What To Do Next?
So you’ve just written a poem and you think it came out really nice. It is so good in fact that you’d like to get it published. Well the question becomes, ‘What to do next?’
Don’t put it on Facebook or your personal blog. Most poetry magazines want to be the first ones to publish your poems. Putting it on Facebook or a blog would disqualify you. Of course the odds of getting caught are astronomical. But I have experienced some publishers who make some effort to ensure that they are getting the first rights. If you are a writer you don’t want to get a bad name. Publishers talk to one another.
Do some research into the magazine. Most magazines don’t like simultaneous submissions. At best the rule they hold is that if they accept simultaneous submissions they want to be notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere. So depending on the publisher your poem might get tied up for months only to receive a rejection.
Also make sure that the magazine you are submitting to like both your content and form. Content is of course the subject of the poem. There is little use sending a political poem to a romance magazine. It could be the best political poem in the universe it’s not going be accepted. Form is a little trickier. Many poetry magazines claim their taste is eclectic; however a little investigation may prove otherwise. See if the website has sample poems. This is enormous insight into what is desired. If they are all of identical format you’d best send something similar. Above all be cautious about rhyming. If you rhyme you can get rejected just on that criterion, unfair as it may seem.
For those of you who have been published quite a bit here are some more advanced tips. What are you trying to accomplish with a submission? After the initial thrill of being published one must access their literary strategy. For example most poets aim to get a chapbook or full length book published. It is nice to get a host of poems published by the same venue. However it may not advance your career. I think the goal of any true artist should be to get their art work exposed. Do you want a host of paintings hanging up in one museum or do you want them spread around? A variety of publishers will give you more prestige.
Now let’s address the tricky subject of contests. When they’re free it’s like pulling a rabbit out of a rabbit pen it’s extremely simple. Free contests are great, especially if there is some monetary reward. Casey Shay Press had a wonderful free chapbook contest. The prize was five hundred dollars and publication. Their contest ended in 2016 but I want to give them their due praise. It is more common to find contests for individual poems. Once again if it’s free there is really no reason to hesitate.
As far as individual poem contests I have to say I am very hesitant to enter. Usually the entry fee is five dollars and up. But consider that the contest holder isn’t going to take a loss. So if there is a five dollar entry fee and a thousand dollar prize it is a safe bet to say there are well over two hundred contestants. Those odds don’t seem too good to me even if I can put in three or five poems. When the contest holder supports some cause I believe in it is easier for me to enter the contest. I am against war and so when a group that advocates peace held a contest I didn’t mind parting with the five dollars.
The chapbook or even full size poetry contests are something else. Usually the fees increase from twenty dollars and upwards. Once again the competition is pretty steep with numerous entries. The advantage of winning a contest besides publication and money is getting some prestige. This applies even if you finish in the final or semi final round. When you market your manuscript to traditional publishers you can throw in this caveat. Examine the point of where you are in your poetry career. If you never had a chapbook or book published there are special contests designed just for your status. This scenario tremendously cuts down on the quality of the competition.
For those determined to advance their career further by winning a contest a two there is one final piece of advice. Usually the contest states who the judges or at least who the final judge will be. It is a good strategy to investigate the judges writing. Not necessarily only to understand their style but also their point of view in life. If a judge has some strong stance on an issue that conflicts with yours perhaps it may be wise not to enter that particular piece. As I stated I am anti war and a pacifist so if I see someone who feels war is patriotic I’d best submit a piece that doesn’t address that topic.
Let me conclude with these words. Keep on writing. If you don’t win a contest or even don’t get published, keep on trying. Remember the lesson of Emily Dickenson. You may just be a genius whose time hasn’t come yet.
John Kaniecki is a native of Brooklyn, New York. While he has no memory of New York City but he is proud to call himself a native New Yorker. John spent a few years in Illinois but grew up in Pequannock, New Jersey. After graduating high school John went off to Hoboken to attend Steven's Institute of Technology.
Despite being in engineering school, John was clueless to the direction his life should take. After two years John dropped out of Steven's. He became a Christian and hitchhiked across the United States. Several months later he was hospitalized with bipolar disorder.
At this time John began to write poetry. A self published book called "A Day's Weather" shows his mind at this time. After years of struggle John eventually returned to college and graduated from Montclair State University. John went to work stocking shelves at Sears and then worked with an engineering firm. John married Sylvia Smith in 2004.
Once married John returned to writing. His writing has been published in over seventy outlets. His books are "Murmurings of a Mad Man" a book of poetry by eLectio Publishing, "Poet to the Poor, Poems of Hope for the Bottom One Percent" by Dreaming Big Publications, "Words of the Future" a collection of science fiction stories published by Witty Bard and a couple of horror novellas "Scarecrow, Scarecrow" and "Satan's Siren" published by Jaded Books Publishing. Just out is his poetry book called "Sunset Sonnets" published by Local Gem Poetry. Also his memoirs "More Than The Madness" that deals with his successfully coping with mental illness is soon to be published by Dreaming Big Publications.
Presently John is a full time caretaker for his wife. Also he volunteers as a missionary for the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue; which is in the inner city of Newark. He stays up light at night and writing in any free time in hopes of becoming a professional writer.
Goodreads John Kaniecki
Amazon Page http://amzn.to/2mjiZXd