5 Tips To Help You Publish A Personal Essay

If writing a memoir feels like too big a project for the WNFIN challenge or you have no interest in writing a book, you might try composing a personal essay. This allows you to take a vignette, anecdote or scene from your life and write a piece based upon that experience that is closer to the length of a magazine or newspaper article. I’ve written several posts in the past on the  topic  of how to write an essay, such as this one, this one, and this one, too.

My guest blogger today comes from Writer’s Relief , an author’s submission service that assists writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets for those submissions. The five tips they offer cover ways to write and to submit your essay for greater likelihood of success, by which I mean acceptance by a publication. I encourage anyone who decides to write a personal essay during WNFIN (or anytime) to polish it up, find a few great markets, and submit! There’s nothing like getting an acceptance letter and a check for a personal essay. And if at first you don’ t succeed–you receive one or more rejection letters, just tell yourself you’ve sent your essay to the wrong editor and find the right one.

5 Tips To Help You Publish A Personal Essay
By Writer’s Relief


Writing a personal essay is a personal experience—and as such, what matters most is your experience of your writing and your satisfaction with the work you’ve done. But if you’d like to see your personal essay published in a literary journal or magazine, here are a few specific things you can do to help ensure your work will get a strong read:


1. Keep it short. Thanks to the Internet, the days of long, rambling personal essays and memoirs are gone. Most modern readers are rushed, distracted, and looking for some level of instant payoff when they begin to read an essay. At Writer’s Relief, we advise our clients not to write essays that are longer than 3,500 words. And if you’re thinking of targeting online literary magazines (which are a great resource), you may want to aim for an even lower word count. With short prose, less is more!


2. Get engaged. No, we’re not talking about weddings. We’re talking about current events and the modern world. Essays that are reflections on the way we live today—especially those that tackle “big” issues in a personal way—are often favorably received at literary magazines. So if you can put a personal spin on a big issue—like foreclosure, obesity, racism, or any other social issue—you may be able to get a foot in the door at a literary magazine.


3. “Tell me something I don’t know.” You’ve heard there are no new ideas. But the fact is, no one can replicate your particular view of the world. For that reason, editors at literary magazines continue to accept prose that offers new viewpoints of modern work and play. But in order for your prose to be compelling, you’ve got to push for deeper, more surprising, and more insightful explorations. You’re competing for space when you submit to a literary magazine, and if your insights are stronger than the competition’s, then you’re in!


4. Check your ego at the door. Just because you’re writing a personal essay, doesn’t mean you can indulge in your every last whim of hedonism. Essays that are about “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” are not likely to be published. Strive to paint a bigger picture—to show how your experiences are relevant to all people—and you’ll turn editors into fans.


5. Submit your essays to the best-suited editors. If you’re going to submit your personal essay, you’ve got to know the right people to send your work to. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve got a database of thousands of editors who are accepting essays—and we track which editors like what specific type of work.

But you can also do this kind of research on your own. Spend time at the library or on the Web to determine which magazines are right for you, then send out your work regularly. Expect rejections and strive for acceptances. Although the odds may seem staggering, we see writers’ work being accepted all the time!

While personal essays are personal, it’s helpful to know what readers and editors are looking for when they read your work. We hope these tips will help you get published. Happy writing!

About the Author

Writer’s Relief (www.WritersRelief.com) is an author’s submission service. We assist writers with preparing their submissions and researching the best markets. We have a service for every budget, as well as a free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit our site today to learn more.

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  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement?

    My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help prevent content from being ripped off? I’d certainly appreciate it.

    • There are some plugins that time stamp your material to prove you published it first. You can put a copyright symbol on your home page and also a notice somewhere saying the material may not be used without permission, but there are some that will still take it and use it without attribution. It actually is quite rare. I have one site now doing it with some of my material…and no way to even contact them. Usually if you can find a way to contact them, they will take it down or add attribution. Most legit bloggers will attribute. The good news is you are being found. If your site had no traffic, your material wouldn’t get “scraped.” As they say, you have more to fear of obscurity than plagorism. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Do try to contact the site owner, though.


  1. […] essay to the wrong editor and find the right one. You can read Writer’s Relief’s “5 Tips To Help You Publish A Personal Essay” here. Share and […]

  2. […] just tell yourself you’ve sent your essay to the wrong editor and find the right one. Click here to read “5 Tips To Help You Publish A Personal Essay.” Share and […]

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