Get Your Poetry Published in Trade/Literary Journal/Niche Publications
Start with identifying publications you want to work with
The first step in this process is creating a list of publications you’d like to see publish your work. Here is your chance to shoot for the stars! Don’t hold back! Develop a list of “low hanging fruit,” stretch goal publications, and ones that are your ultimate dream publications. If you’re short on time and need to prioritize, this will help guide your efforts. We recommend starting with 3 to 5 publications to give you a good sense of the process and to maximize the chances of success.
You want to make sure you’re looking at not only the major national and international literary and poetry magazines, but also at regional publications, local online sites, and community publications. Especially when you’re just getting started as a poet, these entry-level opportunities can help create the platform you’ll need to grow your following.
As you’re developing that list, also make note of the kinds of poems they publish. What types of pieces are they posting? Do they publish lots of poems in each issue, or do they include more essays and articles? If a literary magazine publishes short poems of less than 200 words and you submit a 10,000-word epic poem, you’re less likely to be published because this wouldn’t align with their aesthetic.
We suggest checking out magazines you love and making notes on the poems they publish that are similar to yours. In addition, whenever you love a poet, see where they’ve published. Keep a poetry wishlist handy with submission deadlines and details so you can sit down and submit as soon as you’re ready.
Check out some of these top publications to get your poetry published:
Think about what poems you want to share
Now that you’ve got a running list of potential publications to submit your poetry to, what are you going to submit? We recommend first looking through all of your work, published and unpublished, to see what work speaks to you or what you’d like to showcase. Make a list or lay them out on the floor in front of you, whatever you need to do to keep yourself organized.
It’s often recommended to submit your strongest poem first, but don’t be afraid to mix it up. Some poets like to include poems of a similar style in one “packet” of poems; others like to send poems that vary widely in form or tone. Make sure you check the guidelines–that will tell you how many poems to include at once (this is what we call your “submission packet”) and it will also tell you what the journal is looking for.
It’s important to note that more often than not, you do not want to submit an original work that you’ve already published in your collection or online because many literary journals and publications want work that hasn’t already been published elsewhere. This will vary from publication to publication depending on their submission rules, so make sure you look at their guidelines as you narrow down the poems you want to submit.
Do your research!
Let’s talk a bit more about submission guidelines. You’re going to want to do thorough research on each of the publications and create a list of the types of poetry they accept, word counts, deadlines, price for submission or payout if accepted, and other details that will impact your submission. Some publications hold ongoing submissions, but make note of the deadlines for ones with specific dates so you can prioritize accordingly. Putting those dates on a calendar is one simple way to manage them.
You’ll also want to determine whether the journal permits simultaneous submissions (that is, if they will consider poems you have also submitted to several other publications) and how many poems they accept at a time.
As you formulate a plan for submissions, another thing you’ll want to do is prioritize the opportunities you pursue according to your situation. For example, if getting exposure is your top priority, it would be worthwhile to submit to publications with the largest readerships. Or if you’re trying to fund your next self-published poetry collection, you might want to prioritize paid opportunities.
Get your submissions ready
Take another look at your list of potential poems you’d like to submit. Do they need any revisions that would make them stronger and more compelling? Are you going to write a new work specifically for publication? Get it done! Also take another look at the submission guidelines for publication and check to see if any pieces need to be edited to meet those requirements.
Setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of where and when you submitted your pieces for publication will provide you with a good record and is also a place to track acceptances and rejections. Also make note of when you expect to hear back from a publication and if there’s a specific contact you need to speak with so you can follow up.
Remember, don’t take rejection personally! Keep writing! Not every submission will be accepted, and that’s okay. All of this is a part of the journey as you develop your skills as a poet. Be organized, proactive, and think about what work you want to share with the world. Getting published can take multiple attempts, but with these steps you’re on the right track. For more support, check out Tell Tell Poetry’s submission strategies course!