What a Writer Shouldn’t Do

I get a steady number of submissions in my job as poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review, and I’m glad. It makes life interesting. (I just wish more of them were of higher quality, but oh well….) Most people follow the posted submission guidelines, but every now and then you get a submission from some idiot who didn’t bother reading them before sending their work off to you. I always ask myself why these people do this. When you are sending your work, whether it’s poetry, fiction, nonfiction, literary criticism, photography, etc., you’re presenting yourself as a professional and professionals should take their work seriously and take the publishers they send their work to seriously. Otherwise, you’ll come off looking like an amateur. And that would be stupid. So don’t send submissions to publishers without first reading their submission guidelines. I know that sounds pretty simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother, and it’s obvious in their submission.

A few days ago, I got a submission from some a**hole who sent me a 400 page poetry manuscript made up of rhyming poems. Excuse me? I sent back a terse reply where I copied and pasted our guidelines into the email message. Poets are invited to send 2 to 6 poems per submission — not 400 pages. No editor is going to wade through 400 pages of poems looking for that “gem” that they’ll be delighted to publish. Not going to happen. I also don’t take rhyming poems. Personal thing, I know, but most places don’t take rhyming poetry, and there’s a reason. No one talks like that anymore. And few professional writers write like that anymore. Contemporary rhyming poems read and sound like limericks and can’t be taken seriously, with few exceptions. When you submit a rhyming poem to a magazine, unless they advertise that they take rhyming poetry, you’re basically advertising your ignorance of the craft, of contemporary standards, both in writing and in publishing. You’re really hurting yourself when you do this. I don’t take rhyming poems. I don’t want the magazine to sound stupid. And this was 400 pages of rhyming poems. Excuse me??? I bolded these two guidelines in the email I sent back to this person. I hope they never waste my time again. But I keep asking, what was this person thinking? Why is he so dumb? Does he not take himself seriously, because he sure didn’t take our magazine seriously. A**hole.

When you submit your work, read the submission guidelines. And if possible, read some of the stuff they publish first to get a feel for whether or not your material might fit in with what they publish or not. It’s much easier now with online magazines. Back when you had to buy hard copy magazines, that got to be pretty costly. Now there’s no excuse. I’m honestly open to just about any subject matter, and most any style. Just make it good. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I see a LOT of poems, most of which suck, some of which are average, a few of which are good, and rarely, a couple of which are very good. Those are the ones I keep looking for. I have a form rejection email draft I send and I try to be encouraging in it, telling the poet that everyone gets rejected and you just have to keep writing and submitting, which is true. Sometimes I get determined poets who want to get published by RRR, and they never seem to get the hint that their stuff isn’t very good. I mean, how many rejections does it take? I’ve rejected people who’ve had poems published in hundreds of magazines and accepted poems by people who weren’t published. I’ve also published poets who’ve had stuff in Poetry and other top notch magazines, so I’m open to anyone — as long as the quality is good. I just don’t understand why certain people won’t go by standard submission guidelines. That should be common sense for any good writer. So please don’t submit your work to publishers without first reading their guidelines. You could be saving everyone from a giant waste of time if you do.