"Six Insider Tips for Poetry-Publication Success"

My article was published today at Women on Writing! Enjoy. :)

“Six Insider Tips for Poetry-Publication Success”

By: Melanie Faith

Photo courtesy of: Trust “Tru” Katsande, @iamtru, unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of: Trust “Tru” Katsande, @iamtru, unsplash.com

So you’ve been writing poems for months or years, and you’ve decided that you’d like to try for publication. Great idea!


You’re probably wondering where to begin and how to know which poems to submit. Here are some insider tips to encourage your poetry-submission process and to make it easier.


1. Put your best poem forward. Open your submission packet with your strongest poem. Make sure to edit that poem so that its first lines/stanza includes no warm-up or filler words. Grab the reader’s attention with an intriguing image or beautiful, meaningful language from the get-go.


2. Follow posted guidelines, to a t. Always check online guidelines (the vast majority of literary magazines have them posted, whether at Submittable or their personal webpage).

Many journals request three to five poems at a time, but there are some exceptions to that rule. Don’t send more poems than the maximum number listed; it would be a shame for your submission to be automatically rejected for not following instructions (I admit it’s happened to me more than once).

Guidelines will also include the specific genres requested (some journals only read prose, for instance, or they only read one specific genre per issue).

3. If in doubt—ask! What if you’ve written a prose poem, but that’s not listed in the guidelines? Or what if the submission guidelines don’t include a specific number of poems to submit? What if you’re wondering about simultaneous submissions? These are three excellent reasons to send a quick email to editors; I’ve certainly done so for these reasons and others.

Politely introduce yourself and list that you are a poet, ask your question, thank the editor(s) for their time, and include your email address and/or other contact information. Easy-breezy.

Do remember to respect their time: only contact them once; wait for an answer. Even a month isn’t too long to wait (remember that they often have hundreds of submissions per issue and busy lives outside of their jobs). Usually, though, you’ll hear back from editors within a few days or much less.

I’ve found editors quite generous with their time (many are also writers) and very willing to clarify or consider various types and themes of poetry even if they haven’t listed them directly in the guidelines. Just make sure, as a courtesy, to double-check and to send the query email before sending the work; never just assume you can send whatever you want.


4. Consider the poetry-publication process to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Adjust your (speed) expectations just a bit. Yes, I know— I’m also very used to the instant gratification of the internet. On the other hand, the pace of creating, editing, and submitting new poems is a slower, yet no less meaningful, art.

Set monthly goals for yourself (mine is to submit at least three submissions of poetry, photography, or prose per month, year-in-year-out), and then give yourself room to continue exploring your genre. Publication might not happen overnight (it’s not fast food or on-demand content), but it will happen. Keep submitting.

5. We’re living in an exciting time, where we can self-publish some or all of our content. You may feel free to share, from time to time, on your blog (or to guest blog) or on social media posts, but keep in mind that many online and print publications consider work published online anywhere as already published, and so it may knock that poem out of the running for submitting to literary magazines in the future. For 100% self-publishing poets that might not make any difference. For other poets, a more balanced approach might be of interest.

I’ve known writers who shared sneak-peaks of their poems or poetry-in-progress online to engage with readers, but they kept other poems for literary-magazine submissions, which is one great strategy for developing an audience while also pursuing publication. As you go, you’ll find a combination of withholding and sharing that works for you.

6. Continue to write and to develop your skills while waiting to hear back from editors and publishers. I started to submit work regularly around the time I graduated from college. I didn’t have the money to go to graduate school for my MFA right away, so for a few years I started my teaching career and kept writing in my free time while I also took a few other positive steps to continue to learn and to grow as a poet. I participated in open mikes and readings. I joined a writing group for a few months to meet others who were also on this poetry-penning path. I workshopped, both within a larger group and one-on-one with a new writing friend. I met some new writing pals online and we shared our work through emails. By the time, six years later, I had paid off my college loans and was able to apply to grad-school programs, I had steadily built my writing skills and had publication credits from several literary magazines. 

Never underestimate the power of networking for growth as a poet. Join a poetry writing/reading group or start one in your community or online.

Take a noncredit poetry-writing class, again in your community or online at WOW!

Swap drafts with a poetry buddy once a month, to offer each other encouragement and helpful suggestions.

Read poetry journals and books online and in print to become aware of the markets for poetry as well as the work of your fellow poets


Any or all of these suggestions will prove a great asset to your poetry-writing and -submitting processes.

