Submission tips

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.

Terminology

  • 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  • Previously unpublished/published–if your work has be published elsewhere, including on personal blogs or social media, most markets will not reprint the work; see the Other tips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.

Other tips

Submission strategies

Handling rejection

Additional submission resources

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23 replies »

  1. Magazines in general that don’t accept poems published on a person’s individual daily blog are shutting out the many senior citizens who simply don’t want their poetry collection of many poems to end up nowhere/deleted after they’re gone, especially if their family members are not interested in seeing their poetry or other writings.

    The personal blog is the only way to preserve the many poems, short stories, and even novels, plays, and scripts written by senior citizens who are not able to publish elsewhere since various self-publishing sites may delete the individual’s work if it’s not selling within a certain period of time. Personal blogs that remain online may be the only way a person’s lifetime of creative writing is available to the public, since many relatives don’t read poems or stories written by family members or friends.

    Many senior citizens, like myself, would love to have work reprinted in other publications, paid or not paid, as long as the individual keeps each copyright and the content contains the person’s byline. You never know when someone sees your play online and decides to produce it or likes your story collection, poems, or novels. It’s not every day that an individual’s blog of creative writing is looked by many unless the person is known in the media, has news to announce, or is mentioned by a source that draws many readers.

    • Thanks for commenting Anne! You can certainly publish your work on your blog after its been published on other online sites, I do exactly that. Also, some literary magazines and journals do not consider work published on a personal blog as published, although many do. I have never seen a lit mag/journal online or otherwise, that does not revert full rights back to the poet. Typically, they just ask that credit be given for the original publication if posted or printed again. I hope you find this helpful. Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  2. I find it interesting how a poetry magazine can be so full of hubris
    that it will not accept submissions from those who may have self-published a small book; selling maybe fifty or so copies, or posted on a poetry sharing website.
    I understand the competitive mindset that exists within the subset of literary magazines that publish poetry, but let’s face it most are not the New Yorker or The Atlantic, and I’m probably not the next T. S. Elliot.

    It would seem to me that we need each other. Ignoring those of us seeking our own small audience leaves the magazine world with an increasingly shrinking pool of MFA graduates. Unless they accept the real world, they may go the way of the hand written manuscript.

    • I’ve considered this as well and have been meaning to put together a list of lit mags that accept reprints. I am always looking for ways to share my poems with a broader audience and once a piece is published, it takes a little extra effort to place it again in anthologies and mags that accept reprints. I hope to have the list put together sometime in the next few weeks. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Is there a best time in the reading cycle to submitt. I.e. If the reading cycle is from October to December, does it improve your odds to submitt early or late n the cycle?

    • I’ve wondered the same thing. I think it is best to send in earlier than later, but some lit mags do all their reading at once, while others read as submissions come in. In some cases, those that read as they come in will fill their pages before the deadline. Personally, I’ve been trying to send earlier than later.

  4. Thank you for the information. My comments are that in my case I write poetry about my work as a therapist and my thoughts of life in relation to these. Most of my poetry is inspired not calculated and I am fairly dyslexic so can only absorb small amounts of information at a time. I am a working mum and daily Writer of new work and I simply do not have enough hours in a day to spend ages reading up on possible magazines that most likely reject work. I do send some work out but if I want to share some work then online at least shares it with some others. I find the whole process very daunting and quote disheartening.

    • Writing is something different for everyone. I definitely write for myself first (selfish poet) and the rest of this just happened as a natural course for me once I finished my creative writing degree. Handling rejections is hard. There’s no reason why you can’t share your work in the way that serves you best. I would encourage you to create a book of your work, have it printed, or print it yourself, at least have a few copies you can share with family and friends or to pass on to your kids. They will treasure it. There are no rules that you must be published to be a writer. If you write, you are a writer. If you write poetry, you are a poet. I wish you the very best in whatever you choose to do! <3

  5. I see the poems you have published, and wonder how many time you submitted them b4 being published? Also how do you select who to submitt to? Have you thought of yourself as a certain type of poet and look for those who publish your style or do you just shotgun it

    • I look for literary magazines I like, which usually do publish work similar to a style I write in. I typically send out to about 5 – 10 markets before something gets picked up. Some things never do and I move on to newer work. My acceptance rate varies between 6 – 10% depending on how challenging the markets I send to are. Hope this helps!

      • Thanks for the feedback I’ve had a few poems published funny but it seems what I consider my best stuff doesn’t make it yet

      • It varies actually, quite a bit. I write mostly free verse, but I also write a fair amount of found poetry, which some lit mags don’t mind, some love, and others won’t take. I write some rhyming and form poetry as well, which can be the same type of thing, some lit mags like them, some don’t.

  6. Wow had to google found poetry not to sure about that “style” when you get accepted do you at a mag looks like you keep submitting there. Anyway thanks for your input

  7. Here is another international press have no info other than a friend was pub there Phenomenalliterature.com

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