Having poems published in a magazine, literary journal, or poetry website is a common goal for many poets. It is the quickest way to have your poems read by a wider audience and can dramatically increase your profile in the literary community.
Of course, having your work published isn’t always easy as there is a huge amount of competition from other poets. Most publications receive hundreds of poems each month, making it difficult to stand out from the crowd.
To help you achieve your goal of getting published, this article will share some essential tips for submitting your poems and tracking poem submissions.
Find the best publications for your work
One essential tip for getting published as quickly as possible is to research various publications before submitting your work. This will ensure that you are only submitting work that has a high likelihood of being accepted. Focus on the following areas:
What kinds of poems does the publication normally publish?
Some publications will have a strong focus on a certain style of poetry or a certain theme. For example, Kenyon Review and Ploughshares have a focus on mainstream poetry, while Acorn and Frogpond tend to publish minimalist poems.
You can even find publications that concentrate on a specific topic, like Asimov’s and Strange Horizons which publish science fiction content. If you can find a publication that often publishes the type of poems that you write, you will have massively boosted your chances of being published.
Read the submission guidelines
Most publications will have a set of publication guidelines. Read these guidelines multiple times to confirm that you are in full adherence when submitting your work. Most publications have rules for:
- The maximum and minimum word count for submissions
- How many poems should be submitted at one time
- What file format the poems should be presented in
- Which font family the work should use
- What topics are not allowed
- Do you need to include a cover letter?
Learn more about the editor
The editors that work for the publication will be the ones who ultimately determine if your work is accepted. You can do some research into each editor, learning about their own work and types of writing they enjoy. This can help you decide if your work will be accepted by the publication.
Only submit your best work
This should go without saying, but you would be surprised by how many poets send in work that has not been proofread or revised. Avoid this mistake by thoroughly vetting each poem you are submitting to a publication.
It is also important to only submit your best work. If you inundate a publication with dozens of poor quality poems each week, they will eventually begin to throw your submissions straight into the trash. Avoid this by only submitting work that you are very proud of.
The best way to ensure that you are only submitting stellar work is by testing your poems on friends, family, and colleagues. If they are impressed by your poetry, it may be suitable for submission to a publication. However, if they find the poem boring, confusing, or poorly written, it is unlikely that an editor would ever approve it for publication.
Submit multiple poems
It is common practice to submit between 4-5 poems to each publisher. This gives them a selection of poems to choose from and increases your chances that one of your works will resonate with the editor. However, always check submission guidelines to determine if they prefer to receive more or less poems.
Send a cover letter
While not all publications will require a cover letter, it is usually a good idea to include one. This letter should include:
- Your name and contact details
- A short professional biography
- The names of your poems
- A courteous message
Keep track of your submissions
To have your work published, you will need to submit it dozens of times to many different publications. Rejections will be inevitable, but you should consider this a normal part of the process. As you submit poems, it is important to keep track of the details of each submission. You should record details like:
- Which poems were sent to each publication
- When poems were sent
- What response you received
- Which editors made positive comments or requested more work
Recording these details will help you remember which publications may be interested in your poetry and will help you avoid sending the same work to a publication twice.
Never give up
Rejection is an inevitable part of submitting poetry for publication. The key is to never give up. If you continually work hard and create quality work, there will be a publication eager to publish it.