Guide to Publishing Your Poetry in Literary Magazines

Getting published as a poet is hard and I can’t say I’ve done it many times myself (with just three published poems under my belt) however, I can give advice on what I’ve learned out there in the publishing world so far in 6 simple steps.

  1. Choosing your literary magazine

    Resources:
    pw.org/literary_magazines
    This is my favorite resources, it’s basically every recognized literary magazine in the US. You can narrow the search with filters (I usually filter mine by who accepts simultaneous submissions)

    submittables.com
    This is another great resource for finding places to publish your poetry, but I would be careful. A lot of places ask for $5-15 under titles like “24 Hour Submissions, Immediate Response,” but plan to reject everyone who submits within this period without reading their work.

    In my experience, legitimate magazines/publications either do not ask for money or encourage a small donation, but rarely have I see a required payment above $3. 

    Size

    If you haven’t been published before, go for smaller literary magazines that tend to publish debuts or up-and-coming writers! Also, you can always send your poem to smaller and larger magazines to see what happens— just make sure both magazines accept simultaneous submissions

    If you have been published before, go for the larger ones fearlessly! Flaunt your accomplishments in your cover letter (if requested) and let your work shine. 

    Style

    Nothing annoys an editor more than reading work that clearly does not fit in with the style of the magazine. After narrowing down publications based on size, do so by style.

    Usually in the guideline section, publication list what their expectations are when reading submitted poetry.

    Read the work of multiple poets on their website before submitting your own
    Subscribe to their newsletter if the option is given!

    If you write in multiple styles, submit different work to each publication based on what fits! If the publication seems to publish multiple styles, send multiple styles if you want!

    If the magazine tends to publish work in meter and rhyme and you write in free verse or prose, try a different magazine.
    Etc.
  2. Quick, final workshop

    There’s a few last minute touch-ups I always make before I submit my work!
    Read out loud to check for: rhythm, word choice, and typos
    Take out unnecessary “the’s”
    Take out unnecessary “I’s”
    Remove “to be” verbs

  3. Format
    • Use Times New Roman size 12 font, single space (unless requested otherwise).
    • On page 1, put your contact information in the top left corner, skip a couple of spaces and place your cover letter.
    • Place your first poem on page 2, only put one poem per page.
      • If your poems is longer than two pages, clarify whether the page break indicates a stanza break or not.
    • Write the title of your poem in all caps, skip 2-3 spaces, then place your poem.

  4. Write cover letter

    Usually, a publication will tell you what information they want in a cover letter (or if they even want a cover letter).
    If they do not list what they’re expecting in a cover letter, keep it professional! List academic, creative, and work related achievements. Don’t list hobbies, dreams, likes/dislikes.

    For example:
    Jane Doe is 100 years old and from city, state/country. She graduated summa cum laude from the Best University with a BA in poetry. List any other academic achievements. Jane Doe has been published in Magazine 1 2017, Magazine 2 2020, and Magazine 3 2021. List any other field related achievements Currently, Jane works at a job while using her free time to work on her next chapbook/poetry collection/artistic endeavor.

  5. Read guidelines

    Okay, so everything I’ve said up until now is completely valid unless the magazine states otherwise!

    Always make sure to read the submission guidelines of each magazine. Some will ask you remain anonymous, some will ask for 3 poems, some will ask for 5, some will ask for PDF files and others for .docx only, etc.

    Even if a magazine does not accept your submission, they will appreciate that you followed the guidelines and remember that fact when you submit in the future!

  6. Organize
    1. Keep four folders:
      1. Poems submitted for publication (and where they’ve been submitted to).
      2. Poems accepted at a publication
      3. Unpublished, ready poems
      4. Unpublished poems still in workshop mode

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