Monday, 18 February 2008

Poetry Magazines and How to Submit Work

When I'm not Poet Laureating for Warwick, I write poetry on other topics, run a forum for poets, plus produce articles and reviews for a variety of literary journals and e-zines.

I am also on the editorial committee of an Oxford-based magazine for writers and performers called 'The Nail'. That means I get to read all the poems that have been submitted and to meet with other members of the committee every few months to discuss what's going into the next issue.

I thought it would be interesting for those who have never come across the idea of a small writing magazine before to have a look at one, and maybe even send them some work. There are literally hundreds in the UK, with most tastes catered for if you know where to look.

So if you'd like to find out more about the process of publishing new poetry in magazines, and to see what sort of work one particular magazine publishes - they are all different, often wildly so! - here is a link to The Nail website.

And here is a special message from Sophie, editor of The Nail, dated February 18th 2008:

There are only 13 days left until the submissions deadline for our special Climate Change issue of the Nail. We are still accepting submissions of poetry, short prose, illustrations, photos, and graphics for this issue.

If you need to refresh your memory on suggested themes or have a look at some inspiring articles, please have a look at our Submissions page where you will find more information and some useful links.

I look forward to hearing from you!


Sending Work to Magazine Editors
To send poems to a small magazine, the two most important things to remember are the two P's: presentation and postage. Type everything, including your cover letter - i.e. saying very briefly whether you've been published before - and your poems.

Keep presentation plain and simple. Anything fancy, like odd fonts or coloured paper, turns editors off straightaway; it tells them the work can't stand out on its own but needs to be presented with a flourish to make it memorable.

And postage. If you don't include a folded A4 envelope with the correct return postage on it, don't expect to see your work ever again.

Think of it like this.

Although some magazines receive grant aid to help them pay expensive production costs, the vast majority of small press editors run their magazines unpaid; only professional publications with distribution in the thousands can afford to pay editors for their efforts. If you were an unpaid editor, and you received 25 submissions a day and had to reply to them all, paying roughly 50p postage on each one, you would soon lose patience and start stuffing them in the wastepaper bin instead!

So make sure you enclose a large SAE with your poems.

Do read the magazine before sending work. They may not even publish poetry, or they may only publish haiku.

So you'll be wasting your own and the editor's time by submitting without checking the magazine out first. Find out the cost, then send the magazine a cheque for a single issue or an annual subscription.

You may not want to part with your money just to read someone else's poetry. But bear this in mind. It's vital to support the poetry world, which is one of the poorest of the arts financially, yet one of the richest in terms of emotional and spiritual rewards.

Also, if you don't support it, the magazine you're sending work to may suddenly go under ... before they can even publish your poems!

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