"For those authors with few or no credits, are there certain lit
journals that make you sit up and take notice. That is, which credits
make you think - "Hey! Maybe this person can write!" Do you mind
And I say:
AgentC certainly does look closely at the literary magazines and journals listed in queries. Sometimes that will turn the tide for me. So here's the short answer to your question: The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Zoetrope All-Story, McSweeney's, et al.
But those are the holy grail of pub credits.
There are other lit mags AgentC looks for, but those are the ones where she knows the editors, where her friends have been published, where she always loves the cover art, who gave her a free subscription once....it's an inexact science.
But what you're really asking here is "I want to submit to the literary magazines that agents like the most. What are they so I don't have to read 50 billion of them to figure out what they publish?"
Sorry, you've got to do some leg work. If you're sending crime fiction to The Paris Review, they're not going to publish it and you will have wasted your stamps. Go to the library. Read the journals that catch your eye. Submit to the ones you think your writing is most like. Then wait. Hey, no one said writing was easy, quick, lucrative, or satisfying.