Writing a poem can be a labor of love, whether you are a dedicated poet or new to the genre. Once you’ve written a poem, you may wonder how you can get it published for the world to read. Start by preparing the poem for publication. You can then submit the poem to literary journals and magazines. Another option is to self-publish the poem for others to read.
EditPreparing the Poem for Publication
- Title the poem. Pick a title that you feel is representative of the poem as a whole. Go for a title that will eye catching and engaging to the reader. It should tell the reader a little something about what the poem is about.
- You can always call the poem “Untitled” if you’d prefer not to give a specific title. Do not leave the title blank, as publishers may not be interested in a poem with no title.
- Check that there are no spelling or grammar errors. Read the poem aloud to yourself to check that there are no obvious errors, such as a misspelled word or a missing punctuation mark. Check that the poem is error-free so it is at its best and has a better chance of getting published.
- You can also ask a friend or peer to read over the poem to check for any errors. Make sure you revise the poem so it is error-free if any issues are found.
- Use a legible font size and style. Choose a font that is easy to read and clean. Use 12-point size font in Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid script-style font, as it is hard to read.
- Most publications will list guidelines around font size and style on their submissions page. Always follow these guidelines to increase your chances of getting published.
EditSubmitting the Poem to Literary Journals and Magazines
- Search for publications to submit to. Visit your local bookstore or library and flip through publications that look interesting. Check out where your favorite poets are getting published and consider submitting to these publications.
- You can also search online or in your local newspaper for poetry publications based in your region or area to submit to.
- Read the publication before you submit to it. Read at least one issue of the publication you are submitting to before you send in your poem. Check that the publication is publishing the type of writing that you enjoy and feel a kinship with.
- Ask yourself, “Will my poem fit with the style and substance of publication?” “Does my poem reflect the type of writing in this publication?” “Would my poem work well with the other work in the publication?”
- You may need to read several different publications to try to find one that seems like a good home for your work. Take your time and read several different publications until you find a few that suit your work.
- Write a brief cover letter. When you submit your poem to literary journals and magazines, they will ask you for a brief cover letter to go with your submission. Keep the cover letter short, only four to five lines long. Address it to the poetry editor at the publication, if it is listed online or in the print publication. If it is not, you can address the letter to the name of the publication.
- For example, you may write, “Dear Gabriel Blackwell,” if that is the poetry editor’s name. Or, you may write, “Dear Poetry Foundation,” if you cannot find the poetry editor’s name.
- Include a short paragraph where you mention your submission and any publications or awards you have received for your work. Do not ask for feedback on your poem or comments on your poem in the cover letter. Avoid trying to summarize the poem or explain it. End the letter with “Sincerely” or “Best,” and your name.
- For example, you may write, “Please find attached my poem, ‘September,’ for your consideration. My work has appeared in Black Diamond Journal and Poetry Online. I have received a Stegner Fellowship and was a finalist for the 2017 Poetry Press Prize.”
- Include a short biography. You should also include a short biography in your submission that is no longer than four lines. State where you are from, your education, if relevant, and your publications or awards. Include where you live and work now, if you feel it is relevant.
- For example, you may write, “Fiona Fields’ work has appeared in Black Diamond Journal, Poetry Online, and other publications. She earned her MFA from CalArts (California Institute of the Arts). She currently lives in Los Angeles.”
- Submit the poem online. Most publications will have an online submissions system, where you upload your poems to an online portal called Submittable to submit them. Look on the publication’s website for a Submissions page or a call for submissions for an upcoming issue. There should then be guidelines for submissions and a link to the Submittable portal where you can upload your cover letter, biography, and poem.
- Most publications will allow you to submit several pages of poetry, such as 1-5 pages of poetry. You can usually submit more than one poem at a time.
- Some publications charge a small reading fee for submitting to them, usually $3-$5. This reading fee allows the publication to pay their readers and editors.
- In some cases, you may need to pay more than $5 to submit to the publication. Decide if you have the budget to pay a larger reading fee to the publication.
- Send the poem by mail. Some publications will ask for a hard copy of the poem by mail. You will need to print out a hard copy of your cover letter, biography, and poem on separate pages. Place them in an 8.5” by 11” (22 x 28 cm) envelope and address it to the publication.
- You will also need to include a self-addressed envelope with a stamp so the submission can reply to you.
- If you would like your work returned to you, include another 8.5” by 11” envelope, self-addressed with a stamp.
- Enter the poem into poetry contests. Many publications will run poetry contests, where they ask poets to submit work and they choose the best one. The prize is usually money and publication in the magazine or journal. Winning a poetry contest can also raise your profile as a poet and make your work more accessible to a wider audience. Check publications online for poetry contests.
- You can also follow your favorite publications online through social media, or by subscribing to them. You can then watch for any poetry contests advertised in the publication.
- Some poetry contests will be themed or have a prompt for poets to respond to. There are usually guest judges, often high-profile poets or writers, who pick the winner of the contest.
- The submission fee for poetry contests is usually more expensive than regular submissions. You may have to pay $10-$30 to enter into the poetry contest, depending on the publication.
- Check that your poem is eligible for publication. Whether you submit the poem online, by mail, or through a contest, make sure it is original, unpublished work. If the poem has appeared on your blog, website, or social media, the publication may consider it published and not accept it. Do not try to submit work that is not yours or that has been published elsewhere.
- Some publications will allow you to do simultaneous submissions, where you can submit the same poem to multiple publications at once. If your poem gets accepted by one publication, you should then let the other publications know and withdraw your poem from consideration.
EditSelf-Publishing the Poem
- Post the poem on social media. If you’d prefer to publish the poem on your own terms, consider posting it on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This will allow you to share the poem with your friends on social media in an instant, accessible way.
- Keep in mind if you publish the poem on social media, you may not be able to submit it to literary journals or magazines for publication.
- Put the poem on your website or blog. If you have a writing blog or website that you maintain, put the poem on the site for your followers and readers to see. This may be a good option if you have a decent amount of readers that visit your blog every day.
- Encourage your readers to comment on the poem. Respond to reader comments so your readers know you appreciate their presence on your site and that they took the time to read your work.
- Create an ebook of poems. If you have several poems that you feel could be part of a collection, you can always self-publish your poetry collection yourself. A poetry ebook can be made easily using a publishing program online like Smashwords or Amazon. You can then sell the poetry ebook to readers using an online retailer.
- This is a good option if you’ve had a hard time finding a publisher for your poems and want to try doing it yourself.