Submitting poems to journals: what’s your system?

I’ve spent the last three years researching markets for my slightly traditional, imagistic poetry. I’ve been published in a number of places and discovered some great writers and journals, but what I can’t help regretting is that much of that time could have been spent writing.

I’m getting better at targeting my market; in the beginning, like many people, I was “carpetbombing.” Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1) Most journals have samples online if you cannot afford to buy copies. I have also had success finding them in University libraries and independent (and occasionally chain) bookstores. If you cannot read samples, you might as well chuck your envelope and SASE into the circular file. Even if the journal does not have samples on their web site, if you Google the name, you may find poems that have subsequently shown up on Verse Daily, etc.

2) After you have published in a few places, read the “Contributors” section of those journals. These notes are a shortcut to where writers with similar styles are publishing, and where your work might be successfully received. Along the same lines, tells you where writers who appear in one journal have also submitted/published their work.

3) The day that you receive your rejection slip for one batch, put that batch in the envelope (or email) for the next place, and send it. This removes much of the sting!

I still don’t have a good system for “batching” my poems. I do a lot of cutting and pasting into files. I have a spreadsheet with a list of all poems, and a list of journals to send things out to.

I’d love to hear ideas about how other writers manage submissions and leave more time for writing!

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