Friday, July 27, 2018

Tobi Alfier - The Delicate Dance of Submitting


We all have journals we are honored to be in, and editors who are more like friends than executioners. Thank God for them!! Whatever your relationship is with them, keep doing what you’re doing. I am NOT suggesting that you change anything that’s working.

You might decide you want to branch out though, especially with so many opportunities available - over 23,000 literary journals in the US alone!

As a submitting poet AND an editor, I have noticed some things lately, and I have (stupidly) done some things lately… Full disclosure: we do not use Submittable at our journal. We use the good old normal method of e-mailing submissions. So anything I say about Submittable is from my own experience as a submitting poet, or hearsay.
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Three words to remember in every language you know – READ THE GUIDELINES!! But you can’t just read the guidelines on a website anymore. You have to read the “About” section, and if a journal uses Submittable, you have to click on the “More” tab of whatever section you are submitting under.

Unfortunately you will find little pieces of submission intel all over. This is annoying, but you want to do everything possible to ensure your submission is read. Examples of information you may not find under the regular guidelines:

Blind reading. You may craft your entire group of poems with contact information on them, only to discover there can’t be any contact information on the poems at all.

It gets better…

Sometimes the “guidelines” say you can submit up to five poems, and Submittable says up to three. In that case, I mention the discrepancy in my cover letter to justify what I already did.

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Most irritating of all…the window is open but nobody remembers to turn on Submittable. You have to remember to keep trying, or just forget it.

Things I’ve shot myself in the foot by missing…

If the guidelines ask for the poems to be transcribed in the body of an email, transcribe them in the body of an email. Sometimes they want them in the body of an email, AND as an attachment.  In other words, read thoroughly…before you push”send”. Don’t skim.

If the guidelines have a maximum number of lines per poem, that includes the title and blank line after the title. This generally has to do with the size of the journal and printing issues. It is usually non-negotiable. Believe me, I have tried.

Let’s talk about submission fees for a minute.  Journals are a labor of love. We don’t charge a fee ever, but I think with Submittable, once a certain number of submissions per month have been received, they charge the journal.

If you can’t afford a $3.00 fee to submit, don’t do it. Often submissions by mail are still free.

If you think its flat-out wrong for a journal to charge a fee to submit, don’t do it. Tons of journals are still free.

If you pay extra to get a quicker response, you are paying to get a quicker response, not an acceptance. You may still get a rejection. On the bright side, your work will be released earlier and you can send it somewhere else.

If you pay extra for a “Tip Jar”, you are a nice person. Your work may still get rejected.

Iced mint coffee by Julia
Most importantly, and you know this, be smart. If you write faerie tales, do not submit to a political journal. You will be upset. The editors will be irritated. If you’re like I am, you keep track of your “acceptance ratio”. Don’t wreck your ratio by submitting to inappropriate journals.

Good luck! Have a great time! Spell your name right in your professional, third person bio, and spell the Editor’s names right on your cover letters. Enjoy the heck out of submitting, the only thing better than an acceptance, is an acceptance that comes with a glass of wine and an ice cream. Okay and maybe a good cup of coffee and a box of Junior Mints!!!!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

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