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 Mistakes Poets Make By Editors of Writer's Market

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Lora
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PostSubject: Mistakes Poets Make By Editors of Writer's Market   Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:41 pm

Mistakes Poets Make
By Editors of Writer's Market

In putting together listings for Poet’s Market, we ask editors for any words of advice they want to share with our readers. Often the editors’ responses include comments about what poets should and shouldn’t do when submitting work—the same comments, over and over. That means a lot of poets are repeating similar mistakes when they send out their poems for consideration.

The following list includes the most common of those mistakes—the ones poets should work hardest to avoid.

Not reading a publication before submitting work

Researching a publication is essential before submitting your poetry. Try to buy a sample copy of a magazine (by mail, if necessary) or at least see if an issue is available at the library. It may not be economically feasible for poets to purchase a copy of every magazine they target, especially if they send out a lot of poems. However, there are additional ways to familiarize yourself with a publication.

Read the market listing thoroughly. If guidelines are available, send for them by e-mail or regular mail, or check for them online. A publication’s website often presents valuable information, including sample poems, magazine covers--and guidelines.

Submitting inappropriate work

Make good use of your research so you’re sure you understand what a magazine publishes. Don’t rationalize that a journal favoring free verse might jump at the chance to consider your long epic poem in heroic couplets. Don’t convince yourself your experimental style will be a good fit for the traditional journal filled with rhyming poetry. Don’t go into denial about whether a certain journal and your poetry are made for each other. It’s counterproductive and ultimately wastes postage (not to mention time—yours and the editor’s).

Submitting an unreasonable number of poems

If an editor recommends sending three to five poems (a typical range), don’t send six.

Don’t send a dozen poems and tell the editor to pick the five she wants to consider. If the editor doesn’t specify a number (or the listing says “no limit”), don’t take that as an invitation to mail off 20 poems. The editors and staff of literary magazines are busy enough as it is, and they may decide they don’t have time to cope with you. (When submitting book or chapbook manuscripts to publishers, make sure your page count falls within the range they state.)

Mistakes Poets Make 51

Don’t go to the other extreme and send only one poem, unless an editor says it’s okay (which is rare). One poem doesn’t give an editor much of a perspective on your work, and it doesn’t give you very good odds on getting the piece accepted.

Ignoring the editor’s preferences regarding formats

If an editor makes a point of describing a preferred manuscript format, follow it, even if that format seems to contradict the standard. (Standard format includes using 8½_11 white paper and conventional typeface and point size; avoid special graphics, colors or type flourishes; put your name and address on every page.) Don’t devise your own format to make your submission stand out. Keep everything clean, crisp and easy to read (and professional).

Be alert to e-mail submission formats. Follow directions regarding what the editor wants printed in the subject line, how many poems to include in a single e-mail, whether to use attachments or paste work in the body of the message, and other elements. Editors have good reasons for outlining their preferences; ignoring them could mean having your e-mail deleted before your poems are even read.

Omitting a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE)

Why do editors continuously say “include a SASE with your submission?” Because so many poets don’t do it. Here’s a simple rule: Unless the editor gives alternate instructions, include a #10 SASE, whether submitting poems or sending an inquiry.

Writing bad cover letters (or omitting them completely)

Cover letters have become an established part of the submission process. There are editors who remain indifferent about the necessity of a cover letter, but many consider it rude to be sent a submission without any other communication from the poet.

Unless the editor says otherwise, send a cover letter. Keep it short and direct, a polite introduction of you and your work. (See “Frequently Asked Questions” on page 7 for more tips on cover letters, and an example.) Here are a few important Don’ts:

Don’t list all the magazines where your work has appeared; limit yourself to fi ve magazine titles. The work you’re submitting has to stand on its own.
Don’t tell the editor what a good poet you are—or how good someone else thinks you are.
Don’t tell the editor how to edit, lay out or print your poem. Some of those decisions are up to the editor, assuming she decides to accept your poem in the first place.
Don’t point out the poem is copyrighted in your name or include the copyright symbol.

All poems are automatically copyrighted in the poet’s name as soon as they’re “fixed” (i.e., written down), and editors know this.

Not maintaining good editor/poet relations

Most editors are hard-working poetry lovers dedicated to finding and promoting good work. They aspire to turn submissions around as quickly as possible and to treat all poets with respect. They don’t want to steal your work. Often they aren’t paid for their labor and may even have to dip into their own pockets just to keep their magazines going.

Poets should finesse their communications with editors regarding problems, especially in initial letters and e-mail. Editors (and their magazines and presses) aren’t service-oriented businesses, like the phone company. Getting huffy with an editor as if arguing with your cable provider about an overcharge is inappropriate. Attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere; in fact, it could create additional obstacles.

Mistakes Poets Make 52

That’s not to say poets shouldn’t feel exasperated when they’re inconvenienced or ill treated. None of us likes to see our creations vanish, or to pay good money for something we’re never going to receive (like a subscription or sample copy). However, exasperated is one thing; outraged is another. Too often poets go on the offensive with editors and make matters worse. Experts on how to complain effectively recommend you keep your cool and stay professional, no matter what kind of problem you’re trying to work out.

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God Bless, Lora  Nice Ta Meet Ya
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