Care to learn more? Consider my May class, Poetry for Publication: an Insider’s View. Here’s the scoop and skinny:

Get Your Poetry Published!   Poetry for Publication: An Insider’s View  by Melanie Faith   START DATE:  Friday, May 3, 2019   END DATE:  Thursday, May 30, 2019   DURATION:  4 weeks   COURSE DESCRIPTION:  Ever wonder how to go from scratching drafts in a notebook to sending poems to literary magazines that will get chosen for publication? Ever pondered what editors look for in literary journal submissions? How should we keep track of poetry submissions, and should we do that odd thing: “simultaneously submit?” Ever started a manuscript only to find it all a bit daunting to know what poems to include and which to omit? Want to prepare a chapbook or full-length collection but not sure where to start? How do we get past stalled drafts or stalled manuscripts to persevere and find our writing and reading community? If you've wondered any of these questions, then this is your workshop! Learn real-world, first-hand advice and tips from a poet who has judged poetry contests, published chapbooks and a full-length collection, and regularly submits poetry to literary magazines. Just because it’s chockfull of practical information, doesn’t mean it won’t be fun.  In this four-week workshop, we’ll explore what literary magazines look for in submissions, how the instructor as well as several other poets put together chapbooks and/or larger collections of poems, and insider advice for editing work with an eye towards publication. Students will read   Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems   edited by Susan Grimm as well as excerpts from   Poetry Power   by Melanie Faith. There will be a private group for students to discuss the literary life, ask specific questions related to putting together a submission and/or manuscript, and for sharing of literary resources, such as markets and quotations about the poetry writing and submission process.  Topics covered will include: Best Foot Forward: Arranging a Poetry Manuscript; Journey without a Map; Finding, Unifying, and Revising the Body of Our Work; Throwing Poems at an Editor to See If They Stick; Keeping Company: Thoughts on Arranging Poems; Write Opportunity, Wrong Timing; Wild Cards: 8 Tips for Choosing Poems for Submission; The Art of Offering Feedback; The Plandid and Other Splendid Editing Options; Lavender Disappointment: on Adjustment of Expectation and Stalled Drafts; 76 Rabbits out of a Hat: or: The Quirky Tale of How One Poem became a Whole Book; 21-Century Publishing & Guidelines for Finding Your Ideal Audience; Spring out of a Writing Rut! 8 Tips for Getting back to Business, and more.

Get Your Poetry Published!

Poetry for Publication: An Insider’s View by Melanie Faith

START DATE: Friday, May 3, 2019

END DATE: Thursday, May 30, 2019

DURATION: 4 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Ever wonder how to go from scratching drafts in a notebook to sending poems to literary magazines that will get chosen for publication? Ever pondered what editors look for in literary journal submissions? How should we keep track of poetry submissions, and should we do that odd thing: “simultaneously submit?” Ever started a manuscript only to find it all a bit daunting to know what poems to include and which to omit? Want to prepare a chapbook or full-length collection but not sure where to start? How do we get past stalled drafts or stalled manuscripts to persevere and find our writing and reading community? If you've wondered any of these questions, then this is your workshop! Learn real-world, first-hand advice and tips from a poet who has judged poetry contests, published chapbooks and a full-length collection, and regularly submits poetry to literary magazines. Just because it’s chockfull of practical information, doesn’t mean it won’t be fun.

In this four-week workshop, we’ll explore what literary magazines look for in submissions, how the instructor as well as several other poets put together chapbooks and/or larger collections of poems, and insider advice for editing work with an eye towards publication. Students will read Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems edited by Susan Grimm as well as excerpts from Poetry Power by Melanie Faith. There will be a private group for students to discuss the literary life, ask specific questions related to putting together a submission and/or manuscript, and for sharing of literary resources, such as markets and quotations about the poetry writing and submission process.

Topics covered will include: Best Foot Forward: Arranging a Poetry Manuscript; Journey without a Map; Finding, Unifying, and Revising the Body of Our Work; Throwing Poems at an Editor to See If They Stick; Keeping Company: Thoughts on Arranging Poems; Write Opportunity, Wrong Timing; Wild Cards: 8 Tips for Choosing Poems for Submission; The Art of Offering Feedback; The Plandid and Other Splendid Editing Options; Lavender Disappointment: on Adjustment of Expectation and Stalled Drafts; 76 Rabbits out of a Hat: or: The Quirky Tale of How One Poem became a Whole Book; 21-Century Publishing & Guidelines for Finding Your Ideal Audience; Spring out of a Writing Rut! 8 Tips for Getting back to Business, and more.