How To Publish Your Poems

Learn how to publish your poetry. Where to find markets and resources.

So, you've finally decided to share your poetry with the world, where do you begin? You might first decide to show your work to friends, but what kind of friend is likely to tell you your work stinks? You might feel that your work isn't good enough to be published, but how will you know for sure if you don't try? Just like jumping into cold water, it's best to dive right in to the world of publishing, we learn best by doing.

What you need now is the poet's bible, aka The Poet's Market. (Writer's Digest Books, 2000) This book comes out every year and is an absolute essential to the beginning poet. Inside, you will find listings of hundreds of magazines and literary journals who are looking for poetry, maybe yours!

This book will teach you how to prepare a submission and includes not only descriptions of what the editors are looking for, but also sample poems and guidelines.

In your 'bible' you will find advice from editors and listings of many organizations useful to poets. There are also listings of chapbook publishers and magazines state-by-state. Magazines that pay for work are clearly marked with dollar signs, these are usually the most competitive markets and you might want to get a few publishing credits under your belt first. You can also find many such listings on the internet, just search under "poetry markets" or there are many other market listings around, especially in other small press magazines which publish poets' work.

Though many magazines ask for a list of credits, don't be afraid to tell them if you have never been published. As an editor, I can tell you that it gives us great pleasure to give someone their first credit. We all can remember our first and how incredible it feels to be recognized! It's a good idea to order a sample copy of any journal you are interested in submitting to as there are many journals out there and some of them are of better quality than others. Make sure the magazine you are submitting to is of good quality and won't make you sorry you published your work through them. Obtaining sample copies is also a great way to feel out the editor's style and see what type of poems they usually pick.

Once you get your submissions in the mail, you'll quickly be educated in the tortuous process known as 'the mailbox vigil.' Distract yourself during this horrible waiting period by working on your craft and reading as much contemporary poetry as you can get your hands on. When the rejections start trickling in, remember that we all get them, even those of us who have been published hundreds of times! Use them to build the thick skin you'll need as a publishing poet and send them another batch!

Keep track of your publishing credits in a notebook or keep a scrapbook of your clips. You can use your credits in your bio information when you send submissions out. Always list your best credits first, they will help build up your credibility when editors are looking at your submissions. Of course, some editors are not impressed by publication credits and would rather see good solid work that stands on its own merits.

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