Monday, December 4, 2017

How many is too many?

Poets ask me how many poems they should send to a publication. The answer is simple: As many as they ask for!

The only reason to send less is if they are asking for a specific theme and you don’t have that many that would suit. If there is no theme, then you’ll want to take advantage of the opportunity to show your range.

Giving them as many poems as they allow -- always your best and always with the publication in mind -- increases your odds of getting published. One of my poet clients has (twice!) had two poems accepted for the same volume, and that could just as easily happen to you. Some publications feature a particular poet, showing multiple poems. Why ever would you send only one?

There’s a concern that if the reader doesn’t care for the first poem, then they won’t go on to the next. Maybe. If it is just awful, they might well assume the rest are. If no regard has been given to refining and presenting the poem well, then of course, they’ll feel their time could be better spent on another poet’s work. But if that first poem is well written but just not their cup of tea, then they will at least recognize that this is a poet worth reading, and hope that the next one might be a better fit for their publication. If you only send one, you might be putting yourself at a disadvantage.

My previous post talks about the importance of following each publication’s guidelines. Here again, if they ask for up to a certain number of poems and you have them, and they represent you well and seem to you to be a good match, send that many.

That said, only send what is suitable for the publication. If you are serious about getting published, you will do your research. There are thousands of journals and magazines out there. Not all are right for your work and haphazardly sending to them lessens your credibility. You have to have a strong clear submissions strategy. I develop a specific strategy for each of my clients, because each has a particular voice and a body of work that deserves to be seen in all the right places.

The most important part of any submissions strategy is to tailor your poems to the aesthetic of where you're submitting. Your chances of getting accepted to, say, a journal interested in formal or lyric poetry are minimal if you send them narrative or experimental poems. Know the publications where you plan to send your work. Otherwise you are wasting your time and theirs.

So put together a well-thought-out submission of poems you feel confident about. Then send as many as they allow. Your chances of publication will increase. But, just in case, put the best one on top. ;-)

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