Dear Poetry Newbies: a checklist for submitting work to magazines

An earlier version of this post appeared at One Night Stanzas in August 2008.

Last week I wrote a post designed to help you start submitting your poetry to magazines. Avoid missing out a vital step in the process by reading over this checklist - print it out and stick it on the wall if necessary; that way, you’ll stay in the good books of every editor you submit to!

1: Choose your publication.
Read any info you can find about your chosen magazine, journal or anthology carefully. Consider: does your work belong there? Would you be happy for your name to appear in the publication?

2: Choose your poems.
Make sure you’re not sending too many (most places specify a limit which could be anything from 3 to 15) - and if you don’t know how many is too many, limit yourself to 4 or 5. Also to bear in mind - have your poems been sent off to or published in another place? If so, is the publication you now want to submit to OK with this? If you’re not sure, ask.

3: Read the submission guidelines…
…and read them carefully! Make sure your poems are presented and sent to the publication according to their rules. You should ALWAYS read the submission guidelines - and not only because editors love you for it - the guidelines often give you a wealth of information about the place you’re sending your stuff to as well.

4: Write your cover letter.
Your cover letter should always include your full name (or pen name), and a return email or mailing address… at the very least! It’s also a good idea to drop the name of the publication you’re submitting to. This sounds weird, but it’s not unheard of for editors to use submission email addresses for multiple projects. Also, naming the publication shows eds that you’re not just cold-calling every literary magazine you can find.

5: Check for typos and spelling errors.
Better still, get someone else to cast an eye over your submission. I’m really bad at spotting typos - after a while you can just stop seeing them. Make sure you check your cover letter, too!

6: Send your submission with care.
Make sure the editor will be able to contact you if they need to (this is particularly important for those of you submitting by post). Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to provide a SAE if you want your poems back - it is NOT the job of the magazine staff to buy sufficient postage for you (even if you do send them the money - go and get the stamps yourself, lazy)! With email submissions, make sure your return address is fully functioning, and be sure to add the publication’s email to your safe list or address book to prevent any replies from disappearing into your Spam folder.

7: Be patient.
After you’ve sent your work, there’s little you can do - just cross your fingers and wait. Bear in mind, you may need to wait up to 3 or 4 months. While some people like to send nagging emails to try and find out what’s going on with their work, I’d strongly advise against this. Generally, if you haven’t heard anything after 3 months, you can send your work elsewhere - and if a magazine wants to publish you after that point, just be sure to let them know if you’ve since sent elsewhere any of the pieces they want.

8: Deal with the fallout.
Rejected? Feel miserable for a bit, have a cup of tea, then chalk it up to experience, and try again. DO NOT EVER EVER email the editor back in response to a rejection. EVER.

9: Alternate your poems.
So, you’ve painstakingly sent a bunch of poems to a magazine, having chosen carefully, and read all the guidelines… hopefully you’ll get a positive response! Now you just need to give those poems a rest for a while - if you’re submitting to other magazines, try to avoid submitting the same poems simultaneously until you know the outcome.

10: Take the critique on board.
Very few editors take the time to write even a couple of lines about your work when they send their response. However, on occasion you will get a bit of feedback, usually in the form of suggestions for possible improvement if your work is rejected. If an editor suggests that perhaps your linebreaks aren’t so hot, for example, don’t be angry or offended - chances are they’re only commenting because they can see you have potential. Put their advice into practice and it could mean the difference between rejection and success next time!

Good luck!


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] I reply as swiftly as I can!

(Photo credit)

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3 Responses to “Dear Poetry Newbies: a checklist for submitting work to magazines”

  1. One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » How To Get Started: Publishing in Magazines Says:

    [...] stuff to read from One Night Stanzas: My submission checklist should help you to tick all the boxes when it comes to sending out your work, these featured [...]

  2. Says:

    Submitting to Poetry Magazines: A Checklist….

    Sending your poetry off to a magazine? Use this cut out and keep checklist to make sure you do everything you can to give your work a good chance!…

  3. One Night Stanzas » Blog Archive » The lowdown on poetry contests: Part III Says:

    [...] and whatnot, but hear me out. This is even more important than sticking to the rules when submitting to a magazine, for example - a magazine editor might have the time, heart and humanity to forgive you the odd [...]