Monday, August 31, 2009

In season

I have only two batches of poems currently out, and the reading period for lots of journals begins September 1st (which, though I swear the calendar has got to be pulling my leg, is tomorrow). So... you know what that means: time for this girl to get her act together and get some poems sent out. Though I probably won't take the time to do it until this coming weekend.

I always overthink the submission process -- reading over guidelines, analyzing sample poems from various journals trying to decide if they're anything like any of mine, fiddling with the index cards I still use to keep track of where my poems are and where they've been, making and remaking submission packets. So I thought I'd ask you guys how you go about it.
  • How much do you pay attention to your submission packets as a group -- as a mini-manuscript, as it were? Do you try to send out poems that play off of one another, poems that exhibit a wide stylistic range, a grab bag to give the editors different things to choose from, poems that belong together? What about if you're working on a thematic manuscript or group of poems -- do you send poems from that group out together, and if so, do you point out that fact in your cover letter?
  • Do you pay attention to the order of your poems? I always think I'm putting the strongest poem first in my packets, but looking over my submissions spreadsheet, it looks like the last poem gets picked just about as often as the first. Which probably says as much about the fact that I am not a good judge of my own poems as anything.
  • Do you like to send out a bunch of packets all at once & then sit back for a while, or do you maybe send out one or two at a time & then a little while later send out one or two more?
  • When they come back, do you send out the same group of poems all together to the next journal, or do you go back and make new selections?
  • Finally, I'm always open to recommendations for new places to submit! I like online journals and print journals, both -- I love the feeling of holding a print journal in my hands & seeing my work literally "in print" but I also love being able to send out a URL because it's so much easier to share the poems that way. There are lots of good journals in both formats and I try to keep a bit of a balance in my submissions pattern. So if you've got a journal you really like, or especially if you think of one that my work might be a good fit for, I am all (virtual) ears.


Kristin said...

I like to send out poems that are thematically linked--and bonus points, if some of those are more formalist, and some are free verse. But I usually don't point out that they're from a book-length manuscript in the cover letter.

I put what I consider to be the best poem first. But I've never gone back to see who agrees with me. I've often been surprised at what poems get accepted. Some of my poems that I consider to be my strongest are as yet unpublished.

Ideally I'd have a huge batch of poem packets ready to be mailed today. But my current life doesn't support that vision. My goal this term is to send out something each week. Ideally, ten packets each week. Real life will likely intervene.

I don't keep the same poems together in packets, especially if the same packets keep getting returned in groups. Creating new packets help me think about the different ways the poems can fit together.

Happy September submitting!

Jessie Carty said...

I love this topic, because I love giving thought to process!

I've been wondering if I should change up how I do things but basically what I do is I take whatever poems have been rejected and/or any new poems I have revised and I have them in a virtual "pile."

Then I go through my journal list and I pick a journal. After I have the journal in mind then I pick the 3-5 poems I am going to send. I actually try not to send too many that are obviously related but I hear from a lot of people you should.

I also go with "best" one on top but you just can never tell what is going to be picked!

Get some poems out there - of course, for you (or anyone else who comments here), I'm open to submissions at Shape of a Box
guideliness at

Lyle Daggett said...

I try not to overthink it too much. There are so many variables in the whole process that the variables and unknowns will usually overwhelm any amount of forethought.

I try to put the poem I think is strongest first (or the poem I think the magazine might be most likely to want) -- assuming I'm familiar with the magazine.

The order of the poems doesn't seem to make a difference as far as which ones editors want. They take the first one, the last one, the one I think is weakest, the one I think is strongest, one in the middle of the batch.

I don't send out huge amounts of poems, and I don't send poems out constantly. I tend to send out in little bursts here and there, three or four submissions at a time, just because I'll get small ambition and will act on it. I go for long in-between periods not worrying about it much.

If I'm not familiar with a magazine I'll usually try to research it at least briefly. I usually avoid magazines that are heavy with prose and seem to use poems as filler or change-of-pace (this happens sometimes even with very "prestigious" literary magazines).

I don't always research ahead of time. Now and then I submit poems just based on seeing a "poems wanted" item in one of the magazines that feature those. It probably helps to research a little first but it's not prohibitive if I don't -- I've had poems published in magazines I've never seen or heard of before I submitted the poems.

If I get poems back, I generally don't resubmit the same bundle, I remix and send new bundles. Although I try not to overthink, I also try not to underthink.

I keep track of submissions in a paper notebook. This seems to work fine for me. I don't submit often enough or in large enough volume to need a more elaborate system.

Four magazines I've submitted to more than once, and that have published me more than once, are Pemmican (online magazine), Blue Collar Review (print quarterly), Main Street Rag (print quarterly), and Free Verse (print magazine). Free Verse is I think on a temporary break while they transition to new editors, but they're planning to resume in the near future.

Radish King said...

I send out one packet of 3 poems every Saturday morning before 11 AM. I force myself to do it, like a chore, because it feels like a chore. This way I don't over worry, and it becomes practice after a while and i don't get that panic of looking at 400 poems that have no homes. Just a kind of trick. Ideally, I'd hire someone to do it for me if I had the money.