If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to submit more poems to magazines (or start submitting poems to magazines), here’s how:
Check for submission guidelines
These might be on the magazine’s website or in the magazine itself. If there aren’t any guidelines, use a standard submission format (keep reading).
Select your Poems carefully
It might feel like you’re making progress as a writer if you send out several batches of poems to a list of magazines, however, if you’re sending formal poems to magazines that prefer experimental poems, you’re wasting not only your time but the editors’ too.
At least try to read a copy of the magazine you want to submit too and not only get a feel for what poems they publish, but also the style, length and any preferences for formats. Ideally you’d subscribe to a few magazines so you can keep up to date with what’s getting published.
If there are no submission guidelines, choose three to six suitable poems for submission.
You want to look professional. Any elaborate fonts, images imbedded in documents or pretty-coloured paper will mark you out as an amateur. Editors would like to read your poems so keep the presentation plain and simple and let the poems speak for themselves.
- Use a plain white or off-white background or paper
- Use a true-type font such as Verdana, Times New Roman or Arial
- Type each poem on a new page (use the Ctrl and Enter function in Word)
- Avoid typing two spaces after a full stop or period. Touch typists might have to unlearn this habit
- Unless you use an initial capital at the beginning of each line, turn off the ‘start each sentence with a capital’ function on your word processor and double check your word processor hasn’t defaulted to copying the format of the previous line and inserted an initial or lower case capital contrary to your intention
- If you’ve used a letter with an accent, umlaut, etc, search for ‘Character Map’ and copy and paste the required letter from there if you’re using Word because Word uses its own special characters which don’t always copy and paste into an email and may not show up properly on an editor’s screen – this is particularly important if you are copying and pasting your poems into the body of an email rather than sending in an attachment
- Poems are generally single-spaced with a double space between stanza unless the format of the poem itself calls for a different layout
- Put your name, address and email address on each page even if submitting electronically. Some editors may still print off your submission and pages will get separated
- Double check and correct any spelling or typing errors
- Save your document in the right format – most magazines will take Word Documents (use .doc extension) but check the guidelines
Always send a covering letter. It need not say more than, “Please find attached/below poems for consideration for publication,” but it’s better than a bunch of poems turning up in an editor’s inbox with no indication that they were a submission for their magazine. Double check you’ve got the name of the magazine and the editor(s) right before hitting send.
Including a list of publication successes is not necessary, but if you do include one, keep it brief and to the most important or most recent.
If the submission guidelines ask for a writer’s biography, keep within the guideline word count. If a word count is not given, keep your writer’s biography to a 50 maximum. Reading previous issues of a magazine will give you an idea of how long and what format you biography should be in.
If a biography is not asked for in the submission guidelines or there were no guidelines, you don’t need to include one.
- Give your submission a final proof read, check you’ve got the email address, magazine name and editors’ names correct
- Double check you’ve complied with any submission guidelines, especially note if the editor takes attachments or wants poems in the body of an email – you don’t want a rejection simply because an editor doesn’t open attachments
- Make a note of what poems you’re sending where
- If you’re posting your poems, enclose an SAE with sufficient postage for your submission to be returned and a big enough envelope for your submission to be folded no more than twice to fit (the editor may simply not bother replying rather than using their origami skills to let you know their response)
- Send and good luck!
By Emma Lee