Erin's Poetry Tips

40 tips to poetry and poetry forums

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Poetry Publication Tips

So you’ve finally decided to make the next move, to take the next step toward published poet status. You’re ready to send in volumes of your poems to every editor you can find, and are sure that within a matter of weeks, your name and poetic genius will grace the pages of countless publications. You’re almost ready to turn in your final notice at work, right? Before you get carried away, let’s look at how this wealth and fame is to be attained.
Here is a quick summary of some of the things you should do when you get serious about being published. We’ll go into more detail as we get further along. Just remember that the amount of time and energy you spend on laying the groundwork for your submissions is directly reflected in your final product, and is clearly visible to editors, who see hundreds, if not thousands of manuscripts each year. This process is considerably more difficult and time consuming than posting a poem on a poetry website, but in the end, the work will pay off.

* A complete list of poetry publishers is available from The Poetry Library, The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook, The Writers' Handbook, and The Poet’s Market. You can get a copy of any of these from the local library. Be sure to get the latest version.

* Start out by sending your work only to established poetry magazines with reputations that won’t make you regret being published in them. Remember, if they accept you, you can use them as future references, or they can come back to haunt you. You want them to be high-quality, respectable credits that you can be proud of.

* Read. Find out what the editor wants. Target magazines that you know frequently include poetry that fits your style.

* Present your work in a professional manner. Hand-written material is unacceptable. Type on one side of the paper only, use additional sheets for each new poem or continuation of a poem. Check for typos and other mistakes before you send anything in. Don't include an explanation of your poetry - good work speaks for itself. Enclose a SASE

* Editors do not need (or want) your complete works. You need only to send a small sample.

* Don't expect an instant reply, it can take months.

* Don't expect a big payment - or any payment at all.

* Consider your earliest publications as experience, and the basis for your growing reputation.

The Manuscript
There are many common mistakes that will guarantee that your work sees nothing more than the inside of an editor’s trash can. Here are some of the standards to which you should adhere to in order to win a chance–
. . . . . Typeface/Font Style: Always type your poems on a computer (or a good quality typewriter.) Use a clear typeface, Times New Roman and Courier are the best choices here. Your font size should be a consistent, easily read 10 point or 12 point. You can type your title however you prefer. Avoid using all caps, but underlined, boldface, plain text, or any combination is acceptable. Keep in mind that your job is to make the editor's job easier and thereby (hopefully) you’ll stand a better chance of acceptance.
. . . . . Paper: Use plain white 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Period. No colors, textures, special weights or ornamentation, no cute little teddy bears or decorations – plain white paper.
. . . . . Page Formatting: Your pages should be uniform. Name and date in the top right (or left) corner of each page. Use the same number of spaces between this and the poem’s title, and between the title and the actual poem on each page. Most publishers are fine with single-spaced stanzas, some insist on double-spacing, so read the guidelines of the publication carefully. Always maintain a one inch margin around each page, and if your poem is long enough to continue from one page to another, number the pages sequentially (1/2, 2/2) in the bottom right hand corner. In the case of a continuation, be sure to note whether or not the page break coincides with a stanza break by adding {stanza break} or {no stanza break.}
. . . . . Do not add copyright notices on your poetry. This is seen as a direct insult, as though you fear that the editor intends to steal your work. Besides, by law, just typing out your poem automatically copyrights it.

Where to Submit
There are several platforms for poetry publication; these include online e-zines, literary magazines, and newspapers, both local and national. I suggest starting with an e-zine, or one of the smaller literary magazines. Give yourself a chance to build your reputation, and your confidence. Also, they tend to be in need of good work, and thus, are more willing to take a chance on a new poet. They're usually more open to your questions and more tolerant to the mistakes of the inexperienced..
Electronic publications (E-zines)
Electronic publishing is a fairly new market that’s growing with the poetry-online movement. Many poetry magazines have already experimented with web-based archives of back issues.

Some electronic markets:
The Academy of American Poets
The Cortland Review
Ecco Press: The Essential Poets series
Electronic Poetry Review
PandaLoon
Poets & Writers Inc. Home Page
Salon Magazine
SEEDS Magazine
Subterranean Press
The University of Chicago Press
Zuzu Petals Quarterly

Yes, electronic publication in an online journal is a perfectly acceptable publication credit and can be used as reference in future submissions. Here again though, check the e-zine’s reputation, visit the site and use your own judgment. Review it with your reputation in mind. Each site has requirements on how to submit, so be sure to visit the site’s submission guideline page.

