Some of the most lauded authors of all time began their careers by submitting to magazines. Whether you write short stories, poetry, or nonfiction, being published by a legitimate literary magazine can open doors for you and establish you as an artist to watch. If you want to be successful, you should consider a few things before firing off emails or putting your writing in the post.

Put Your Best Work Forward

Editors are overwhelmed with submissions. They receive more than they will ever be able to publish. Before beginning to send out your writing, make sure it’s as good as it possibly can be — your competition is fierce. Have a few people read it and give you feedback. Polish it until it can’t be tweaked any more. Only then will it be ready to cross an editor’s desk.

Make Sure the Magazine Is a Good Fit

Some magazines are online only. Others are in print. Some pay actual money while others pay in free copies or credit. The one thing they have in common is that they each have their own unique vibe. Your work might appear to meet the magazine’s requirements but still might not be a good fit. For example, you might want to send your space opera to a science fiction magazine, but if you look closer, you find that they publish cerebral or experimental stories instead of fun space romps.

To find out if your writing is something an editor might consider, read as many editions of their magazine as you possibly can. You’ll be able to see if your stories or poems match the genre, sub-genre, and tone of the periodical’s publications.

Follow the Submission Guidelines

Most magazines allow you to submit via email. A few still ask for postal submissions. Online submission forms through services like Submittable are becoming more common. Whichever way they want it, be sure to follow the submission guidelines to a T. For a cover letter, keep it on topic and professional. You want your work to stand out because of its quality, not because you disregarded the directions.

One bonus tip: while you’re waiting to hear back from editors, keep working on your craft!