To Market, to Market- Sending Out Your Poetic Babies
So you’ve written a poem. Congratulations and job well done! But now what?
Time to polish your work till it gleams like a new copper penny, and send it out into the world.
Editing is important, as there is always a better, fresher way to word your thoughts, fix up a place where the rhythm is off or a rhyme could be improved, add this or remove that, or rearrange some lines. Get feedback from people you trust and work until the poem feels right. Then you’re ready for phase three: marketing.
Some markets or contests require you to pay a reading fee, or buy the book of poetry if they publish your poem. My personal preference is not to send to them. Here’s why: they may not be reputable. If it’s a big, well-known market, perhaps it is worth a shot. But if not, you have just given money to someone who will just pocket it and could care less about publishing your poetry, even if it is excellent. That said, time to look at some markets.
“Where?” you cry, “I don’t know any writing markets!” Believe me, there are plenty. I recommend you sign up at Duotrope to get their weekly fiction and poetry market listings. I also recommend you join CRWROPPS Creative Writers Opportunities List at Yahoo Groups, as well as join a local poetry group. You can find some near your area in Meetup.
Read the listing you pick to submit to thoroughly and make sure they accept your kind of poetry. Look for their submissions page and be sure you follow it to the letter. Nothing will get your poem tossed in File 13 faster than thinking their rules don’t apply to you. They have to read a lot of submissions so don’t give them a reason to eliminate you from the get-go.
So what do you need besides a market listing?
First, you need a Bio. Make it a 50-or-so word biography that tells something about you – something quirky or intriguing is good, funny is even better, as well as any relevant publishing credits. You can go the online ezine route- easier to break into than a print venue- to help you get enough poems published to give you a good bio.
Second, you need a cover letter or email that you can modify to fit the particular market you are submitting to. Be polite and professional. Try to find out the editor’s name if you can, if not, “Dear Editor” will do.
Be brief and mention the title of the poem you are submitting for consideration and any relevent information about it. End by thanking them for their time. If they asked for contact information, give it. Then include your poem in the format they requested, which may require you to use a certain font or type of document. Sometimes this is in the body of the email, sometimes as an attached WORD or other format document. If they request a typed snail mail submission, be sure your name and email are on the poem unless they tell you otherwise- envelopes and submission letters can get lost.
Last, keep a record of what poem you sent to what venue and when. Also make a note of how soon to expect a reply from the publisher, if given in their submissions page. If you don’t hear by that time, or 3 months if no deadline is given, a polite inquiry is in order.
When it sells, make a note of the publication date and go celebrate! If it gets rejected, make a note of the date and send it right out again to your second choice. Continue till you make a sale or use up all your markets. But remember, new markets come out every month!
So here’s to your first sale! I’d love to hear about it.
Pingback: Pen to Pad « PrefacMe
Lin, thanks for the excellent advice. One thing I like to do is to check out any zines — print or online — that publish poets I like to read. And I heartily second the advice to keep track. I have a spreadsheet that a kind fellow poet sent me for keeping track of submissions. I’d be happy to send a copy to anyone who’s interested.
Great idea Margaret! Might lead you to exactly the right market. Spreadsheet is a great idea too. Nice of you to offer that!
Great advice I got several years ago — and which ultimately led me to where I am now:
“It’s almost impossible to get published if you don’t send your work out into the Universe!”
As a result of that serendipitous encounter, I sent out a poem for the first time, and it was accepted and published in a regional magazine. I was 57. Never too late to plunge with passion 😉
A very good lesson for everyone, that it is never too late to start!
Pingback: My Day Job « valrfederoff