Poetry publication advice

13 Oct
Nia Davies

Nia Davies of Poetry Wales

Poets, how can you get your poem in print?

Nine Arches Press and Under the Radar editor, Jane Commane, and Poetry Wales magazine editor, Nia Davies, was in conversation with poet, reviewer and lecturer, Dr Carrie Etter, at Poetry Swindon Festival.

Here’s their thoughts:

Q. How much time should a poet leave before chasing an editor regarding their poetry submission for publication?
A. Give a month longer than the time period specified by the publication. No one will penalise you for (gently) enquiring after the fate of your poem. Both Under the Radar and Poetry Wales use online process Submittable, which visibly tracks the progress of the poem with the editor.

Q. If someone records the performance of your poem and sticks it on YouTube, does this count as published? This was a worry as often poets are recorded without their permission, and publications generally won’t publish a poem if it’s been published already (this can include blogs and Facebook.)
A. Neither editors considered it so.

Nia added: Anything you write is immediately copyrighted. Proving it’s yours, however is another thing!
Carrie: Putting ‘copyright’ on your work is unnecessary and looks amateurish.

A. How many submissions do they receive?
A. Nia: ten poems a week and she reads everything submitted.
Everyone should read the submission guidelines. Send in up to eight pages of poems; better in one go than individually.
Jane: 1,000 submissions a year, approximately six poems per submission, plus lots more from other sources such as competitions. Jane reads rock biographies in her spare time as an anecdote to all the poetry!

Q. By what criteria do they choose poems for publication?
A. Jane: do I like the work? What positive impact will the profile of the poet have on sales of the book or magazine – how interested will people be in their work?  Who else has taken an interest in this poet? What following do they have on social media, blog, etc? Have they produced a pamphlet? Run an open mic night? Have they placed in competitions?

Q. Will they accept collections or pamphlets to review?
A. They both review books and pamphlets. Encourage your publisher to send it to them, though it’s fine for poets to send their own.

Q. Why do reviews often come out so long after publishing?
A. Magazines work six months ahead. Online reviews fill the printed gap. Not having advance copies are a problem. There are often not enough reviewers or space in the magazine.
Jane: Sometimes it’s good from a sales point of view to come out later, after the initial fuss has died down; it creates new interest.

Q. What do they look for in a reviewer?
A. Someone unconnected to the poet; gives a personal reaction; quality criticism; diversity for different voices and point of view; and an existing review blog. They welcome and need new reviewers.

Q. Will Nine Arches Press consider publishing a self-published collection?
A. No, self-published counts as already published. This will diminish the potential market for book sales.

Carrie: American publishers run competitions to publish books which runs up a big entry fee debt and vast competition, thankfully this is not common practice in the UK.

Q. Do poets need to bring out a pamphlet before a full collection?
A. 50 per cent of first collections haven’t.
Carrie – don’t approach a publisher until you’ve been in at least half a dozen good publications. These poems can feature in your collection. Unless there’s a good distance in time between pamphlet and publication and/or it’s out of print, don’t expect the work in the pamphlet to be used in the collection.

Q. Do you mind multiple submissions, ie where you submit the same poem/s to different magazines at the same time. This is tempting because the submission process can take 6 weeks to 6 months.
A. Nia: she doesn’t mind if the poets tell her straight away about acceptance elsewhere. But it’s poor form to tell her once she has accepted your poem for submission as the decision process can be a couple of hours per poem, time she doesn’t have to waste.
Jane: no, simply because of turnaround time. So don’t do it if you want to stay on the editor’s good side!

Q. What’s their take on magazines releasing submission shortlists?
A. Nia: smacks of neoliberal competition! She wouldn’t have time to do it.

Carrie’s final word: if you believe in the poem, keep going. One of Carrie’s poems was rejected by 12 publications before finding a home in the Times Literary Supplement.

Jane Commane, Nia Davies and Carrie Etter were in conversation at Poets & Publishing, a Poetry Swindon event, 8 October 2016, which took place at Richard Jefferies Museum.

Chronicle written by Louisa Davison

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