If you feel ready to share your poetry with readers, consider submitting it for publication in a literary magazine. Not only will the prospect of being published push you to become a better writer and produce quality work for an audience, but publication will get your name out there as an established poet.
In this post, we share eight tips on how to successfully submit your poems to literary magazines.
1. Refine your material.
You may have been writing poetry for many years, but if you’ve never been published or received critical feedback, your poetry may need further refinement before you submit it to a literary journal.
Writing partners and editors can help you identify whether your portrayal of your own thoughts and feelings is relatable to others and whether your poems can hold readers’ interest. An editor can also help you eliminate any distracting grammar mistakes.
Good poetry can be produced only with hard work over a period of time, so you do need to edit and refine your work before it’s of publishable quality. However, the process of editing each poem will teach you a lot and help you develop your skill as a poet.
Then, when your refined poem is finally published in a literary magazine, you can feel confident and proud of your work.
2. Submit to literary magazines you like to read.
When your poem is ready for submission, consider which magazines you read, and narrow down your list based on which ones publish poems like yours, as these will be more likely to seriously consider your submission.
Do any magazines focus specifically on your genre or style?
Is your poetry centered on a particular subject of interest?
In which magazines have your favorite poets been published previously?
Which magazines focus on publishing poets from your country, region, or community?
Do any magazines have upcoming special issues in which your poem could fit well?
3. Research the reputations of magazines you plan to submit to.
While you may be familiar with the most established and renowned literary magazines, you will likely need to expand your net to include magazines you haven’t heard of previously—especially if your poetry focuses on a niche subject or if you’ve never been published before.
Weeding out the reputable magazines from the sketchy ones can be tough. Here are some flags to watch out for:
Look up poets whose work the magazine has published. They should be real people with a presence elsewhere online or in other magazines. Avoid any magazine that publishes only the poems of its own editorial board.
Look up the name of the magazine on message boards and author forums to see whether anyone has worked with them. Poets who have had bad experiences with the magazine may share their stories online to warn others.
The magazine should have a verifiable publication history. New magazines are established every year, especially online—but while many build a niche following, just as many fail to thrive and go under within a year or two. You may wish to limit your submissions to magazines that have been around for a decade or more.
Avoid any magazines that charge more than a nominal reading fee. We discuss this further in the next tip.
4. Avoid magazines that charge fees or don’t allow simultaneous submissions.
Many literary magazines charge a nominal reading fee of less than five dollars. In an increasingly uncertain print publishing market, these fees are a way for magazines to recoup some of their operating costs.
However, we recommend that debut poets avoid paying reading fees. The hard truth is that a poet will face a number of rejections along the road to publication—and the reading fees for each of those add up.
Some magazines also forbid simultaneous submissions, meaning submissions to multiple magazines at once. The magazine may not get back to you for several months, and if the reply is a rejection, you’ll have wasted all that time waiting.
Is there a way for magazines to actually enforce this rule? No. However, if the magazine does accept your poem and you end up having to turn the offer down because another magazine accepted your poem first, you’ll likely burn your bridge with that magazine permanently.
This is why we simply recommend avoiding magazines that bar simultaneous submissions. Submitting to multiple magazines allows you to make the most of your time.
5. Consider both print and online magazines.
While print magazines tend to have longer histories and are considered more elite by some, many online journals have now been around long enough to establish a following and earn a good reputation in the literary scene.
Submitting only to print magazines will limit you unnecessarily. You may find that an online magazine allows you to reach your target readers more effectively.
6. Read the editorial guidelines carefully.
Before you send your poems to a literary magazine, make sure you read its submission guidelines. If you’re not a detail-oriented person, force yourself to re-read the guidelines several times! Magazine editors receive thousands of submissions, so in not following all of the guidelines, you risk receiving an immediate easy rejection.
While most magazines will request that you submit a few poems accompanied by a cover letter, every publication has different submission guidelines, so never make assumptions. Do your homework and follow the guidelines to the letter.
7. Keep track of your submissions.
Make a list or spreadsheet to keep track of where you’ve submitted which poems and when. You may find it helpful to organize your submissions using the following categories:
The name of the magazine
A link to its website
The date you submitted your poems
When you might expect to hear back (most magazines give a vague estimate)
Which poems you’ve submitted
This type of spreadsheet helps especially with simultaneous submissions, because if your poems are accepted by one magazine, you’ll need to contact the others and let them know.
8. Learn from rejection.
Every poet has to deal with rejection. Instead of allowing it to discourage you, let it fuel your determination to get published.
If a magazine editor gives you feedback, listen carefully and take it on board. You might need to send your work to different types of literary magazines, or your work might need another round of editing. Our sister site, ProofreadingServices.com, can help with that.
You might consider sending different poems for your next submission. Some writers have become well known based on works they thought no one else would want to read!
Getting published in a literary magazine is a milestone in your writing career and is one of the best ways to get your name out there and motivate yourself to improve your work. Keep working, editing, and submitting. You’ll get there, budding poet!
Looking for some great literary magazines to submit to? Check out this list.