The Testify Guide to Submitting
Updated: Apr 29
Hows it all going?
As you know, we’ve started a new Testify Facebook group to get us through lockdown and beyond. Every day I’ve been posting writing prompts and submission opportunities to help keep people writing during this bonkers time.
Some of you are relatively new to the world of submitting your poetry for publication so I thought I’d do a blog post with my top tips on how to submit and (hopefully) get published!
1. First things first, make a table. You need at least 5 coloumns
Name of poem
Where you’ve submitted it to
The deadline of the submission window
When the poem will be available again
Whether it was successful
Some people add more columns depending on how closely they like to track things. For example, I have a column for the number of lines in each poem as most submissions have a guideline for this. Once a poem is edited and ‘finished’ (when are they ever), add them to the table. That way, when an awesome opportunity comes up, you’ll know exactly what you have ready to go.
2. READ THE GUIDELINES. Theres a reason that’s in caps lock. It’s honestly the first rule of submitting and one the most often not followed. Each submission will come with guidance on how they want your work submitted. Please read it and follow it, even if its a bit of a ball ache and requires a bit of messing around.
If your poem does not meet the submission guidance, they won’t even read it. Not only that, they will be a bit annoyed you sent it in and editors are not the people you want to annoy. If you’re unsure about anything, send them an email rather than just guess.
Its worth nothing that some places do not publish work that has been previously published and this will sometimes include personal blogs and social media. So be careful when self publishing work.
If the submission is calling for work from writers of colour only and you are not a writer of colour? Don’t submit it.
If the submission calls for poems on the theme of Space and yours is about your nan’s favourite type of tea?
Don’t submit it.
If the submissions are closed?
Wait until they open.
You get the picture and whilst this seems like common sense, you’d be surprised how many poets do not follow the guidance.
3. Edit your work. Once you’ve finished the poem, leave it for a few days then come back to it with fresh eyes or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, submit it to your writing group. You want the poem to be in the best possible shape before you send it out. If there’s a tight deadline, leave it a few hours at least.
4. Simultaneous submissions. This is where you submit the same poem to more than one place. Some journals and lit mags allow this, others don’t so check carefully in the submission guidence. If they do allow simultaneous submissions, make sure that you let them know if the poem is accepted elsewhere.
If the editor has gone to the trouble of reading you poem and accepting it, they’ll be pretty pissed if it has already been accepted elsewhere. Stay on their good side!
5. Check the publication terms. What rights the lit mag/journal have once they’ve accepted the poem. Will they allow it to be published elsewhere after a certain amount of time? Where will they be publishing it - in print, on the web, in a blog? Could it be published in more thane place?
There are all things to consider.
If the poem has already been published elsewhere, tell them that.
6. Don’t be intimidated by fancy-ass lit mags. If your poem meets the submission criteria, SEND IT! Someone has to get published by them, why not you?
7. Expect to wait. Most editors are not paid for their work and their small lit journals are a labour of love. Therefore, turnaround time can be slow. Sometimes up to six months or longer. It should say on the submission guidance how long you can expect to wait. If it’s been longer than expected then you can give them a gentle nudge, but expect that your work has been rejected. They will not always let you know.
8. Feedback. Same as the above point. Editors will often not be able to give feedback due to time constraints but you can ask. Some editors will give feedback for an additional fee. If you ask and they decline, be polite and move on. If they do give feedback, remember that it is YOUR work and if you don’t want to make the changes they suggest, don’t. It’s one person’s opinion but always worth a good look over the poem in case they’ve seen something you’ve missed.
Photo credit: @Sophia.joan.short
The most important thing - rejection is a part of writing. You will get rejected. Most likely you’ll get rejected more than you get accepted. Its horrible and it’s brutal but it is just part of it. A writer I know once said she gives rejected work 24 hours to be given a bit of an edit, then sends it out again so she can’t dwell on the disappointment too much. Try not to take it personally. Just because the poem is not right for that submission, doesn’t mean it’s crap. Its just not right for them, and that’s ok.
Keep going. You cannot get accepted if you do not send anything out!
I hope that was helpful! Please tell me if you submit to any of the call outs in the group - I’d love to hear about your successes (and failures!).
Love and hugs