First and foremost, to get published, you must have interesting, polished work that follows the theme and aesthetic of wherever you’re submitting. Even though the rest of the tips I’ll include here are important, that tip is the most important. I don’t think I have to explain why.
Second, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Polish your work. If an editor has to make more than two, maybe three, grammatical or spelling corrections in your story (poetry gets more leeway if there’s an intention behind the change), then your work will probably be rejected.
Third, look at the magazine’s guidelines for how they want the submission to look and actually follow them. This is where an editor can see the difference between a professional writer and an amateur. Don’t get me wrong, E and I love getting work from new writers, however, we both are unimpressed by unprofessional emails and unprofessional submissions.
What is an unprofessional email, you might ask?
-without a subject in the subject bar
-where the name of the writer and the name attached to the email address, or the email address itself, are different; this is fine if you include a line about publishing under a penname and the editors know which name you plan to use
-without a bio—at least glance at bios from past issues (this is another area that’s a dead giveaway on whether or not a writer has looked at the magazine before)
-that’s in a funky font—keep it simple and unobtrusive
That’s really what it comes down to. Editors, usually, are forgiving if you forget an attachment or make a mistake on some other element of this process, but don’t make it a regular habit and remember that the editor doesn’t enjoy rejecting a writer’s work any more than the writer him/herself enjoys being rejected.
Basically, your job, as the writer, is to send in work that’s impossible to reject—start with the work itself, then look at how you’re presenting it to a magazine.
I wish you well!