NaPoWriMo is just two days away, and as we draw ever closer to the starting line, we thought we’d tackle a topic that is near and dear to nearly every poet’s heart: how do I get published?

Well, it’s as simple – and as hard – as identifying magazines or journals that you think would be a good fit for your work, and following their submission guidelines. (Sadly, your first publication is very unlikely to be a hard-cover full-length collection brought out by a major press, unless you just so happen to be, say, the owner/editor of a major press). The Academy of American Poets has this useful FAQ for those who are just getting started on this journey. And here’s another from Poets & Writers Magazine.

As for finding the likely journals – well, we’re afraid you’re in for some reading! It’s very difficult to tell whether a journal or magazine would be a good home for your work without reading it. But with so many journals operating online, it’s easier to survey the field now than it was in the past. Keep your eyes open for magazines/journals that publish work you admire, and always remember to follow the guidelines. Many journals receive simply incredible numbers of submissions during their reading periods, and will reject outright any submission that doesn’t follow guidelines. It doesn’t seem very fair, we know, but there are very few editors of journals who get paid in any way — it’s all volunteer work, and there’s only so much time in a day. Be respectful of that volunteered time!

And if at first you don’t succeed, don’t be discouraged. Getting published often feels arduous, and even well-established poets get far more rejections than acceptances – really. In baseball, a batting average of .333 is considered impossibly excellent. In poetry, if even one out of ten of your submissions is accepted, you are basically Babe Ruth. In pop terms, we’re talking Beyoncé levels here.

Finally, if you look over the journals out there, and think to yourself, no one is publishing work like mine, and worse, no one is publishing anything I like!, then you might just consider starting your own magazine. It’s a rite of passage for many poets, and with the ability to host journals online, there’s not necessarily a big financial outlay. And if you’re not quite ready to start your own magazine, why not volunteer with one that already exists?

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