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Seeking Publication: Where to Begin

Posted on Wed, Dec 5 2012 9:05 am by Brian Malloy


The Loft regularly receives questions about getting published. Here are a few guidelines to get you started. 

Literary Agents

You’ve written, you’ve revised, revised again, and then you revised some more. You’ve gotten reader feedback on your writing and now you want to publish. You will probably need a literary agent to represent your work if you want to be published by a commercial publishing house. A good place to start your search for a literary agent is the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). Here is a link to answers for basic questions writers have about literary agents and seeking representation

AAR also lists member agents, the types of works they represent, and their submission requirements.

The practice of charging for reading and evaluating outlines, proposals or partial or complete manuscripts has been subject to abuse. For that reason, the AAR prohibits its members from charging reading fees.

You can also find a directory of literary agents at Poets & Writers website.

A word of caution about seeking representation: don’t submit your work too early. In other words, don’t let impatience with the revision and rewriting processes compel you to submit work that is not as strong as it could be. Follow the agent’s submission guidelines to the letter. Be professional, address the agent as Mr. or Ms., and let them know you have done your homework, that your work is in a genre or area that they are interested in representing.

Journals, Anthologies, Grants, and Awards

Often an agent is impressed when you have a record of publication and/or awards. The good news for writers is that there are many contests and calls for submissions out there to choose from. Where to find them? Here are some good places to start:

The Loft holds many contests and grants open at various times throughout the year. Also, be sure to look at the Loft's Community Posting Board, which features calls for submissions and contests and awards.

Minnesota State Arts Board's Artist Initiative Grant supports and assists Minnesota artists at various stages in their careers. It encourages artistic development, nurtures artistic creativity, and recognizes the contributions individual artists make to the creative environment of the state of Minnesota. Grants are awarded for career building and for the creative development of artists. Some artists may choose to request funds to create new work, but that isn't a requirement of the program. Artists working in all artistic disciplines—dance, media arts, music, photography, poetry, prose, theater, and two- and three-dimensional visual arts—may apply.

Poets & Writers organizes contests and grants by submission date. It also has a nifty search engine for grants and contests. Poets and Writers also has a listing of calls for submissions and literary journals accepting submissions.

Finally, this Writing Contests wordpress site is regularly updated with writing contest entries


When that wonderful day arrives and a publisher offers you a contract, consider joining a writers’ organization if you do not have a literary agent to represent your interests. The National Writers Union (NWU) provides resources and individual advice on contracts for its members. 

The Authors Guild also provides free contract reviews for members.

And remember: don’t let the business of publishing suck all the joy out of the art of writing.  See you at the Loft!

Brian Malloy is the Loft's education director.