Why don’t so many people read or adhere to magazine submission guidelines? This is the eternal mystery for me. As a magazine poetry editor, I have published a set of submission guidelines that I expect people to follow when submitting. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. When you’re a writer submitting to a magazine, presumably you’re putting yourself and your work out there as a professional to be taken seriously, not as a schmuck. You don’t submit whatever you want however you want. Every publication has guidelines. One of the first things you learn when writing and beginning publishing is to read and follow guidelines. It’s just common sense. One of the easiest ways to make sure your work doesn’t get read is to not go by the guidelines. One of the easiest ways to make sure your work does get read is to follow the guidelines. Simple.
Editors set up guidelines to streamline things and make their jobs a little easier. They get deluged with submissions. Sometimes it’s simply overwhelming. If everyone submitting can stick to the same format, it really helps. But if people are submitting all sorts of ways, it can really throw you off. It also helps to level the playing field. If everyone follows the same guidelines, presumably there won’t be anyone getting preferential treatment. That’s not always the case, but it helps.
My guidelines are a little strict, but certainly not as bad as many magazines I’ve submitted to over the years. More lenient than many even. And my response time is better than average. One of the things that has mystified me, however, is how many poetry submissions our nonfiction editor gets. I mean, what the hell? Why? Our fiction editor never gets any. I, as the poetry editor, get a ton. But our nonfiction editor gets quite a few and forwards them to me. And you know what? They ALWAYS suck! Always. They’re horrible. It’s like sixth grade poetry. And they obviously haven’t read the guidelines, which state to email the poetry submissions to the poetry editor, giving my email address. So, they’re not to be taken seriously, since they don’t take their own submission seriously. And I’ve taken to trashing them. I used to read over them and consider them. And respond. But at the beginning of the year, I grew tired of the idiocy and posted a post on the website telling people this practice will no longer be tolerated and any poetry submission sent to the wrong editor will simply be deleted unread. And still they come in. Dolts! What the hell are they thinking? Who emails poetry submissions to nonfiction editors? I would never think of doing that. That’s just damned stupid. In fact, when I was heavily submitting, I tried hard to find out the name of the poetry editor and mailed my submission to him or her by name. The pros who send me submissions read over our masthead on the website and often do that to me. You can tell who the pros are by their submissions. There’s a reason why they have the good credits. They write better poems and they follow submission guidelines. Simple.
If any of my readers can shed some light on why anyone would submit their poetry submissions to the nonfiction editor, I’d love to hear it. Thanks.
4 thoughts on “Submission Guidelines”
Hi Scott, To answer your question, it is likely the same reason their poetry seems at sixth grade level. Poor understanding or lack of initiative. Perhaps you could answer a question for, since you have a long history of submissions yourself. Why is it that I get very positive commentary on my poetry/photography, being often compared to a few rather prestigious poets, for which I am humbly grateful. Yet, when I have submitted to online magazines that advertise for several genres and I submit according to Hoyle, I get rejections saying my poetry “does not fit into their categories”. What I read in their pages often looks like a running diatribe of depressed, bipolar, suicidal or anger ridden ranting, over and over again. How is it possible this theme is running throughout their genres and most is not in any way ordered, often not poetic or necessarily clever? I did recently get in touch with a great blogger who has a list of good contacts for poetry submission but have not had the time to check into them. Returning to full time work leaves me little time for creative endeavors; and since most writers are tortured souls to begin with, it is imperative that I write to remain sane, let alone try to seek out interested publishers and manage the different guidelines that are imperative. I understand the importance of submitting properly. When I sent out my first draft of my novel to three different publishing venues, all three required different file types. I wish you well with retraining the masses, my friend. There are a helluva lot of folks out there wanting to express themselves…
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I actually can’t answer that. I’ve known people in your position, who are good writers who have gotten good feedback, but who for some reason, can’t get their work accepted, and it doesn’t make much sense at times. I’ve got a guy right now who’s been in the game for decades. He and I have appeared in many of the same magazines since the 1980s. He’s pretty good. The same publisher published poetry collections by us both back in the early ’90s. He sends me stuff, and I have published one of his poems. But frankly, even though I KNOW he’s a good writer, most of the stuff he sends me isn’t very inspiring. It’s mediocre. And I don’t know why. Here’s a submission secret of many poets. You send your best stuff to the best magazines, your worst stuff to the worst magazines, and your average stuff to the average magazines, thinking it will somehow all get sorted out. I did that and it worked out pretty well for me. I know plenty of people who do that. I think this guy is doing that, sending me his average or below average work. The problem is that while RRR is not the New Yorker, the submissions we get are a lot and are well above average, so competition is fierce. You’ve got to write some really good or outstanding stuff to get my attention. Average stuff is not going to cut it. I don’t know how to tell him this. I just rejected some of his work again and I want to write him and tell him I know he can do better, send me his best stuff, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that, so this game continues. I don’t know why I just told you that, actually. I guess it’s just to show you that there are a lot of good writers out there, submitting a lot of different types and levels of poems to all sorts of magazines with all sorts of results. BTW, have you checked out the resources on the right side of my blog? There are a couple of links for literary magazines that list quite a few that might be worthwhile submitting to, at least something to look at, anyway. Good luck!
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