Diving into the world of submitting poetry at times feels like a rollercoaster of both emotions and physical depletion. I have two kids, I am a full time graduate student and I work part time. The rest of my precious time goes to writing and hunting down journals to toss out my poems to. Every month I stay up late one or two nights and pound out some cover letters and a bio that hopefully doesn’t make me sound cheesy. Then, I create a handful of docs stuffed with
poems to be sent out to various places across the country. I have even sent one or two out via snail mail with an actual check for the submission fee.
Most submissions I send online through submittable.com. I love refreshing the page every so often to see if any of the journals have clicked the button over to “in process”. It could still be months before I hear from them but just knowing my poems are in a pile gives me some dopamine boost. Speaking of a boost. I have begun to keep track of all of my submissions on a spreadsheet that I have color coded based on their acceptance and rejections. The acceptances are green, of course, and the rejections are red.
Opening up my submission spreadsheet you are greeted with a sea of red. A soft red though.
I picked the pale red because I knew submitting my work would come with so many rejection letters and red was going to be
a color I would see a lot of. It seems that the only way, or perhaps the most common way to get poetry read is by submitting to the multitudes of small and large journals that exist far and wide. When I flip through the poetry books I have collected over the years, many attribute half the poems in the collection to having first been published in various journals. Not only does it feel imperative to get poems out into the world via literary journals and magazines, it is one step to getting them into a book that people will recognize and want to buy. People will have seen those poems in literary journals and recognize your name and want to read more. They act as a book tease!
Great idea right? Sure, in theory it is. But how do you know what journal to submit to? And what about all this waiting? And the existential dread of the decline!!!
Just kidding. I am not that dramatic, and you shouldn't be either. Most poets will tell you to aim for 100 rejections in a year and somewhere in all that submitting you will find several acceptances, and think of all those poems you will have written to accomplish all of this!
I am saying this to encourage anyone out there who may be looking at their submittable account and hovering over the delete account button. Don't do it! You can be successful. Start a twitter account and follow all of the lit mags you can find and keep track of their submission openings (spreadsheets are great for this too). Another way to keep track is to get a subscription to duotrope.com, a website dedicated to helping connect writers and artists to agents, magazines, and more. It is more of an all encompassing site.
When you are ready to submit, keep your cover letter short and to the point. Some magazines don't require them. Be sure to add your social media handles if required, they are a great way to get your other work out there and have your professional self out there on the internet stage. And lastly, a short 3rd person bio is super important! Spend some time polishing it. Then, hit submit and try to forget about it! Most journals receive hundreds (some thousands) of submissions during a submission period and often they are working with volunteer readers. It takes time to get back to everyone who submitted!
It is always worth the wait. Even for a rejection. Remember, rejections are a part of the life of a writer and where there are rejections, there are acceptances around the corner.
Happy submitting. I believe in your work!