These tips include the basics as well as links to several articles and posts to help even the most seasoned poet/writer, including terminology you need to know, things to do before you submit, general tips, and links to posts on my site and other sites related to submitting, handling rejection, and other submission strategies.
If you have more to add or an article you love on submitting to literary markets, please leave a comment below.
- Market–a literary magazine, journal, press or other literary organization.
- Acceptance–your submission will be published.
- Rejection–your submission was not a good fit for the publication; this does not mean your work is poor quality or not worth sending elsewhere. I’ve had poems rejected over 30 times before receiving an acceptance.
- Withdrawal–if you need to cancel your submission for any reason, you will need to follow the specific guidelines for each market on how to the withdraw the work, e.g. if it’s accepted elsewhere, usually via email or by withdrawing via the submission manager.
- Tiered rejection–some markets send different levels of rejections; a tiered rejection typically includes some comments related specifically to your work or will invite you to submit again. See Rejection Wiki in the Handling rejections section.
- Simultaneous submissions–most allow you to send your work to multiple markets at the same time; some markets specify they do not accept simultaneous submissions, meaning, if you send them work, do not send it elsewhere until you receive a response.
- Multiple submissions–a few markets, usually contests with entry fees, will allow you to send in more than one submission for the same contest or reading period, but this is uncommon.
- Contributor copy–a market may provide a non-monetary payment in the form of contributor copy(ies) or they may provide both. A contributor copy will be provided either in an electronic format or print.
- Previously unpublished/published–if your work has be published elsewhere, including on personal blogs or social media, most markets will not reprint the work; see the Other tips section below for more info.
- Response time–some markets will provide a submission response time on their submission guidelines page; anywhere from a week to several months.
- Query–if you have sent a submission and have not heard back and it’s been longer than indicated on their submission guidelines page or several months have past, you can query the market usually via email or by adding a note via the submission manager to ask if your work is still being considered.
- Slush pile–submissions a market has received from unsolicited submitters, vs. those they have solicited personally asked to provide work, e.g. The New Yorker has a huge slush pile.
- Token payment–a small payment, not always specifically stated and the amount may vary depending on the budget for the specific issue or publication.
Before you submit
- Always read submission guidelines carefully.
- Subscribe to the journals you want to submit to, READ them, get to know them, comment on their blog posts, etc. The most important part of this tip is be familiar with contemporary poetry being published today.
- Set up a system for tracking your submissions. You can use a spreadsheet, a notebook, a recipe box or sign up for a submission tracker. Duotrope has the best listings, but does require a small fee for membership. The Grinder is free, but has fewer listings and originally focused on prose.
- Use the submission tracker to check all the stats on each market before submitting know what you are getting yourself into. If the Acceptance rates are VERY low, you may not want to waste time putting together a submission unless you have done your homework already and know your work is a good fit and is your very best.
- Research the editors, read the About pages on their sites, pay close attention to what they mention they are looking for in the submission guidelines, read any related editor interviews posted on Duotrope or search the web.
After you submit
- Don’t get discouraged! Most writers I’ve talked to only have their work accepted from 5-20% of the time. My stats are on the lower side, but they do get better the more I study up on the markets I’m submitting to in order to make sure they are a good fit. Of course, if you aim high with top tier markets or don’t submit very often, your stats may be lower.
- For full transparency, I calculate my % of acceptances a couple of ways. A) Divide the number of acceptances (individual poems or manuscripts) by the total number of poems submitted (total count, not unique poems). When calculated this way, my acceptance percentage averages 6% from 2015 – 2019; B) Divide the number of acceptances by the total number of markets submitted to (say I sent 100 poems to 25 markets, use the 25 markets rather than full count of poems), then my acceptance % averages 23% from 2015 – 2019.
- However you choose to measure, or not measure, the reason I share this is to encourage you to keep submitting, even if it’s months between acceptances. The literary market is vast and greatly varied by subjective tastes, issue themes and needs. A rejection does not necessarily mean the quality of the work was the problem, but rather, it was just not a fit for what they are trying to accomplish. It could simply mean they received several poems of the same topic and prefer another, therefore, can’t publish yours. For example, there was a poem I truly believed in, so I just kept sending it out. One day, after 31 rejections, I finally got an acceptance! And it was in a journal I admire.
- Keep reading and keep writing, the more you produce, the more refined it is, the more you can submit.
- Try to balance your time in a way that pleases you most. Some days I want to write new work, some days I want to focus on revision or workshopping, others–the busy work of submitting is more fulfilling.
- Don’t worry about how prolific other poets are or if your peers are getting published more frequently than you are. Your success as a poet is based on your own expectations and goals. If you set out to publish as many poems as possible in a year and send to a wide variety and levels of markets (and send a LOT), you can hit your goal. If you want to focus more on creating and honing your craft, submitting and publication may not matter at all. If you’ve hit a period where poetry isn’t calling to you, give yourself permission to take a break and focus your efforts elsewhere until the passion returns.
- Do not self-publish unless you don’t want your work accepted elsewhere. Most publishers and presses will not accept previously published work, even if it’s on a personal blog. Very few markets will accept reprints, unless it’s a themed anthology. See my list of lit mags/journals that do accept reprints.
- Be careful paying reading fees! Little processing fees of a few dollars are acceptable, but anything more than that should only be for a reputable contest. Make sure you aren’t supporting a vanity type press.
- These Tips From Creative Writers Will Help You Get Published – & Get Paid + 7 No Fee Calls via The Penny Hoarder
- 7 Tips on publishing your poetry – guest blog post by Sandra Beasley
- How to Give Your Writing the Best Chance of Being Published – guest blog post by Christopher Fielden
- 5 tips for beginning poets–guest blog post by Rachel VanCuren
- Learn to Submit via Arsenal of Words by Arthur Klepchukov
- Do I need a Strategy to Submit Writing to Literary Magazines and Journals?
- Let’s Talk Submission Strategies and more! via The Masters Review
- Being a Savvy Submitter, Part I via Submittable’s Blog
- Rejection Wiki-what is a tiered rejection and how can I tell if I got one?
- How I Stopped Singing those Rejection Slip Blues – guest blog post by Sister Lou Ella Hickman
- Rejections Update or: The Spreadsheet That Ate My Life – guest blog post by Jeanne Obbard
Additional submission resources
- Aerogramme Writers’ Studio
- Association of Writers & Writing Programs
- Authors Publish
- Better View of the Moon
- Christopher Fielden
- Clifford Garstang’s Literary Magazine Rankings
- Diane Lockward
- New Pages
- Poets & Writers
- Publishing ‘ and Other Forms of Insanity
- Submissions Calendar via Derek Annis
- The Line Break: a poetry and wine blog
- The Review Review
- Winning Writers
- Writer’s Digest
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