A lot of people have asked me recently how I decide where to send my work for publication consideration. I have tried quite a few different systems, but honestly, I’m starting to feel haphazard in the work of getting published. Anytime I can feel a shift coming. I always feel antsy when I feel a shift coming, but when I finally just let it settle over myself a certain sense of peace comes.
Here are some different models I have gone with over the years for sending my work out.
- Prior to 1996, ah when I was still just exiting my teens, I only sent to student publications or entered contests my teachers mentioned. Not much happened.
- During 1996 I tried to send out work about once a month during the latter half of the year. I had picked up Poet’s Market and I was using their guide of sending work to publications that were interested in “new” writers. I was published in a student mag that year and I had a poem accepted for a themed type journal that was published like two years later.
- During 1997 I sent work out once a month but I sent to big named journals. Nothing came of that. But picked up by a student pub again. This may have been the influence of poetry workshop teachers saying to aim big, but I’m not sure.
- During 1998 I was still on the once a month strategy, but I must have bought a copy of Poet’s Market again because I was alternating between journals that were open to new writers and big names. I was also sending out in alphabetical order (like first month some journal called asspants, next month The Blue Skunk Companion). One poem was accepted but I never received a copy of the journal so I don’t think it really happened.
- 1999. I’m married and out of college. What will I do? I was back on the once a month strategy and alternating between new and experienced but I was also trying a few contests. One poem was accepted by Alembic and is a fairly strong poem for the time. A slightly revised version of it will appear in my upcoming book. I was also sending to more than one journal on my once a month submit frenzy. Usually 2 at a time.
- I kept up the once a month theme in 2000, continuing down the alphabet from Poet’s Market (I still tend to buy one every other year, so I think I am due for one this year). I had two different sets of poems accepted but I know at least one pub ceased publication before it went to print (my poem 3am was the one that was accepted and it appears in my chapbook At the A & P Meridiem) and the other publication just never sent me anything so I assume they are gone.
Then, as those of you who follow this blog know. I just stopped. That is its own story and it has been told before.
- 2006 is a new start. After a trip to Japan, I started writing and submitting again. I was now trying to submit once a week and I started with some NC journals then I went back to my old theme of alphabetical order. I was starting to write new work (first items accepted for pub were haikur for bear creek haiku) but mostly I was revising old work from back in the 90′s. My pattern seems to alternate between big and small journals. I didn’t even really know how much online stuff there was at this point (I was an internet user but really just email and google). I received a string of comments near the end of the year but no additional acceptances.
- Ring in 2007. Once a week. One journal a week. I must have made a list of all NC journals because that is where I started. I had an early acceptance by Main Street Rag and comments from two other journals. I was starting to BUY journals and find examples online so I knew more about them. Since I was an MFA student as of Jan 2007 I submitted and was accepted by The Red Clay Review, then I had work solicited by The Dead Mule (my first online publication) and I continued to receive comments.
- 2008 I started with submitting to journals whose work I had read in Best American Poetry 2007. I only submitted to publications whose work I enjoyed reading (that should have been a sign to me!). Early in the year Iodine Poetry Journal accepted one of my poems. I was still at once a week but now sending more than one packet a week. I tried more contests, placing in two and I was a finalist in another. One of the wins was 3rd place which resulted in my poem “Sex Education” (which will be in Paper House) being published in MARGIE. After my BAP list ran out I was pulling from lists I had made from Poets & Writers and Poet’s Market. I was sort of all over the place alternating between all kinds of journals in print and online. I actually still need to follow-up on one acceptance from 2008 that has yet to appear! It was a pretty good year for acceptances. See my publication tab!
- And now we are in 2009. I was again sending to places off my BAP list as well as places that had given me INK the year before. I also have a document going on my computer with names of lit mags from CRWOPPS or from other people that I wanted to try. The lists are actually starting to overwhelm me and I send out poems, still, once a week but more like 3 or 4 sets at a time. I’ve had a good number of acceptances this year, but no luck with contests, although for the first part of the year I wasn’t bothering with them much. I am probably going to finish this year with the lists I have but I am becoming more and more focused.
SO what is changing in me? Despite the name or prestige of a publication, I am finding I like to publish where I enjoy the work and where the editors seem interested in my work. I enjoy a polite, personal email from an editor or the handwritten notes. I want to fine tune my lists for next year to what I enjoy to read. I want to be alongside the people whom I enjoy. I think the once a week strategy works well. I am also opening up to more contests and theme issues. I can see a radical change in my submission policies for next year and this blog post is just one way of me admitting how all over the place I have been.
Oh, but where would we be if we were not constantly a work in progress?
How do you guys decide where to send your work? Have you found strategies that work or didn’t? What other topics would you like to see covered? I thought I could also discuss sending out chapbooks and full length books if you guys are interested as well as my limited experience sending out fiction and non-fiction.
Is it football time yet?