It’s a while now since I’ve talked about poetry – so I thought that this week we’d have a look at submitting your work and also the ‘R’ word - rejection. I know this sounds negative, but rejection happens and upbeat advice on dealing with it is always useful.
Obviously, if you are submitting poems to online markets or are sending them to a conventional magazine by email this will be cheaper as there is no need to pay postage or include an sae (stamped addressed envelope).
Most magazines now accept work by email and this is usually indicated in the guidelines. If not, always check with the editor first to make sure. Also, find out whether submissions are preferred in the body of the email or as an attachment. Many people are wary of opening attachments from unknown sources. Finally, always try to put something sensible in the subject line of your email – even if it’s only ‘poetry submission’. This avoids it being deleted as ‘spam’.
In addition, some websites now have set ‘submission forms’ on their site which you should use to submit the work. They will not accept it in any other format.
Whenever you send work to an editor, bear in mind that it is not unusual for 95% of what is received by a magazine to be rejected. Finances and format limit the size of any paper-based magazine; so the editor has to select ruthlessly. Online is a different matter as there is no limit to the number of poems that can be published – but this can mitigate against quality!
Any rejection of your work means that you should have another look at the poems you submitted. Of course, poems might have been rejected because they did not make the grade, or were not suitable for the market you chose. So be ruthless in your assessment of your own work. But if you feel you have produced the best work possible, and if reviewing it after rejection does not cause you to change your mind on this point, then remember the statistics and try not to be too disheartened.
The reassuring side of all this is that any acceptance represents a real achievement, and you should be very proud of yourself when your work is chosen. (In most cases, one or two poems will be selected from your submission. It is rare to have everything you sent accepted.)
There are four additional points of etiquette to consider when you are submitting poems:
1. Don’t offer any poem to more than one market at a time. If you wish to submit elsewhere, write more material. Rejected poetry may, of course, be sent to a new outlet.
2. Don’t send your target market a second set of poems until after you’ve received a verdict on the first.
3. Learn patience. Don’t phone or email an editor pressing them for a decision on your work. Many editors will contact you within six weeks, but one friend waited for a verdict for two and a half years!
4. Don’t ask the editor for a critique of your work, or to recommend other outlets if they can’t use your poetry. This isn’t an editor’s job and the request makes you seem unprofessional.
You don’t have to be a subscriber to a magazine to submit material and becoming a subscriber won’t enhance your chances of acceptance. But editors do need subscribers to keep their magazines afloat, and you should read at least one copy of a magazine, or study a website carefully, before you submit in order to be sure you are sending appropriate material. If you don’t, your wasting not only the editor’s time, but your own.
So enjoy your writing, keep sending your poems out and, above all, stay positive!