Research Tips for Getting Poetry Published
"How can I get my poetry published?" I often get this question from students who feel ready to share their poems with larger audiences beyond their instructors and their peers in creative writing class.
The first thing I tell them is that getting published takes time and effort, beyond all the creative work that already has gone into writing, revising, and polishing their poetry. Getting published requires a skill set that many see as antithetical to the creative process, but it doesn't have to be. Finding homes for your literary "babies" can be an intriguing, even inspirational, adventure.
The first step in getting published is research. Yes, research. But it's fun research. Seriously. There are many literary journals out there, and no one can submit to them all, so it's important to improve your chances by finding the right fit. Yes, there can be a certain amount of luck involved; a poem needs to find the right editor at the right time. However, as with most things in life, you can make your own luck.
There are many websites out there to help with your research. Below, you will find a slideshow of my favorites. (Click on Logos to visit the websites) More info follows the slide show.
- Basic information about markets is free. Additional info, such as stats about acceptance/rejection ratios, requires a $50 per year subscription. I, personally, like having a subscription to Duotrope, for several reasons. First, I can search markets based on certain criteria, which narrows the possibilities to a more manageable number. Next, I find it very helpful to look at the various statistics available about the various markets, even though I realize that they are approximations derived from self-reporting. Finally, once a week I receive an email with updates, including markets that have just recently opened or closed submissions, markets that have become defunct, and upcoming themes for markets that have them.
- This website is filled with interesting information! For research purposes, the bimonthly classifieds and the submission calendar for upcoming contests, grants & awards are extremely helpful. I have had good luck with the classifieds. I think it's because these markets are definitely open to unsolicited submissions. In addition, the classifieds provide info on themed submissions.
- AWP provides community, opportunities, ideas, news, and advocacy for writers and teachers of writing.
- Writer's Market charges a fee for a subscription but contains lots of helpful information about all kinds of markets.
- This website contains lots of interesting and useful links relating specifically to poetry.
Speaking of focusing on poetry, it can be helpful to find journals that publish only poetry. This can improve one's chances of getting an acceptance because there are simply more pages available for poems. Of course, there's no guarantee; many poetry-only journals are extremely competitive markets.
Here are just a few journals that publish only poetry:
(click covers to visit websites)
OK, so you've found lots of potential markets. What can you do to improve your chances of success? Here are a few useful tips to improve your chances:
- READ. Most journals publish some pieces from the current issue online. Often, the editors do this to provide examples of the kinds of poetry they are seeking. As you read, consider how you feel. Do you love the work they have posted? Would you be incredibly proud to publish your work alongside the pieces you see? If so, this might be a good market for you. If you dislike the work you find, your style might not be a good fit for that particular market. This is the fun part of market research. ENJOY the work that you discover. If you can, subscribe to one or two of your favorite journals.
- Follow submissions guidelines TO THE LETTER. This is critical. Important things to note:
- Number of poems to be submitted
- For online submissions managers, should pieces be submitted as separate documents or as a group?
- Whether or not the market takes simultaneous submissions (meaning, can writers submit the same work to other markets at the same time?)
- Are submissions accepted online, via snail mail, or both? (If submitting via snail mail, include a SASE).
- Write a clear and concise cover letter not longer than one page. This letter should introduce the work being submitted and then provide a little information about the writer, such as education and publication history. If you don't have a publication history, never fear. Every writer starts that way.