"Yes, luck too is important in getting work published--being in the right place at the right time. Luck, talent, business acumen, and persistence are all required. Neglect none of them."

Pam Casto

This Little Poem Went to Market ...

   by Pamelyn Casto

Poets who love the creative aspect of writing poetry often neglect the prosaic business side of poetry...getting the work out for publishing consideration. Their poems don't go to market at all, but stay home, languishing in a dark file cabinet. But unless you're the next Emily Dickinson (who only allowed twelve of her poems to be published while she was alive) you're not going to be known as a poet unless you pay close attention to marketing your work. And all it takes is a system, as simple or elaborate as you choose, but one that becomes natural for you.

Following are some steps and tips that will speed you on your way to creating a system for sending out your work, and which will make the business aspect of poetry much easier. If you follow these steps and tips, your work will be circulating on a regular basis and you will definitely increase your chances of publication. This system works best if you have around 30-50 completed poems. If you don't have that many, you need to get busy.


The first thing to pick up is a good publication directory. I like _Poet's Market_. The current edition lists over 1,800 places that accept poetry. Read through it as closely as you would any other good book--take a couple of weeks with it because you'll learn a lot by reading it cover to cover. I look forward to picking up the new edition each year since it tells me just how many places are possibilities and I feel so inspired to send work out.

As you read, mark/star the places that seem friendly to your type of work. If you're a beginning poet pay attention to the places listed as a beginner's market (who accept a higher percentage of submissions), pay attention to regional publications (who are sometimes friendlier to writers from their own area), and pay attention to the places with smaller circulation and who are therefore lesser known. In other words, begin building your publication credits by searching for places where you stand a better chance rather than going directly to the giant publications where the competition is ferocious. Once you have a few credits then you can begin sending to the intermediate markets and by all means send work to the high prestige places. But first things first.


You've read about and marked interesting places in your publishing directory. Now get going on an Internet search. Poets writing today have never before had so many opportunities to get their work before the public. That's because the Internet has increased possibilities in countless ways. It's not yet reached the point of replacing a marketing directory (like _Poet's Market_) since not all hard copy journals are represented on the Internet. But on the other hand there are also publications on the Internet that are not in various marketing directories, and it offers some extras that hard-copy marketing directories can't. For instance, at the publication's net site you can often read their submission guidelines, note upcoming themes, and read work that's been accepted in order to get a feel for whether or not your own work might fit. Some even let you submit your work via email, which reduces the cost to poets for getting work sent out for consideration.

There are many good listings of publications available on the Internet. John Labovitz's Ezine List provides an excellent start to show you what all's available. Another excellent resource is Yahoo's Literary Magazines List.You can also read reviews of many ezines in FactSheet Five available in many large bookstores; an online version is also available.

As you check the Internet be sure to bookmark those places that appeal to you, the places where it would please you to have your work appear. Some pay, some provide a hard copy of the edition in which your work appears, and some are Internet publications only.


You've picked your places that interest you. Now go through your poetry one more time for revisions and to make sure there are no typos or misspellings. Make your work as perfect as possible. I've served as a poetry judge in competitions and have been amazed at the number of submissions sent that were dog-eared, yellowed, full of typos and misspellings. It's difficult to be an objective judge when the poet seems to care so little. Be a professional by sending high quality submissions always.


Okay, you've done your research. You've gone through your marketing directory and checked sites on the Internet. Now just pick a number, a number that feels luckiest to you. I prefer the number seven. You might prefer eight or ten. The number is important because that's the number of poetry packets you're going to send out. You're now going to send your work (usually 3-5 poems in a packet, but check the magazine's exact specification) to seven, eight, or ten markets (depending on the number you choose for your lucky number.)

Each of these packets will contain different poems. Never send the same poems to different markets in this intial sending out phase unless the magazine/journal specifically states that it's okay to do so. If you're sending to places that require submissions via the post office, each packet of poems will be tri-folded as one piece and put into a business-sized envelope. Always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or it's likely your packet will get tossed. The SASE is for the return of your poems and for the return of an acceptance or rejection. If the magazine requires a cover letter be sure to include it too. Follow all guidelines exactly.

If you're sending your work to Internet publishers, again, follow their guidelines exactly. Some will let you send the required number of poems in one email message and some require each piece be sent in separate email messages. Some Internet publishers require submissions via the post office. Follow all guidelines exactly to give your work the best chance. And remember that if the publisher says they want no previously published work, send them only unpublished work. Many publications consider something published on the Internet or in hard copy as published material. Check the publication for the exact requirements and don't try to fool them by sending something you've already had published. It can hurt your reputation as an honest, ethical poet. If you have a poem that feels just right for a particular publication, and that poem's been published already, tell the prospective publisher in your cover letter. Always remain honest with publishers. That's what you expect of them, after all.


