I recently got a flash fiction piece published in Splickety Magazine 2.1:
It's my first piece of fiction published in a literary magazine. On the road to this particular moment, I learned several things about submitting works...
Know the style, tone and audience of the magazine. Really take some time and research the magazine. Get a feel for the type of articles they typically print and determine if your piece would fit.
Carefully read the submission guidelines. Each magazine is different. Some don't accept manuscripts. Rather, they want a query and then they'll contact you if they are interested in reading your piece. Make a check list of what the magazine wants and make sure to follow it exactly.
Patience. Most of the time you're not going to hear back before 8 - 10 weeks, so just relax. Don't contact them asking if they've received your piece. They'll contact you.
Submit multiple works to multiple magazines. It's ok to send multiple stories out to multiple magazines while you wait for responses. It's even ok to send the same story out to multiple magazines. If you do the latter, you may need to tell the magazines that you intend to shop around your piece. You can find out if this is required by reading the magazines submission guidelines. Note that whichever magazine accepts the piece first is the one you have to publish with, so pick your submissions wisely. Also, when you do get a piece accepted, it's your responsibility to contact the other magazines and let them know that your piece is no longer available for publishing.
Edit exactly as they ask. If you're piece is accepted, they'll either edit it themselves, or give you notes. If they give you notes, make sure you address each and every issue. Yes, it's your vision but they're working to make your piece readable to their particular audience so be respectful and honor their changes.
Brush off rejections. Some rejects will be pretty standard "we regret to inform you...." while others may include a few pieces of advise. Either way, brush yourself off and get back in the game. Not everything you write will fit every magazine, so just keep submitting and trying.
Read the contract. You'll get a contract, and while all will be a little different, they'll basically reserve the rights to your piece. Read through it carefully just to make sure you're comfortable with everything.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor! When you finally get that magazine in your hands, and you flip to your piece, enjoy the moment! You've gotten something published! The world can now see some of those amazing and zany thoughts rushing around your writer's brain!
Repeat. Yup, time to do it all over again! But we writers know that all the hard work is totally worth it!