than two average-length (twenty to thirty pages) pieces, and only one longer piece or novel excerpt. If you have a batch of short-shorts or short essays, send no more than three.
How many poems should I include in a submission?
Again, use your best judgment, but here are some guidelines: three to five short poems; three longer ones; one really long one. If you’ve written a book-length epic, do what novelists do and select an excerpt. Do not send us your book and tell us to pick from the treasures within.
How often should I submit during your reading period?
Our general advice is to submit no more than three manuscripts per year, or no more than three times per year. (That doesn’t mean you can send three stories three times per year, for a total of nine different stories. Well, you could, but then we’d come to recognize your name, though not for your literary accomplishments.) Don’t inundate us with your work. It’s also good form to wait until you’ve heard back from us before submitting your next manuscript.
Are cover letters necessary? Do you ever bother to read them?
Truthfully, they are not absolutely necessary, but they can be very useful. We do read cover letters, but not always. Regardless, you should include one with your submission. They’re helpful for record keeping, and should your work be accepted, they provide invaluable contact information.
What should I put in my cover letter?
Keep your cover letter simple, factual, and brief. Always provide all of your contact information: address, phone number, cell phone number, and e-mail address. Let us know a bit about yourself as a writer—your publishing history, awards, and the like—but do so without providing us with your curriculum vitae. A little bit of personality is always welcome, but err on the side of being businesslike and professional in tone. Don’t say anything in your cover letter that will undermine the work to be considered. And don’t pitch us your work; save that for agents. It’s also not necessary, or advisable, to summarize your submission. This is especially true for novelists submitting excerpts. If you find that you need, for purposes of clarity and understanding, to provide a gloss for the section you want us to consider, then it’s not sufficiently self-contained. Finally, let us know whether, in the event of rejection, you want us to return your manuscript in your SASE or toss it into the recycling bin.
What’s an SASE?
(Stunned silence.) Seriously? A self-addressed stamped envelope.
Do I really need to include an SASE?
If you want to receive word on the fate of your submission, then yes, absolutely.
How much postage should I put on my SASE?
That depends on how much of your manuscript you want back. Most writers and poets elect to use their SASEs for our reply only, in which case a single first-class stamp is fine. If you want your submission to be returned along with our response, then know that one first-class postage stamp covers the return of only four pages (this is the USPS talking here, not us). So if you want all five of your poems back, or all of your thirty-page story, then you must include additional postage to cover the cost . . . that or pay for the extra postage later, which is always a hassle. You should also be mindful of the increasing regularity of rate hikes issued by the USPS, which can occur while your submission waits for our attention. The way to counter this is to buy “forever” stamps for use on your SASEs. This solution is much more elegant than sending us a one- or two-cent stamp and asking that we affix it to your now postage-deficient SASE.
Unless you have designated your SASE reply only, our policy is to send back all of a poetry submission and just the title page/first page of a work of prose. Please do not put our address as the return address on your SASEs. If you haven’t provided enough postage, the USPS will send it back to us with an additional postage charge. In our humble opinion, that’s asking too much of a nonprofit literary magazine.
Can I use a postcard instead of an SASE?
Sure, but don’t ask us to write out a rejection. Prepare the card yourself. Often writers put check boxes next to wording such as, “Good story, but just not for us. Try again.” “Thanks, but no thanks.” “Hated it. Don’t ever send to us again.” We would never check the latter.
I know you require an SASE, but it would save me some money if you could send your response to me via e-mail. Is this ok?
I live outside of the United States. How do I negotiate postage for my SASE?
Most foreign postal systems sell IRCs (international reply coupon), which are redeemable for U.S. air-mail postage. Clearly state in your cover letter whether your SASE is for return of manuscript or reply only. If the former, we strongly urge you to anticipate rate increases by purchasing an IRC for more postage than you think (or your local post officer claims) you will need, as we will not cover any additional postage costs.
I live in/am temporarily residing in a foreign land whose postal system is unreliable. Could you send me your response via e-mail?
No, but send an e-mail inquiry after a suitable amount of time (see next question) to check on your manuscript’s status.
How long should I wait before inquiring about my manuscript’s status?
Our response time is three to five months, so wait at least the minimum before sending a query. We prefer to receive queries via snail mail (a note with an SASE or a postcard works), but if you must use e-mail (see question above), send your inquiry to the assistant editor.
My simultaneously submitted piece has also/already been accepted by another journal. What should I do?
The typical, ethically sound advice is to go with the publication you committed to, or that committed to you, first. However, if that publication wasn’t The Gettysburg Review, and you haven’t signed anything official looking, you should always choose us, even if it means you have to burn a bridge now and then. As a simultaneous submitter, you should be used to, or be getting used to, burning bridges anyway;)