Dear Poetry Newbies: 10 Commandments! What to AVOID when sending your poetry to magazines.
An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in September 2008.
1: Thou shalt not lie.
I know I keep banging on about “being yourself,” but it’s important! So when it comes to sending off your work, not lying means not pretending that you haven’t sent your work elsewhere if you have, not making up imaginary writing credits or other frillies to spice up your bio, and not using other people’s material without crediting them or asking their permission. OK?
2: Thou shalt not be rude.
Do you want these people to publish you or not?! Always be polite and respect magazine staff and eds.
3: Thou shalt not be lazy about your cover letter..
Any kind of correspondence that informs your editor that you “hav sum poems 4u guys 2 read” (or the like) is going to seriously damage your chances! And no cover letter is basically just rude.
4: Thou shalt not be negative.
Assuming that your poems will be rejected is not the way to go, and saying as much in your cover-letter (e.g. “I’m guessing you guys will just reject these”) is even worse! Don’t put the R-word in the editor’s mind… and better still, keep it out of yours, too.
5: Thou shalt not be boastful.
Whether it’s in your cover-letter, your bio or your writers’ group meeting… it doesn’t matter how many publications you have to your name. Nobody likes a show-off!
6: Thou shalt not enter into any nasty or aggressively competitive stuff with other poets.
Sadly, the poetry world contains a fair few people who like to see others fail. Please, please don’t be one of them.
7: Thou shalt not question the editor.
Unless they’re unnecessarily rude to you (unlikely, I hope) or you need clarification about something, do not try and question the editor’s decision. Pleading, arguing and mud-slinging are unlikely to change their mind… trust me, I’ve tried!
8: Thou shalt not listen to bad advice.
e.g. “you’re too young to be published” or “I never read the submission guidelines” or “why are you bothering with this? You’ll never get accepted!” People who say such things are best ignored!
9: Thou shalt not ignore feedback from magazine editors.
It’s a rare commodity - use it wisely!
10: Thou shalt not give up.
Don’t let rejection / submission fatigue / writer’s block / negative criticism get you down. Keep writing, editing, improving, submitting. You can do it!
Disagree? Think I’ve missed a commandment? Got your own ideas? Let me know!
You can also visit Read This Press for more poetry (and typewriter paraphernalia!). Alternatively, check out Edinburgh Vintage, our sister site. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at]onenightstanzas.com. I reply as swiftly as I can!
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