How to Submit Poetry to a Literary Magazine in 6 Steps

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 27, 2019 • 3 min read

You’ve written a poem (or a book of poems) and are ready to begin the submission process to a poetry publication, literary magazine, or poetry contest. But first, you should familiarize yourself with the general rules of where and how to submit, in order to increase your chances of publication.



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How to Submit Poetry to a Literary Magazine

Most literary journals and lit mags automatically reject submissions if they do not follow standard protocol, so if you want to see your poetry published, know how to submit it right. When sending poems to magazines and publications, there are a few steps you should follow:

  1. Research where you’re submitting. If you have a specific literary publication in mind, check the masthead or flip through the magazine to get a sense of what poetry they accept. Some publications only publish individual poems, while others might accept collections, for example. Read some sample poems to get a feel for the style of the publication and to help you make a better selection of your own work. Be sure to find out if you’ll have to pay any reading fees—sometimes called submission fees—along with your entry.
  2. Look up the editor. If you happen to know the name of the editor you’re contacting, a cursory Internet search of that person will bring up some details about them—like their genre preferences or samples of their own poetry. Knowing the editor’s likes and style of poetry can help you pick a poem or narrow down your selections if you’re sending a number of poems.
  3. Read the submission guidelines. Some literary publications only accept online submissions, while others may only take snail mail submissions. Some publications take submissions year-round on a rolling basis, while some only have a limited reading period. Most journals will only consider unpublished poems, so double check the rules for each publication. Violation of these rules may result in an immediate rejection of your poetry submissions, so ensure that you’ve educated yourself on the guidelines required to successfully submit to your publication of choice.
  4. Draft a cover letter. The best cover letter will give your submission a more professional feel. If it’s an unsolicited submission, a cover letter will help it stand out in the slush pile and interest a poetry editor in reading your work. Be sure to include your full name, contact information, a short bio about yourself, and a word count, if requested. You can also mention that it’s your first time submitting or include any previous publications in which your other work has been featured. If you’re submitting a poetry book, you may want to write a query letter to send to independent book publishers who are sometimes looking for poetry manuscripts or chapbooks. Learn how to write a better query letter in our guide here.
  5. Submit to multiple publications simultaneously. If publications allows it, simultaneous submissions will help your chances of being read. Send your poetry to the poetry magazines that seem like the best fit. If you receive rejections, work your way down the ladder to the next tier of publications and repeat. Some publications may not allow simultaneous submissions, so be sure to wait until you receive a response from those before you send your poem on to other magazines.
  6. Be patient. Many publications will try to keep their response time short. Some may even have a minimum period you’ll have to wait before receiving a response. But because publications receive thousands of submissions, sometimes all year round, there will likely be some waiting involved.

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