Getting your poems published is probably the biggest challenge facing a beginner writer. Here are some suggestions for making the process more straightforward, and ultimately we hope, more rewarding.
Submitting to a magazine or newspaper
The first thing to remember is that there are only a few poetry publishers in Ireland and lots of poets trying to get published. From the publisher's point of view, it makes most sense to publish a first book by a poet who also built a reputation among the poetry buying public. Of course, a reputation is of no help unless the work is of good quality.
There are a number of ways of doing this: winning a major competition helps; giving public readings is also useful; but the most tried and trusted is to build up a track record of publication in poetry magazines, newspapers and journals. The magazines and journals that are the hardest to get into are generally the ones with the highest standards and thus the ones with the most impact.
The following is a list of guidelines for submitting poems:
- Get a copy of the magazine and read it. It is much easier to put together a submission when you have some idea of the editor's taste, whether special issues devoted to a particular theme are planned, what the general standard of material published is like etc. We do not recommend submitting to a magazine you have never seen or heard of.
- Send no more than six poems, not your entire manuscript! Editors, of magazines in particular, are usually voluntary and poorly paid. They invariably receive at least a hundred times more material than they can possibly hope to publish and do not have time to read more than a few poems per submission. Generally magazines only accept original, unpublished work.
- Make sure that your poems are typed on A4 paper, if possible, and that your name appears on each page. In general, editors prefer not to receive fancy typefaces, handwritten work or work with illustrations.
- Send copies of your work, not the originals, and always keep copies of whatever you send.
- Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope or an International Reply Coupon for a response. Most magazines and journals cannot afford to return manuscripts, which don't have an SAE/IRC.
- Give the editor time to reply. As previously mentioned, editors receive a lot of material: you can reasonably expect to hear in 6 months at the latest.
- It is not usual to submit the same material to more than one magazine at time.
- With established magazines it is usual to receive a copy of the magazine in which your work appears (you should not normally have to pay for this). Some magazines also offer payment for material, but the sums are usually small. It is not standard practice to pay to have your work published.