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I'm an amateur writer who's never been published. I think my stuff is good, I've had others tell me it's good, but I truly don't know where I stand. I love the fiction that get published in popular journals like Paris Review or McSweeneys, but I don't presume my stuff deserves to be in that category. However, when submitting, I submit to the more popular journals as well, even if I think the story isn't my best work (you never know what will impress an editor).

Should I only send my top manuscripts to the popular journals? How many submissions per "season" (Labor Day to Memorial Day) is reasonable for a beginner?

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Let the editor decide. Send your story. Editors can't buy a story you don't send. They know more than you do about what they want. And you are almost certainly not a great judge of your own stories. They may like a story that you think is not your best.

Many writers and editors are horrified by this advice. They are concerned, I think, that writers will overwhelm editors with crap.

If your story is nowhere near the "quality" that an editor needs (whatever "quality" means), they will know within a paragraph or two. And they likely have slush readers for that.

Err in favor of sending the story. Let the editor decide.

Know the market. If you read each journal, you know something about the kinds of stories they buy.

Read each journal's submission guidelines. Those will describe (among other things) what genres they are interested in. They are often quite good at expressing what kinds of stories they don't want.

Unless you have a strong reason to believe that a particular journal does not want this kind of story, lean toward sending it.

Err in favor of sending the story. Let the editor decide.

How many to send. As for how many to send out: Read each journal's subscription guidelines. There are two phrases to look for.

  1. Multiple submissions means submitting more than one story to the same journal. Some journals are happy to have more than one of your stories in their queue. Others want you to send them only one at a time. Still others ask that you wait for a short time after a rejection before you send them another story.

  2. Simultaneous submissions means submitting your story to more than one journal at a time. Many journals clearly forbid simultaneous submissions in their guidelines. (And some writers ignore this.) Some journals explicitly say that simultaneous okay. They usually request that you inform them immediately if you sell your story elsewhere.

Some writers ignore the no simultaneous submissions rule. But when editors make clear what they want, I try to abide by that.

If a journal accepts multiple submissions, send them as many stories as you can write.

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