How Do I Get My Poems Published?
As the co-founder of PSPOETS, I have aspiring writers ask me all the time about how they can get their poems out into the world.
Of course, poetry gaining a resurgence from Instagram and other social platforms is the go-to route to gain a quick audience and instant feedback. However, the end result is never as satisfying as getting a legitimate publisher or contest to finally take a chance on your creative work. In all honesty, the process is less about you getting accepted somewhere and more about how steadfast you can be as a writer.
Quite often, it's not a question of if, but when, and to help you find your footing, here are a few tips I always share when someone asks me, "How do I get my poems published?"
It may sound like a cliche, but in my experience, you have to write every day if you want to adopt the lifestyle of a writer.
For instance, I do a ton of freelance writing and content management from home. Every morning, I boot up my laptop and tackle an assignment. If it's not something for work, I fill my days with editing other writers' work, jot down ideas for scripts, write poems on the fly, or chip away at a novel.
It's not enough to write when the moment strikes you. I know it's romantic to think of yourself as a night owl spitting verses in a fit of moonlit rage, but it's not sustainable in the long-run.
Here are some quick ideas to help you find your rhythm:
Set a writing schedule for yourself and stick to it
Write down anything; it doesn't have to be a masterpiece
Carry a journal and pen with you at all times
Research Publishers and Contests
Once you find yourself churning out material, the next step is to research publishers you like and learn more about their contests or reading periods.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of publishers or websites online that are always looking for poems to promote. Even for completely green writers, there are outlets that want fresh voices with raw talent. Too often, I hear from hopeful writers that they don't submit to contests or other literary authorities and it's a huge mistake.
To be a working writer, you have to put your work out there, pay the submission fees, experience the hustle and endure the disappointment that's sure to follow. It's what fueled Hemingway in Paris, Steinbeck on the rails of Salinas; there's beauty in the writer's struggle and I think it's a rite of passage that truly great writers fight through.
With that in mind, know that you're going to work extra hours to cover fees that most likely go to waste when rejection comes. After you accept that, use these resources to find opportunities you think may be a good fit for your style:
Poets & Writers (www.pw.org) is a leading authority for all things publishing; check out the tabs on their homepage and find ways to promote your writing or nail down publishers with open reading periods
Visit Sixfold.org and enter your poems into one of their public competitions; these contests are publically judged and writers in each round send you feedback on your work along with a vote to see if it moves ahead
Submit your work to PSPOETS' Poet of the Month contest or email us material during our next reading period. We are always ready and willing to promote other work and help bring awareness to your voice
Just type in "Open Poetry Submissions" into your search bar and do some research; it's that easy.
Learn How to Write and Format Submissions
Trust me, I love spontaneous poetry just as much as the next person, but preparing yourself for the real world of publishing and submissions takes a lot more than just a spur of the moment strategy. In my opinion (which you can take or ignore), developing your style of poetry requires a lot study for the publication you plan to submit to. Find their latest book or magazine and read the poems they promote.
After that, write multiple drafts of your poem, go through the editing process, share it with other writers you trust and ask for honest feedback. You have to tear yourself down and rebuild to uncover something special.
Meanwhile, you also need to understand a publisher's submission guidelines to ensure that they give you enough consideration.
Every publisher or open contest should feature submission guidelines that instruct you on how to format your manuscript. Most of the time, this means...
A cover page with only the title of your collection shown
Each poem starting on its own page with your pages numbered
No names posted anywhere throughout the manuscript to support blind judgment
A brief cover letter to add some context to who you are and your work.
Again, each publisher has their own way of getting things done, which may be completely different than what I listed above, but definitely use this as a goal to shoot for if you haven't formatted any of your work at home. You can easily use MS Word or Pages or any other writing tool you have to make these adjustments and get your material ready.
Be Diligent and Never Give Up
Chances are that your work won't blow up overnight, but then again, that's not really the point, is it?
Instead, treat writing as a lifelong pursuit; as a way to cultivate your artistry and learn more about who you are in the world. Even for myself, I'm not some celebrated writer or guru who claims to have all the answers, but I do know what rejection feels like. More importantly, I know what it takes to sit at the computer when the rest of the world sleeps, typing away to meet a deadline and bring myself that much closer to a moment of triumph.
I hope this article gives you some insight into what steps you can take to make progress and find a platform that honors your words.