Monday, November 30, 2009

Where do you submit your work?

In our "Just Ask" section, Sharon Mayhew asked us where she could submit individual "deep" poems.

Sharon, there are actually dozens and dozens of fine literary magazines that publish poetry. Some of the more popular ones would include The New Yorker and The Paris Review, among others. Not only would places like this give you great exposure, but they are also going to pay you some money to publish your work.

But, not everyone gets into publications such as this. It takes talent, luck, and probably some strong connections would help as well. If you think your work is good, I'd say give it a shot, but don't get your hopes up too high.

If you go to a website called Duotrope's Digest, you can also use their poetry search engine to find other publications you can submit to. Go to the site, click the tab that says "poetry," fill in the search criteria, and then click "search." You'll get the names of the publications, the genres they publish, length requirements, pay scales, and whether they are a print or electronic publication. It's a great resource, and you can use it for free, although they appreciate donations.

Getting into a literary magazine is a bit of an art. (This applies to everyone, not just poets.) Different publications have different preferences. So, you can submit often to many different publications in the hopes that you'll accidentally stumble on a good fit. Or, you can take the time to research the pubs and only submit to the ones that seem to like your type of work. Seriously, either way works. I tend to take the latter approach, but I know a poet who takes the former and has quite a bit of success. You can decide if you want to spend your time research or submitting--both are kind of tedious, at least to me.

When you find a publication you are interested in, go to their submission guidelines. They will tell you how to submit your work to them. Often with poetry you can submit multiple pieces at the same time if you have them.

There are a few other things you should know about submitting, including the value of online versus print publications, multiple submissions versus simultaneous submissions, and the cover letter. Check out a few of our other posts, to get more information (1, 2, 3)

For me, the key to submitting is to expect failure. That may be a bit depressing, but getting an editor or agent to like your work depends on so many factors that are out of your control. If someone turns you down, don't necessarily blame yourself. Yes, sometimes, your work might not hold up. But, sometimes, the editor could have just gotten a parking ticket and simply isn't in the mood to make anyone happy that day.


  1. Davin, your last paragraph is a universal truth for writers (poets or novelists!) As a perfectionist (and thus a control freak), the hardest part of my writing journey has been learning to accept that there are just some things I *cannot* control. My family & friends love my writing obstacles - they say I'm a lot more mellow now that I've had to learn how to let go! :)

  2. Great response, Davin. I'd like to add that any time you consider a submission, make sure you understand your goal for the piece. Is it to make money? Just want to be published and read? Building your credentials? Striving to win an award?

    Those goals may help you to narrow your list of publishers.

  3. Ah! Expect failure and then when you get a big "YES!, We love ya, baby." It is all the more sweeter? Maybe not sweeter, but it makes the rejections easier to take.

    And I always hope the agent or editor has had their cup of coffee before reading my submission. :)

  4. Great post and advice, Davin. You are the perfect member of our team to answer it well. I'm gearing up to send out some submissions in awhile. Thanks for the info!

  5. Ann, that's a great way of putting it. Yes, we have to learn how to let go. I think if our focus is on writing what we want, even if we always got rejected (which I don't think will be the case) we'd at least have work that we are happy to read ourselves.

    Rick, that is REALLY excellent advice. I'm a big advocate of knowing exactly what your goals are because it really can steer your publishing. In some cases, even things like self-publishing could be the right way to go.

    Robyn, the acceptances are lovely surprises when they come along! Indeed! As an editor, I've realized the importance of being level-headed when I'm reading other people's work. If I can feel that I'm angry that day, I simply put everything off because I think that's more fair to the writer.

    Michelle, you're welcome. I wonder if you'll be submitting poetry as well!

  6. With submissions I remind myself of what I do and don't have control over and try not to obsess over the things that I have no control over. Thanks, Davin.

  7. Paul, you're welcome. And, I think it's a good thing to remember that--at least in the case of many literary magazine editors--people are usually volunteering their time, effort and money to the cause. Rarely are lit mags profitable. They just want to be able to showcase the work they admire.

  8. I haven't tried submitting any writing to magazines since college. I've heard some good things lately about getting short things published as a way of getting your name and writing out there. Right now though, I'm so focused on the novel that everything else is having to wait except my genre wars piece that I can hopefully get in on time.

  9. Lois, I go through periods where I don't work on short stories as well. Lately, everything I've been writing has at least been novella length. I think those cycles are natural--at least I hope they are because it always feels so good to finish something, and that happens much more frequently with short stories! I hope to get to read your Genre Wars piece! Of course, I won't know that it's yours, LOL.

  10. Great post. As an editor who also writes, however, I'm not at all a fan of the scattershot approach. If anything makes my editorial hackles rise, it's my inbox crammed with submissions that are very obviously a terrible fit (like being a genre we don't publish). At least a little research will up a writer's chances of acceptance exponentially.

    Another factor out of a writer's control is what other pieces have crossed the editor's desk lately. Looking at what a magazine has recently published won't necessarily tell you that the editor is sick to death of stories with the same theme or situation as yours and he rejected five of them last month. It's just bad timing and nothing more. There's always a chance that the magazine that seems like a perfect fit will be, if you resubmit a revised version of the piece a year or so later (with a new title), when it's not in a clump of similar submissions.

  11. Laurel, thanks for your comment. As an editor, I also get annoyed by the scattershot approach. But, from a writer's point of view, I have to admit that it works...if you're willing to submit more and put up with more rejection. Even if you anger an editor or agent, the chances of them liking your misplaced work in the first place was low anyway, so I'm not sure that it hurts you, the writer.

    Your point about resubmission is also a great one!

  12. Yes, this is a blatant advertisement. :)

    For more about what editors look for in their submissions (and what turns them off to a story), check out my new blog, Six Questions For . . . The first post in the series, Six Questions for Nathaniel Tower, Founder and Editor, Bartleby Snopes, is scheduled for tomorrow, December 1.

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE Duotrope!!!!! I found my publisher there and found a flash fiction magazine called Flash me. I submitted to them, they published my story, chose it as their feature that issue AND then went on to nominate it for a Pushcart Prize!!!!

    I never expected any of it. I submitted to tons of publications (also found on Doutrope) and just got lucky when I found the ones that fit for me!

  14. I can't WAIT to check out Duotrope and submit my little heart out. Thanks so much for sharing this, Davin.

  15. Jim, you're welcome to promote yourself. I'm looking forward to checking out the post, but you sure are making us wait!

    Stephanie, well, that's good advertisement for Duotrope! Congrats on all of the great news!

    Amber, do give it a try. It's a great site.

  16. I love that you guys have this q&a option - very cool.

    and, you are right - it's all a numbers game.

  17. I love Duotrope's Digest. An really valuable website for tracking submitting and acceptance rates for various magazines.

    Lady Glamis,

    Good luck in sending out those submissions! You'll knock their socks off.

  18. Crimey, good point. Yes, Duotrope has a lot of other useful stats as well!

  19. Duotrope's overwhelming, I've found. If you're aiming high, though, you can search only for the well-paying markets, and exhaust all the possibilities there before moving down to the non-paying ones.

    And I tried the research thing, but got frustrated. My submitting style's a mix of the two, and depends on how much patience I have on any given day. So far it seems to be working well enough!

  20. Simon, You do end up with a lot of options when you use Duotrope, and it can be overwhelming. I eventually start to get random, searching through the P's or Q's, or looking for covers I like. I think it's a good starting point though. The other option is to talk to other people who have published and find out which publications they like.


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