How to Submit Your Poetry for Publication

Written by Emily Harstone | March 1, 2016

If you’re ready to get your poetry published in literary journals, then you’re going to need to go through the process of submitting your work. This article will guide you through the most important step in the process so that you can start submitting your work, and get published. What is that step? Putting together your submission so that it has the best chance of getting the editor’s attention, and getting accepted for publication.

When you submit short stories or non-fiction to a journal it can be very straightforward, you just choose one well edited story that you wrote and submit it. With poetry things are a little tougher because you have to choose 3-5 poems to submit. There are several things you have to do before you submit them.

The first is that you have to choose 3-5 poems that go together. Some journals accept 6 and some only accept 3, but I usually make the packets include between 3-5 poems because 6 is rare and it’s easy to shave a packet of 5 poems down to 3 for one journal.

I call each grouping of 3-5 poems a “submission packet.” I usually have between 5-7 submission packets at a time, each packet contains 3-5 poems. Each of these packets I submit to more than one place at a time, but usually no more than four. That way if the poems get accepted anywhere I can easily withdraw them from consideration at the other publications.

When choosing what poems to place in what packet, I think a little about tone. Say I have a number of darkly comic poems, I may group these together in a packet.

However there should be variation in a packet. Don’t make the mistake of having poems that all have the same tone, theme, and subject matter. The editor who reads these poems only gets one impression of your work, and if it doesn’t match with what they are looking for, too bad.

Variation in your packet significantly increases the likelihood of the editor connecting with one of your poems. Think about order and sense of narration though. One poem should not contradict or clash with the next.

After you have chosen this group of poems, go over them one last time, reviewing for any obvious mistakes or changes in spacing during the rearranging process.

Some poets often have an urge to over explain the context of their poems in the cover letter when they submit their work to a journal. Restrain yourself from doing that. Most editors won’t publish work unless the context is made clear within the poems themselves.

Once you have your submission packets ready, your poems should be ready to submit to any journal! Restrain yourself from editing the packets for every journal, just make sure that the way your poems are formatted fit the journal’s guidelines.