Monday, 7 September 2015

Getting it out there revisited

Reading back over my blog posts I came across one I had written in February called Getting it Out There. In the post I bemoan the fact that I had very little (almost nothing actually) published last year. The upshot was that with the encouragement of Heidi Williamson my writing coach, and after reading Jo Bell's blog post about poetry submissions, I decided to shake up my approach to submissions.

When I say shake it up what I actually mean is put a rocket under it and light the touch paper. I resolved that I would send out at least one submission per week. What I found when I first started doing this was that some weeks I would send more than one lot of poems off - it's the getting started that's the hard bit, but once I have I sometimes find that I get on a roll and then it's easy to send more. My new spreadsheets (submission spreadsheet and poem destinations) make it much easier to track where I am sending stuff - and more importantly where I have sent things before - crucial if you don't want to submit the same poem to a journal twice (I have done this and it's very embarrassing!). The poem destinations spreadsheet lists all my poems that I think are submittable (probably a tenth or less of what I have written) and next to each poem all the journals each poem has been sent to. I highlight a journal in yellow if it accepts the poem so that I know not to send out the poem again.  Of course spreadsheets are only as good as the person filling them in/reading them so mistakes and multiple submissions can and do still occur - but hopefully much less often.

I send to both print and online journals - always making sure that I have read the journal first and that I send something that I think will fit either the journal's style or the theme. I have kept up this submitting schedule for several months (I have slowed down a bit now) and I have been astonished by the results. Firstly I discovered that the more rejections I receive the less bothered am. When I was sending one submission every few months I would get very attached to the outcome and feel slightly depressed when the rejection arrived. Sending more work out inevitably means a lot more rejections but when I have several submissions out there I am less attached to each one. Secondly I have had almost thirty poems published already this year, with several more pending publication. All those years I had been brooding over occasional rejections and not sending out my work because I didn't think it was good enough - something that this months Mslexia cites as a common response amongst women - all I actually needed to do was send out more work.

Of course rejection still hurts, and if I have a few nos in a row it can still make me feel despondent, but now when I feel the despondency creeping up I remind myself to look at my Publishing History and I feel a lot better about the whole thing. 

Some tips for submitting:

1) Read the journal.
2) Read the submission guidelines - they vary from journal to journal.
3) Send a polite cover letter/email including a brief and relevant bio (unless the guidelines ask you not to) listing the names of the poems and thanking the editors for taking the time to read your work.
4) Send several poems so the editor gets a feel for your work.
5) Don't expect a receipt or acknowledgement that they have received it - and please don't email asking for one.
6) Don't resubmit immediately as soon as you get a rejection. Leave at least a month or so in between. Magma is the exception to this as they have a different editor for each issue. 
7) If you are submitting the same poem to several places email the other places immediately if a poem is accepted elsewhere.
8) If you have a poem accepted by a journal wait to submit more work (unless they ask you for some). Journals often like to wait at least an issue before they publish a poet again - Nutshells and Nuggets asks successful submitters to wait six months before re-submitting.
9) Don't use fancy fonts. 
10) include you name and contact details in the header or footer of each page (unless the journal asks you not to - some journals read anonymously - check the guidelines).
11) Don't automatically assume a poem is bad because it gets rejected - I have had poems published after being rejected by five other places, and some that are strong that haven't found a home because they don't quite fit anywhere.
12) Don't send a poem out too soon after writing. Leave it a bit and edit it again. If you can take it to a workshopping group. If you write a poem you feel will be good there is always that excitement that makes you want to send it out into the world too soon - and if you do this the likelihood is it will be rejected. You will look at it later and feel embarrassed because it needs editing - but then, of course, you can't submit it to that journal as they have already rejected it. I speak from bitter experience! 


Caroline Gill said...

A very honest and constructive post, Julia. Thank you. I use an electronic database for record keeping (Bento - may be just for Macs), but like any system, it is only as good as the person keeping it up to date!

Elizabeth said...

Julia - you are so generous with time and advice, posting poems and good things to think about. This is such sensible good advice. I read your earlier post which kicked me into making two submissions. I've lapsed again, but this helpful series of suggestions I will print out and keep to hand on my desk. Thank you.

Julia said...

Thanks for the positive feedback. I am glad you are submitting Elizabeth - keep it up.