Some Literary magazines:
Literary periodicals and poetry journals are the other places where newcomers should begin. They're very reputable, especially among literary scholars, so getting published in one is a big deal. Some of the more popular literary magazines are included in this list I found on the web:

American Letters and Commentary·
Antioch Review
Boulevard
Conjunctions
DoubleTake Magazine
Fence Magazine
Field Magazine
Five Points
Jacket
The Journal
Kenyon Review
Literal Latte
The New Criterion
Partisan Review
Ploughshares
PN Review
Poetry Calendar
Poetry Magazine
Poetry Review
Poets & Writers Magazine
Slate
Stand Magazine
Thumbscrew
Tin House Literary Journal
Triquarterly Magazine
Verse Magazine

Newspapers
National newspapers tend to be looking for famous poets, and can be hard to get into, but it’s worth the risk of rejection on the off-chance that you get accepted. A newspaper offers a wide readership, and can be a real plus when listed in your credits. You can also start out with smaller locally based newspapers as a beginner’s platform. If nothing else, this will offer you some experience with dealing with editors and the intricacies of being published. Remember that newspaper editors too are looking for insightful, thought-provoking verse that creates a mood or image. Don’t take these publishers any less seriously than any other.

Prepare your portfolio:
There are very specific guidelines you should follow when preparing your poetry portfolio:

Cover Letter: You should include a cover letter unless the publisher has specifically stated that it is undesired. When you create your cover letter, adhere strictly to the guidelines of the publication to which you intend to submit. If there are no guidelines regarding a cover letter, include one anyway -- it can't hurt. It is important to keep the letter brief, succinct, and professional. It should always :

1.Be addressed to the poetry editor or magazine editor by his/her name. No "To Whom it May Concern" Take the time to contact the magazine and find out this information, including the correct spelling.
2.Offer the editor the poems for publication in their journal. Don’t apologize or brag about your work. Don’t sell yourself with personal references from friends, colleagues or family. Don’t ask for feedback on your poetry. Simply state the purpose of the submission.
3.List up to three recent publishing credits (if you have them).
4.Thank the editor for his/her time.

The only circumstances under which you should provide more information:
1.If the editor has previously rejected your work but included a personal note saying that he/she was interested in seeing more of your future work, then mention this in your cover letter.
2.If you're resubmitting work with changes suggested by the editor, then write that you've made the edits and thank the editor for the suggestions.
3.If you are sending poems for a specific issue of the magazine, mention that too.

Your Poems:
You should submit about 5 poems or pages, held together with a paper clip. Do not staple your pages

An SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope): If you want them returned, make sure that you include enough postage for the return of your poems. But always keep a copy of the work you’ve submitted. You’re generally better off to send a business sized envelope and enough postage just for their response. If this is what you choose to do, make sure to let them know that the manuscript in a disposable copy, A SASE makes it more likely that you'll get some kind of response, even if it's a rejection.

Your exterior envelope:
Address your package to the poetry editor by name. Send the package flat in a 9 x 12 inch manila envelope. Don't use a standard business envelope with your poems folded into thirds, it'll make your newbie status all too obvious, and you’ll be taken less seriously. Remember to put enough postage on the exterior of your envelope and make sure that everything looks professional. Use plain labels for the return address, and use boring stamps.

Submitting to more than one market
*Never submit a poem that has already been published in any form. This rule even applies if you put the poem on your own homepage -- technically that is also a form of publication, and you don't want to jeopardize your chances.
*Technically, you're not allowed to submit the same poems to more than one publication simultaneously. Most first-timers submit to many publications, wait for the first acceptance, and then tell the other publications that he/she would like to withdraw his/her poems from consideration. It's technically wrong, but sometimes you have to get cutthroat.

Keep track of your submissions!
In order to avoid confusion and the perils of forgetfulness, you should keep a record of what poems you have submitted to which publications. Note also the date they were submitted, whether or not you’ve received a response, and what that response was. Once a poem has been rejected by one publication, you are free to resubmit it to another. This also serves as a list of publication credits for quick reference.

Now that we’ve covered all of that, submit, but don’t quit your day job.