Literary Issue Guidelines

The Basics:

  • Next issue release date: October 1, 2023
  • Next literary issue deadline: August 15, 2023, for October, 2023 release (submissions open)
  • Length: Fiction up to 8000 words; Nonfiction 2000 to 8000 words (query if longer). 3 poems with a total maximum word count of 1000.
  • Payment: $50 for stories 2500 words or longer, $25 for stories under 2500 words and for poetry, plus a one-year pdf subscription
  • Submission Fee: $0 for up to 100 submissions per month; or $3 anytime
  • Feedback available for $12 (Basic) or $29 (In Depth)

For detailed info, jump to:   Submission Specs   Responses   Feedback Me!   Withdrawals   Payment   Rights

For a better idea of what we’re looking for, please read some story excerpts. Orca pays $25-$50 for publication rights, plus one print copy, plus a one-year pdf subscription. Full details below.

Submission Specs:

Unpublished fiction, nonfiction, and poetry only. This means not released in print or online, including personal blogs, on any site or in any format accessible by the public.

Orca is a literary journal and we believe in the literary style of writing. We are committed to diversity of origins and perspectives on our pages. But the main criterion by which we judge submissions is the quality of the writing. We seek work that is high concept: imaginative, thoughtful, even speculative, and open to possibilities. We look for adult themes featuring deep, diverse characters, and narratives that are nuanced and complex. It’s great if they blend genres, or connect seemingly disparate ideas. We are also committed to the intentions of our contributors. Although we sometimes work with writers to polish their stories for publication, we also respect their original intent, and as much as possible retain the artist’s individual and local language, spelling, style, and vernacular.

Fiction: Up to 3 flash fictions of less than 1000 words each in one document, or 1 short story up to 8000 words. Times/Times Roman 12 point is preferred. A word count is appreciated. Submit via our Submittable portal only. No email or postal submissions please. Simultaneous submissions are expected and encouraged.

Nonfiction: We are interested in nonfiction written in the literary style. Length: 2000 to 8000 words. No flash. We will publish 1 or 2 nonfiction pieces per literary issue. Topics of interest include current social and political events, science, nature, environment, history, mathematics, and true crime. We are not as interested in coming-of-age stories or personal essays about finding oneself (although a personal essay about not finding oneself might be interesting).

Poetry: We accept submissions of up to three poems in a single document, with a maximum total word count of 1000. Poems will be considered for our next literary issue. Here’s what our poetry staff would like to see: At Orca, we’re looking for poetry of the imagination. Poetry that excites the unsaid; that breathes life into those inner-workings one can only realize in either poetic form or the breaking of it. Give us your best. Anything with words is fair game, as long as the words say something only they could say. Poets we like: Harryette Mullen, Erica Hunt, Joel Brouwer, Charles Simic, Czesław Miłosz, Kevin Young, Ariel Francisco, Tim Seibles, Joy Harjo, Patricia Smith, Randall Jarrell, Dylan Thomas, Langston Hughes, Amanda Gorman, Shonto Begay, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Szybist, Carolyne Wright (and many others, of course).

Please submit no more than once in each category at a time. Once you have received a response to a particular submission you may submit in that category again. Authors whom we have published should wait one reading cycle before submitting again.

Our current publication schedule: June, speculative issue (no poetry); October, literary issue; February 2024, literary issue. Submissions are open year-round. See the Lit-Spec guidelines here. Read some free stories and excerpts to get an idea of the kind of writing we like.

Orca is fee free for up to 100 submissions a month, which is what is covered in the Submittable plan we pay for. After that we charge the standard $3, which helps us pay our published writers. We encourage writers who can afford the fee to support those who can’t by selecting the pay option.


When we established Orca in 2019 we wanted to make sure economically challenged writers had an opportunity to submit to us without having to pay a fee. Based on our operating expenses and our desire to pay contributors for their work, we realized we needed to charge for some submissions, but we were able to afford 100 no-fee submissions per month. Over the course of our existence we’ve noticed that there are some writers who regularly submit through the no-fee portals at the beginning of each month, and who appear to abusing using free submissions that were designed for writers with fewer means. We’ve recently learned that Submittable offers a method for limiting submissions by individual writers to a specific category. With this in mind we are changing our submission policy in an effort to curb potential abuse. If you have submitted 10 or more times via the no-fee portals you will be blocked from using them again. You will still be able to submit to us through the $3 fee portals. If you are affected by this and the fee is truly an economic hardship, please contact us privately at and request that we continue to allow your no-fee submissions. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause for some submitters, but it is important to us that the no-fee portals be reserved, as much as possible, for those who need them. We appreciate the support of those submitters who have continued to pay the $3 fee, as well as those who have supported us by purchasing PDF or print issues, or our feedback options. Your contributions go toward our operating expenses, payments to contributors, and occasional stipends for staff members (usually once a year).

Simultaneous submissions are expected and encouraged.


We’ll respond as soon as we can, usually within a week to a month.

If the submission is not for us, you’ll get a form rejection (it’s a nice one, though). If we thought the submission had merit, but it didn’t make the cut, we’ll probably write a personal note.

If you don’t hear from us within the timelines above, your work is still under consideration for an upcoming issue. But feel free to contact us at if you haven’t heard from us by the stated timelines.

Feedback Me!

Basic Feedback ($12) is primarily a “peek behind the curtain,” in which staff readers and editors describe why they chose to vote a submission up or down. These are craft-based general comments of 500 words or less, based on a minimum of three pages read. But we recognize that some submitters want fuller and more detailed comments. We now offer a second tier of feedback. For Detailed Feedback ($29), an Orca editor will provide extensive comments focused on craft, typically 500 to 1000+ words. The editor may also provide attachments or links to informative craft articles. Both are now available for nonfiction submissions as well.

For examples of what you might get in each of the categories please check out these samples of basic and detailed feedback.


Should you need to withdraw a full submission, please do so using your Submittable account. If you are only withdrawing a part of your submission (such as a single flash piece or poem), email us at and let us know.

Do not withdraw your story if you only intend to make changes to it. Instead contact us through Submittable or via email, and we will mark your submission as Open for Editing. You can then upload a revised story.


Orca pays $50 for stories 2500 words or longer, $25 for stories under 2500 words, and for poetry, for publication rights. We also provide a one-year pdf subscription to the journal. Print copies are available at a discount to contributors. We pay only via PayPal or Zelle, so you have to have an account. We cannot send checks.


Upon acceptance, Orca requests first North American Serial Rights and First Digital Publication Rights. All rights revert to the author upon publication. We ask that if the work is reprinted in a collection or anthology that you indicate Orca, A Literary Journal as the original publisher in your acknowledgments.
NOTE: The rights above mean that once the issue is published, the rights to the work return to you. After we publish your work it can only be marketed as a reprint, which limits the number of markets that will accept it, and drastically reduces the pay rate it can receive.