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"A Beginner's Guide to Online Journals" by Tendai Machingaidze

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Over the past few decades, there has been an exponential growth in online literary magazines/journals/reviews. In many parts of Africa, online publications are still a relatively new platform for grassroots writers seeking to have their voices heard. So where do you begin if you have never submitted your work to an online journal?

Do your research

Use websites and social media pages of the magazines you are interested in to find out who they are and what kind of work they publish. What genre/s do they publish? What style/s of writing do they showcase? Are they looking for established or aspiring writers? What is the general readership of the magazine?

Questions to ask:

  • Eligibility Criteria?

Age? Country? Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements before you submit to avoid unnecessary disappointment.

  • Submission Deadline?

Submission deadlines are fixed. Make sure you submit your work in time or it will not be considered.

  • Submission Fee? 

Some journals require a small submission fee (equivalent to if you were mailing your work via the post). This is usually paid online via a credit card. This, of course, poses a problem for budding writers who have limited resources. However, there are many online journals that do not require a submission fee, and these are great places to begin submitting your work.

  • Are simultaneous submissions permitted?

Some journals allow “simultaneous submissions,” meaning that you can send your work to other journals at the same time. If and when your work is accepted for publication by a journal, then you have to immediately withdraw your submission from the other journals that you sent your work to. This is a great provision as it allows you the freedom to seek out different editors to have your work reviewed. However, some magazines do not allow simultaneous submissions, so please take note of specific instructions for each publication.

  • Previously unpublished works only?

Most magazines only accept original, previously unpublished work. This may or may not include work posted on social media platforms.

  • Theme?

Does the issue of the magazine that you are interested in have a theme? If so, make sure your submission is in line with the theme that has been requested.

  • Copyright?

What is the copyright agreement between you and the magazine? How long does the journal retain the copyright to your work? What are the rules for re-publishing your work after the copyright reverts back to you?

  • Compensation?

Many online magazines do not pay writers. However, they are an excellent way to become a published writer. The pay off comes in having your voice heard and in building up your writing resume.

Read and re-read the submission guidelines paying attention to:

  • Word count

  • Font type and size

  • Line spacing - single or double?

  • Format - docx or pdf?

  • Do you include your name on the story?

  • Do you send your work via email? Do you include your work as an attachment or in the body of the email? Are there special instructions for the email title?

  • Do they require a biography and/or photograph?

Edit Edit Edit

If your submission is selected for publication, many journals will collaborate with you to polish your work. However, this does not mean that you should send them an unfinished draft of your work. Aim to impress the editors with the very best version of your work and increase your chances of being selected for publication!

Submit and Wait

Submission periods for online magazines can run up to 3-6 months. It will therefore take some time before the editors review your work. Check the submission guidelines to see if they will reply to everyone who submits, or only to those whose work they have selected. Be patient and resist the urge to send multiple emails regarding your submission.


Rejections are certain. If you are rejected by a magazine that you are keen on, try submitting again for another issue in the future. Just because your work did not fit into the January issue, it does not automatically mean that it won’t be perfect for the June issue. Do not give up. All you need is one “yes” to become a published writer!

For information on the specific submission guidelines for Mosi oa Tunya Literary Review, please checkout

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