Call For Submissions
The First Line
Updated November 1, 2014
We love the fact that writers around the world are inspired by our first lines, and we know that not every story will be sent to us. However, we ask that you do not submit stories starting with our first lines to other journals (or post them online on public sites) until we’ve notified you as to our decision (usually two to three weeks after the deadline). When the entire premise of the publication revolves around one sentence, we don’t want it to look as if we stole that sentence from another writer. If you have questions, feel free to drop us a line.
One more thing while I’ve got you here: Writers compete against one another for magazine space, so, technically, every literary magazine is running a contest. There are, however, literary magazines that run traditional contests, where they charge entry fees and rank the winners.We do not – nor will we ever – charge a submission fee, nor do we rank our stories in order of importance. Occasionally, we run contests to help come up with new first lines, or we run fun, gimmicky competitions for free stuff, but the actual journal is not a contest in the traditional sense.
Fiction: All stories must be written with the first line provided. The line cannot be altered in any way, unless otherwise noted by the editors. The story should be between 300 and 5,000 words (this is more like a guideline and not a hard-and-fast rule; going over or under the word count won’t get your story tossed from the slush pile). The sentences can be found below, also on the home page of The First Line’s Web site, as well as in the prior issue. Note: We are open to all genres. We try to make TFL as eclectic as possible.
Non-Fiction: 500-800 word critical essays about your favorite first line from a literary work.
All Stories: Writers should include a two- to three-sentence biography of themselves that will appear in the magazine should their story run.
Multiple Submissions: We don’t mind if you want to submit multiple stories for the same issue. However, it is unlikely we will use more than one of your stories in the same issue.
Four-Part Stories: If you think you are up to the challenge, you can write a four-part story that uses the spring, summer, fall, and winter sentences. However, all the parts must be submitted at once (a single e-mail or snail mail) before the February 1st deadline. (If selected, each part will be published in its respective issue.)
Submissions: We prefer you send manuscripts via e-mail to submission (@) thefirstline (dot) com. We accept stories in MS Word or Word Perfect format (we prefer attachments). Please do not send pdf versions of your story or links to Google docs. Make sure your name and contact information, as well as your bio, are part of the attachment. Stories also can be sent to The First Line‘s post office box. No manuscripts will be returned without an accompanying SASE with sufficient return postage. Here is the submission schedule for 2013:
Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls.
Due date: February 1, 2015
Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to.
Due date: May 1, 2015
The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable.
Due date: August 1, 2015
George pressed the call button and said, “Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.”
Due date: November 1, 2015
Notification: We don’t make decisions about stories until after each issue closes. We typically send notices out within two to three weeks after the issue’s deadline to everyone who submitted a story. You can also check the home page of the Web site as we will indicate each issue’s production status there.
Payment: We pay on publication: $25.00 – $50.00 for fiction, $5.00 – $10.00 for poetry, and $25.00 for nonfiction (all U.S. dollars). We also send you a copy of the issue in which your piece appears. You’ll receive your money and issue at the same time.
NOTE: Some writers we’ve accepted would rather have a subscription, extra copies, or even a book or two from the press instead of a cold hard check. If you would like to spend part or all of your payment at the company store, mention it to us when we send you your acceptance e-mail, and we’ll see what kind of deal we can give you.