Monday, January 21, 2013

Submission City

36º ~ as with most of the central swath of the country, temps diving by 15 - 20 º today and tomorrow, sky equal parts sun and cloud, trees bare and a few limbs, branches, twigs still peppering the yard as those weakened by the Xmas storm continue to fall in bouts of wind

Over the past three days, I've made it my mission to send out poems and manuscripts in an attempt to clear the decks for some serious new poem drafting this semester.  My friend and co-editor at Heron Tree, Rebecca, recently talked about that good feeling one gets when the physical space is cleared and the mental space opens up as well.  That's how it is for me.  I've got a few more poems to shove out the door and then...bring on the new words!

I've blogged about my submission habits quite a bit here at the Kangaroo (just use the search function at the top to find numerous old posts), but I thought I'd take a longer view today as some realizations bubbled to the surface.

1.  Simultaneous Submissions
I've always been a fan of the simultaneous submission, and I've noticed that some long holdouts have come around to this way of thinking as well, including, most notably, The Southern Review and Shenandoah, which has also become an online journal as well.  In the meantime others have switched to not accepting SS.  The New England Review (for poetry) comes to mind.

When I was just starting out, my acceptance rate was so dismal that it didn't make sense to send to a non-SS accepting journal if that journal was going to keep the poems for eight months to a year.  There are a few exceptions to this time frame, but I've been burned quite a few times by sending out poems and having them sit and sit and sit only to be rejected a year later.  However, by sending out the same packet of poems to 10 different journals, when one poem was accepted, I had to send out 9 withdrawal letters (and most of this was pre-email/online submission managers).

As my acceptance rate grew stronger, I narrowed my markets and now only send a packet to three or four journals.  This cuts down on the withdrawal emails I have to send and also cuts down the risk that another journal is in the final stages of considering my poem(s) for acceptance.  Even though journals accept SS, it's still a disappointment for the editors to find out that a poem they were seriously considering has been withdrawn. 

2.  Non-Simultaneous Submissions
Through much trial and error, and meticulous reading of guidelines, I've discovered a few of the non-SS accepting journals that really do respond quickly.  To my way of thinking, responding in a few months should be the norm for non-SS journals.  I understand (now more than ever) that reading submissions takes time, a lot of time; however, if the journal is going to limit the writer on what he/she can do with the work in the meantime, then they need to move quickly. 

Usually, the non-SS journals are the ones that get swamped with submissions as they are well-established and have long-standing reputations.  Here, I think of American Poetry Review and Field, in particular.  In this case, the poet needs to have done the work of researching the markets and making sure a submission fits the journal.  Otherwise, it's just holding everyone up with little chance of reward.

3.  Online versus Print.
I no longer even really think about this.  Both have their advantages, but as far as I can tell, there is little difference in the quality of the work being published by reputable editors.  Again, though, I've done the work of reading, reading, reading all the current and past issues I can get my hot little hands on.

4.  Books of Poetry
In regards to the simultaneous submission discussion, most contests and open reading periods note that the publisher will consider SS manuscripts, along with immediate notification.  That is as it should be, as far as I am concerned.  However, as always, reading the guidelines to be sure is a must.

5.  The Emotions
I've been submitting work seriously since around 2000.  (True confessions, I once sent a poem to The Atlantic when I was in high school...think the 80s... and got the nicest "you should read our magazine before submitting" form rejection.)  Let me just say that even with one book under my belt, the emotions don't get any less intense.  A rejection still stings; an acceptance still fills me with joy.  In some ways, it's like being trapped in junior high forever; in other ways, it thickens the skin and helps me fine-tune my craft.

And now that the desk is almost clear, I'm off to soak up the Inauguration madness.  I'll be back playing with words and drafting new poems as the week progresses, and I'm re-instituting my goal of a poem a week for the academic semester.  Wahooooooo!


Kathleen said...

I appreciate the clarity and organization of this blog post, so I imagine the clearing of your decks/desk is also going well!

Sandy Longhorn said...

I seem to have become obsessed with numbering my thoughts. :) Tidy, tidy, tidy.

Shawnte Orion said...

At least Field tries to keep responses to around one month.

North American Review tied up my last sub for 14 months, before sending me one of those this-came-very-close rejections.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Shawnte, some are better than others, and it's not always easy to tell, right? Congrats on the near miss.