1. Make sure your writing is formatted properly (more in this post). Each magazine has its idiosyncrasies, but the default position is: a simple 12-point font such as Times Roman; single-line space for poetry; double-line space for prose. The web doesn't like tabs, but some magazines will be able to accommodate your formatting. Many magazines read blind, others want your name and contact info on each page. Check each magazine for guidelines.
2. Research! You may have a list of recommended magazines, but plan to spend time with the magazine itself. Some things to look for if you are sending out writing:
- Find the editor's name so you can address your cover letter to a human (there may be more than one).
- See if the editor has an interview online, such as in Jim Harrington's Six Questions For…blog. Would you be happy or comfortable in a room with this editor?
- Read at least five samples of the work to get a feel for tone and style; is the work lofty or gritty? playful or serious? hard emotional subjects? nature-oriented? absurd? confessional? witty? (More about reading the magazine in this post.)
- Check the guidelines.
2a. If you are sending out art, make sure your images are of professional quality. Magazines these days are hungry for high-quality art. Always check the guidelines. Recommended:
- High resolution, 300 ppi, approximately 1M file (check if they want .jpg, .png or .tif)
- Good, natural lighting and/or crisp contrasts, in focus, even lighting, color corrected
- File with recognizable name and title, such as: name-title_of_work
2b. Some magazines are looking for audio files. Follow the guidelines.
3. Have several third-person bios ready. Some magazines have a word or character limit. Write a 50-word bio, a three-sentence bio, a 75-word, and a 100-word bio to keep handy. Update as needed. Artists may need to create a combination bio/artist statement. See more about writing a bio in this post. Third-person biographies generally begin with your name and include who you are, what you do, any publications or items of note, and where you are located.
4. Submitting. Each magazine has a Submissions page. Follow the guidelines. You may need to set up a Submittable account if you don't have one. It is free, easy, and they are a good company that does not share your name.
5. Keep track of your submissions. A sample spread sheet that you can create in a word processing doc is here. If you send again to the same magazine, make sure you do not send the same piece. You can also note how long it takes to get a response and if you got any further encouragement.
Many magazines accept different types of work. Rattle, for instance, accepts a poem a week that responds to the news, accepts one photograph a month for poets to respond to (Ekphrastic Challenge) as well as many other categories for poetry. Blink-Ink is an always themed print zine that accepts lively, (approximately) 50-word stories. Split Rock Review is looking for creative, nature-inspired art and writing. Up the Staircase Quarterly looks for poetry, reviews, and art. Nanoism, published every Wednesday, takes Twitter-sized fiction (140 characters, max). Eastern Iowa Review looks for lyrical and experimental essays and fiction. Concis accepts short works: 25 lines or under 250 words and art. Diagram looks for schematics, labelings, and things disguised as other things in words and images. Star 82 Review looks for short prose, poetry, art, erasure texts, and word/image combinations.
You can find more listings at Poets & Writers, through your Submittable account, and many other places online. Just sending out to magazines one day a month can get you started.
Learn Things! Good luck! And Keep Sending!