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Poetry Submissions: How To Choose Which Poems To Submit

Marking poetry submissionsToday we thought it might be helpful to compile a blog post that answers common questions we’re asked about submitting poetry in groups. If you’re wondering how to choose the right poems to submit to a literary journal, how many to include, and how to increase your chances of publication, read on!

As always, be sure to read (and follow) an individual literary journal’s guidelines when submitting your poems to an editor. The tips we offer below are suggestions, not rules.

How many poems should I include in a single submission?

Generally, literary journals ask their writers to submit between three and five poems in one submission. Few journals will accept more than ten pages of poetry in one submission. That said, the number of poems you need can vary. So read the guidelines.

Can I submit just one poem at a time?

If you only have one poem and you have very strong reasons for feeling that your one poem would be a perfect fit at a journal but none of your other poems would be, you might want to explain that in your cover letter.

If you only have one poem to submit because you’ve only ever written one poem in your life, you might not want to wait until you have some more poems under your belt.

An editor may be willing to consider your solitary poem if you give him/her a good reason.

Should I group related poems? Or poems that stand alone?

There are no best practices in terms of whether to submit poems that stand alone or poems that are thematically related. But there are pros and cons. We can list them for you below to help you make a decision.

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Submitting related poems – The pros

  • If an editor likes your voice, he/she may choose to print all of the poems because they’re related.
  • Long poems that are broken down into many parts can be very compelling. They can demonstrate a big vision.
  • If the poems are about a specific topic (like food), you can submit the group to a journal that focuses on theme (like Gastronomica).

Submitting related poems – The cons

  • If an editor chooses only one poem of your related poems, he/she might “break” the flow of the complete series and also leave the other poems orphaned if they can’t stand alone.
  • If an editor doesn’t dig your voice or theme, you’re sunk…because all the poems are related and possibly sound the same.
  • Generally, it’s easier to get shorter poems published than longer poems. Editors tend to favor one-page poems.

Submitting stand-alone poems – The pros

  • Show off your diversity. If an editor doesn’t like one poem, it’s okay because there are others that are different.
  • Shorter poems are more likely to be published (less than one-page is best).
  • With five unrelated poems you might have a better shot at seeing at least one of them published than with five related poems that can’t be separated.

Submitting stand-alone poems – The cons

  • If an editor really loves one of your poems for its unique qualities, there’s less of a chance he/she will really love the others, which will be quite different.
  • You may need to research a greater number of markets in order to the find just the right homes for all of your individual poems.
  • You’ll have limited ability to submit to theme issues, since only some poems will be appropriate for submission.
  • Even if you’re not grouping by theme, you probably wouldn’t want your kid-friendly rhyme mixed in with your edgy adult free verse.

Writer QuestionsDo you have any questions about poetry submissions? Just ask!

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