Poetry Magazine Submissions: How to Do Them Right

First off, the number one way to screw up your poetry magazine submissions is to not read and follow the submission guidelines for the publication in question. Editors put a lot of time and effort into their submission guidelines, because it makes the editorial process easier. If you don’t follow them, you’re making the editor’s job harder.

Poetry Magazine Submissions: The Basics

While specific guidelines should be given precedence, here are some general guidelines for submitting poetry:

  • Submit 3-5 poems. While there are different strategies poets employ for grouping their poems, the normal amount to send is three to five.
  • Include name and contact information. As the editor Poet’s Market and Faulty Mindbomb (a now defunct online literary magazine), I’ve received my fair share of poetry submissions that don’t include the essentials…like the poet’s name and contact information. Some poetry journals actually specific where to put this info.
  • Share brief bio. By brief bio, I’m talking 50 words-ish. Some poet bios seem never ending. Don’t be that poet. Share the highlights. If you don’t have a long list to share, that’s fine too. Just write something like, “Robert Lee Brewer is a poet who lives and writes in Georgia.” (Whatever you do, don’t apologize for your lack of publication credits.)
  • Enclose self-addressed, stamped envelope. This is only applicable to postal submissions. Most poetry magazines accept work digitally now, but there are still exceptions–especially among the big literary magazines.

Finding Poetry Magazines to Send Poems

Finding poetry publications can seem tricky for poets who have no idea where to start. For such poets, I advise grabbing the latest edition of Poet’s Market or subscribing to WritersMarket.com. Both list hundreds of magazines looking to publish poems.

Once you find a poetry publication, check out an issue or two (if you’re able), or–at the very least–visit their website. While on their site, find sample poems, submission guidelines, and editor names.

Important: Make sure your poetry fits their editorial style, or else you’re wasting your time. Even if you’ve written the most amazing love sonnet ever, it won’t be accepted in a haiku publication.

Tracking Poetry Journal Submissions

As you send your poetry into the world, keep track of those submissions. You can accomplish this with a spreadsheet or handle it old school (as I do) with a paper notebook.

The main things you’ll want to note are the following:

  • Name of Poetry Magazine
  • Names of Poems Submitted
  • Date Submitted
  • Poems Accepted (and date)
  • Poems Rejected (and date)

This will help you avoid submitting an already accepted poem to another publication. Plus, it’ll make life easier after a poem is accepted as far as contacting editors to withdraw that poem from consideration.

For more on submitting to poetry magazines…

…check out WritersMarket.com. In addition to thousands of listings for magazines, WritersMarket.com lists book publishers, contests, literary agents, and more for writers of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, scriptwriters, and writing for children. Plus, the site includes a ton of advice on handling the business side of writing.

Start submitting your poetry today!