Before you send your packets out, make a simple record-keeping file to keep track of your poems. Note each poem title, what publication you sent it to and when, the editor's name, the expected response time, and the type of payment they make. Then later, as you receive your acceptances or rejections, add that information to your record-keeping file. Your file can be on computer disk, in a spiral notebook designated for that purpose, or it can even be done with 3 x 5 cards. The important thing is to keep track of your work. By using such a system you can avoid sending the same poems to the same publications and will be able to track your work if no response is received (which sometimes happens).


Some publications ask for cover letters and some do not. Check their guidelines for this information as well. It's easiest to have a model letter already created and then all you have to do is update the model for the current sending-off session. Keep your cover letter simple. Include your name, address, telephone number, and date. The greeting will be to the editor: Dear Jane Jones. The first paragraph will include the number and titles of your poems (e.g., I am submitting four poems for your consideration: Up the Chimney, The Last Question, Night on Haney Street, and Combustibles). (Do not put your poem titles in quote marks since such a designation means the poem has been published.) In the second paragraph you can say something about your publishing history (e.g., My work has most recently appeared in "Mobius," "Poetpourri," "Kerf," and "Tar River Poetry"--use no more than the last five or most prestigious publications). Or, if you have no credits yet, tell a little about yourself (e.g., I am a nurse at a busy metropolitan hospital and to unwind I like skydiving and mountain climbing.) Then the final paragraph would be a thank you (e.g., Thank you for considering my work for _The Puffed Pelican_. It would be an honor to have my poems appear in this publication and I look forward to hearing from you soon). Other tidbits can be added as needed but keep the letter as brief as possible and it should never be longer than one page.


You've selected your markets, have created your record-keeping file, and have your cover letters in order. Now it's time to actually get your work out there. For good luck, as you drop each packet into the mailbox give it an extra squeeze, a kiss, or do your special good luck dance. Or if you're sending via email turn around three times and cross your fingers just as you hit the send command. Yes, luck too is important in getting work published--being in the right place at the right time. Luck, talent, business acumen, and persistence are all required. Neglect none of them.

[Editor's note: ...including advice from friends who know your work well. A well-known editor/poet has 'blessed' more of my poems into new homes than I can count. When he's busy, I sacrifice a chicken over the computer ;)]


While you're awaiting word on your circulating packets, revise more poems and write new ones. Pick more markets for the next circulation event, and you can decide if this will be something you do every couple of months or twice a year--you choose how often, but the more often the better your chances of seeing your work in print.

As each packet is returned to you, and if the contents are still in pristine condition, you can send the rejected work to brand new markets that you've selected while waiting for responses. Or if, for instance, you have two packets returned you can switch the contents of each packet and send the poems to the markets that just rejected the initial packets--as long as the poems are still in perfect condition. If not, make up new copies. And of course you'll update your cover letter and record-keeping system. The point to using your system is to keep your work circulating at all times.


Unfortunately it's the way of the publishing world that most of what gets sent out does get rejected. But a constantly busy mailbox (snail mail or email) lessens the sting of rejection since not all hopes were pinned on one publication only. And never give up on your work. Keep it moving. If you like the pieces you're probably going to find an editor who likes them as well. Back when I had a terrible record keeping system I inadvertently sent the same poem to a publication three times. The third time it was accepted. My net friend and highly published poet Christina-Marie circulated a poem for twenty-five years. It was finally accepted for publication in a high prestige journal. So never give up on your poems and keep them circulating always. Send that little poem, all your poems, to market and allow none to remain home. That's the way to publishing success. By following these tips you will definitely increase your chances of getting your work in print and you'll love and appreciate every acceptance you get.


Following are some interesting Internet sites that you can check out. The list is a mixture of hard copy publications, paying markets, and strictly Internet publications. Some are more suited to beginners and some are high prestige publications. Go to these sites and see if your work might fit.


American Tanka

Amicus Journal

Beloit Poetry Journal

Birmingham Poetry Review

Bottom Fish: The Literary Magazine of De Anza College

The Blue Moon Review

Chile Verde Review

The Classical Outlook



Fine Madness

The Fractal

Grain Literary Magazine

The Greensboro Review

Illya's Honey

The Laurel Review

Oyster Boy Review


The Prose Poem

Recursive Angel

Salt Hill

The 2River View

Zuzu's Petals

[Editor's note:

Further suggestions: Most of Perihelion's round table participants are editors - many accept online submissions. Other poetry magazines affiliated with WDS are listed on Web Del Sol's home page. Perihelion's contributors also recommend some very fine literary sites that take email submissions.]


Pamelyn Casto is a graduate student whose fields of intense interest include all aspects of ancient Greek culture, the witchcraze of early modern European history, and Nazi Germany. She is also a public speaker who delivers mostly motivational speeches, and she is an editor and a writer. She is currently at work on a novel, a collection of short stories, and she also writes articles. However, her primary love is poetry. She has had her work published in journals and magazines and has won competitions for her poetry on a local, state, and national level. She is also the administrator of two online workshops: Muse-W and FlashFiction-W. Since discovering the many resources for writers on the Internet, she has given up sleeping completely.