Kirsten Irving, editor at Fuselit and Sidekick Books, shares her inside take on how to impress magazine editors.
Sending work to magazines is a great way to get your writing out into the world, and a good excuse to really buff up favourite poems. Having spoken to other editors, however, it seems many would-be contributors harm their chances with basic gaffes. Here are some ways of making the most of your time.
Choose the magazine carefully. With thousands of potential homes for poems, it might sound obvious, but find one you like. Browse past issues if you can, and get a feel for the style to see if your writing fits the bill. Look at interesting smaller magazines as well as more widely known publications.
Read any guidelines thoroughly. Not following procedure indicates that you don’t really care about this individual zine, and understandably that’s not going to make the editor feel great about publishing you.
Take time over your submission! Highlight any areas that don’t seem quite finished, play around and re-write until you are happy. Get a second pair of eyes on it, if only to look out for typos and errors. It’s surprising how many pieces arrive in editors’ inboxes riddled with bad spelling, punctuation and grammar. Kind of like donning an expensive shirt and neglecting to do it up.
Don’t bother with copyright markings on your writing. They don’t hold any legal weight and magazines aren’t plotting to steal your work.
Always include a fresh, polite covering note. This needn’t be too formal, but if the submissions page of the magazine’s site tells you to email Donna Malloy, address them by name. I’ve had a few ‘Dear Mr Irving’ submissions before, and wondered at what point my dad had started editing Fuselit. If no name is given, ‘Dear Editors’, ‘Dear [magazine]’ or even ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ are fine.
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Check whether the publication accepts simultaneous submissions (sending the same poem to more than one magazine at the same time). If they do, mention which poems have gone to which magazines. If in doubt, drop them a line and ask. Either way, keep a list of what poems you’ve sent where for both competitions and magazines. Better than finding yourself torn between two places!
Check the website for an indication of waiting times. Most editors are unpaid and are delayed by day jobs and other commitments, so a degree of patience is required. That said, if no guide is given and six months passes, send a friendly enquiry to make sure your work reached them ok.
Finally, the verdict. If the editor wants your piece, great! If they say no thanks, have a look through any feedback they give and work out what is helpful to you for the future. Many magazines send generic rejection messages, or give no feedback as to why they didn’t accept a piece, which can be frustrating, but remember that it’s nothing personal and treat the experience as a learning exercise. Don’t agonise over immediately reworking the piece in question, but equally don’t assume that a rejected poem is kaput. It’s just one person’s opinion, after all.
The most important step in the process is still choosing the right target magazine in the first place. If you understand and like an editor’s approach, you have a good shot at sending them the sort of poem that makes their day.
YPN Poetry Opportunities Page
Duotrope’s Digest, a searchable online resource containing details of over 4,000 titles worldwide
Poetry Magazines, a digital archive of magazines made available by the Poetry Library
Rewriting: get the best from your poems
|Kirsten Irving is one half of the team behind collaborative poetry press Sidekick Books and the submissions editor for cult handmade arts journal Fuselit. Her work has appeared in various print and online journals, as well as the anthologies City State: New London Poetry (2009, Penned in the Margins), Herbarium (2011, Capsule Press) and Stop Sharpening Your Knives 3 and 4 (2009 and 2011, Eggbox Publishing), and in 2011, she won the Live Canon International Poetry Prize. In 2010, Forest Publications released No, Robot, No!, a chapbook of robot poetry coauthored with Jon Stone. Kirsten’s pamphlet What To Do was released in 2011 by Happenstance and her debut collection Never Never Never Come Back will be published in late 2012. www.drfulminare.com|