How to get your poetry published


07 March 2011
Your poems have been polished, and it's time to start finding an audience or readership. We help you discover how to get your poetry published.

A very original idea for a poem has come into your mind. You make a note of it, or jot down the title, or maybe the opening line. If you can start writing straight away you do so. If not, you keep considering fresh lines, or possibly a different title. It niggles at you all day until you can get it laid out in some sort of order on the page. You work hard on it maybe into the following days, even months.

You revise, possibly deleting whole lines, or inserting a fresh word or rhyme. Finally the day comes when your poem is finished. What next? Will you put it in a folder with the others? Will you show friends and family, or maybe read it aloud at the local writers’ group? Perhaps you are thinking of getting them published, but how do you start? The following methods might help.

1. Decide where you intend to send your poem.
2. Having selected a suitable publisher, make a note of the name and address etc.
3. Make a note of the title of the poem and the date sent.

Where to submit your poem for publication

The decision where to send your poem is important. There are a number of magazines, known as the small poetry presses, many which function with a staff of one or two people who are in sympathy with poetry. They cover all forms of presentation from a few duplicated sheets stapled together, to the more glossy paperback book.

Details of these can be located at the Poetry Library, and often your local library will display some. Writing Magazine regularly features up to date information about poetry magazines.

It is best to obtain a back copy of any magazine that you might like to send to. This is necessary, as although many such magazines select overall forms of poetry, there are others that might require only rhymed work, and it would be a waste of your time (and postage) if you submitted work that was unrhymed.

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Keep a note of any poetry publishers you approach

It is important to keep a note and other details of the name of any publisher to whom you submit work, the title of any poem you send, and the date on which you send it. This will be helpful when you submit a number of poems to various publishers. If you do submit a poem to two magazines at the same time, you will be aware of the names and addresses of these on that all important day when one of your poems is accepted. Getting your work published is highly satisfying, if not very lucrative. One of the enjoyable aspects of submitting poetry lies in getting to know other writers through magazines.

How to format your poems and submission for publishers

Your work must be presented correctly if it is to merit serious consideration by an editor. The following are some guidelines for submitting your poems.
• Each poem should have its own piece of A4 paper.
• It should be typed in single spacing, with wide margins.
• If your poem is a very long one, paperclip two or more sheets together, but type on one side only of each sheet.
• Send no more than four poems at a time. (Some magazines specify less than this).
• Send a brief covering letter with your work. This should merely offer the poems for consideration. Do not include any details about your background, ideas about poetry, and your desire to be published.
• Always include a stamped, self addressed envelope.

You will have to learn patience. Some editors offer a reply within a month, but others might keep you waiting for six months. It is hard to wait so long for a reply, but most editors are squeezing their poetry magazine work into a very tight schedule. Sending a stamped, addressed envelope is a matter of courtesy. It is for the same reason that you should wait for a verdict on one batch of poems before submitting another to the same editor.

How to submit your poems to poetry collection and anthology publishers

When you have had a dozen or so poems published in small presses, you may feel that now is the time to submit your work as a collection. Some small presses may help you with this, or you may have won a competition where a collection is given as a prize. Make sure that you have a good supply of work which has awarded you some success. You are likely to get a more sympathetic response from a little press magazine publisher than you would from a major book publishing house.

Check all the small magazines that you have discovered to see which also produce collections. If it is possible, contact an editor who has already used some of your work. Your name will be familiar to him/her as interest has already been shown in your work.

The next steps are:
• Send a query letter asking whether he or she would like to see your collection.
• If you hear from the editor expressing interest, select an appropriate number from what you consider to be your best poems. You can also include one or two that have appeared in his/her magazine.
• If you are asked to rewrite some sections of your work, remember that any opinion should be considered carefully and, if possible, discuss this matter with the editor.

If you are published by this method, remember that you are not solely responsible for the selling of the book. Nor are you expected to pay towards its cost.

When the bigger publishing houses are bringing out an anthology of poetry, they usually have the assistance of a compiler. If you look in various poetry anthologies in libraries or the internet, you will find the names of these. Then approach the publishing house and ask if you can be included on a list for this compiler to contact when any forthcoming anthologies are being produced.

Publishers to avoid

Avoid going to anyone who advertises publishing services, but who prints anything in return for money. This person will praise your work, but remember he or she will expect you to provide all the finances for the venture, you will get no advice. You will, even after all the expense involved, be responsible for the distribution of your books.

Self-publishing is NOT vanity publishing. If you intend to publish yourself be aware there are a number of things you should find out about. One of these is the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and that six copies should be sent to the copyright libraries.

If you're looking to enhance your poetry writing skills and need a little helping hand, check out our online Poetry Course. Study at home, in your own time with the expertise and guidance from a professional tutor.

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