You’ve polished off your poems, run them past a trusted reader (ie someone who will criticise and not just unconditionally tell you “they’re brilliant”) or writers’ group, double-checked your files for typos and are ready to send your poems to editors. But there are plenty of poetry magazines out there (Carrie Etter has kindly listed some American poetry magazines), how do you choose?
1. Buy (or borrow) a copy of the magazine. If you like it, subscribe. Poetry magazines desperately need subscribers as subscriptions are often their only income. Check the contents – what sort of poems does it publish? Would you poems fit alongside what it publishes?
2. Keep a list/database of magazines with editor’s name, address, and type of poems published, where you think your poems would fit. There’s no point in sending your carefully crafted sonnets to a magazine that only publishes experimental poetry as you’ll be wasting your postage and the editor’s time.
3. When you have list of poetry magazines your poems stand a good chance of getting published in, check the websites or magazine for any submission guidelines. Some magazines operate reading periods and sending poems outside the reading period means the poem will be returned unread. Some magazines will accept email submissions, some have an on-line form and some will only accept postal submissions.
4. Decide which poems you want to send to which magazine. Unless the submission guidelines say otherwise, send three to six poems to each magazine. There’s no need to keep to a theme or to send only sonnets, but if you’re sending a seasonal poem, send it at least six months ahead of the season (ie send a summer poem in winter) as editors plan ahead and poetry magazines usually publish quarterly.
5. Keep a record. Generally magazine editors do not like simultaneous submissions (ie where one poem is sent to more than one editor) as they prefer original, unpublished content. Try and avoid sending a favoured poem to more than one magazine at any one time.
6. Prepare a covering letter offering the poems for consideration. Use the covering letter in the body of an email if sending by email. It’s not necessary to list poetry publishing credits or competition placing within the covering letter, but consider adding one or two particularly worthy acceptances. Do not send a brief biography unless specifically requested in the submission guidelines.
7. Send the covering letter with the poems and a stamped self-addressed envelope (SSAE) which has sufficient postage for the editor to return the poems. If posting abroad, use sufficient international reply coupons or state that you are sending a disposable manuscript and send an email address as well. Each poem should be sent on a separate sheet of paper with your name and address on each sheet so that, if the sheets become separated, the editor can still trace the poet.
8. Wait. Editors are generally snowed under with submissions and are often editing around jobs, family commitments and their own writing. Six months is not an unusual waiting time.
Keep writing in the meantime. The more poems you submit, the higher your chances of getting published.