Dave Eggers founded McSweeney's in 1996 in order to provide a home to work being rejected elsewhere (though contributors have since included David Foster Wallace, Rick Moody, and Heidi Julavits). The New York Times accurately described the journal as "quirky, whimsical and slightly Victorian," so read a few issues to be sure your work fits. McSweeney’s is a publishing company based in San Francisco.
As well as operating a daily humor website, they also publish Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the Believer, and an ever-growing selection of books under various imprints. You can buy all of these things from their online store. They’re also transitioning to a nonprofit and would greatly appreciate your help. You can support them today by making a donation.
Cover Letter Advice
For new writers, McSweeney's has encouraging words about cover letters: "Please keep yours brief, though we do like to hear from people who read and like the magazine. We're not concerned about writing degrees or past publications, though, so don't be daunted if you don't have an MFA or much in the way of previously published work."
Guidelines for Book Submissions
"While submissions are open, please send along manuscripts that meet the following criteria—we remain, as always, incredibly excited to read your work. And please note that we only accept electronic manuscripts. Poetry submissions are addressed further down this page, and do not belong on our Submittable site. Because we are a very small organization with an even smaller editorial department, it often takes us a long time to respond to our submitters. We appreciate your patience with us as we work on getting to your manuscript.
There are no guidelines for length.
DEGREE OF COMPLETENESS
Complete manuscripts only, with the exception of cookbooks—we are happy to accept cookbook proposals or full manuscripts.
Please do not submit illustrated works. Multiple submissions are fine, but if your manuscript is accepted elsewhere, please withdraw your work from our system. If you’ve read all the above, please continue to our Submittable site."
Guidelines for Web Submissions
"We gladly consider unsolicited works, but because we are a very small organization with an even smaller editorial department, it often takes us a long time to respond to our submitters. We appreciate your patience with us as we work on getting to your piece.
Is addressed below, toward the end.
Is up to you.
It’s better if you don’t use colors or Fun Fonts or strange formatting.
YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION
Should be on your submission—not just on the cover letter. Cover letters can disappear. Please include your name, mailing address, phone number, and email address, ideally on every page.
Feel free to include a brief biography of yourself.
Fluctuates somewhat, but has been impressing contributors recently. Contributors are paid at the time of publication.
Can be anywhere between a few weeks and nine months. Please be patient. We’re really reading as fast as we can.
SPECIAL ISSUES AND READING PERIODS
Because our staff is so small, we aren’t continually reading submissions for the quarterly. More often than not, we read in month-long bursts, when we’re approaching the deadline for a new issue. And special issues sometimes create longer delays in our response time. For example, if we just closed an issue, and we know that the issue after that will be devoted to political journalism, that would mean we wouldn’t be reading new fiction submissions for up to four months, as we prepared the journalism issue. Our response time, then, can vary a great deal. And given that we’re a quarterly, and not a weekly or monthly, we ask that all submitters bear in mind the very slow nature of the entire enterprise."