I've been receiving rejections for thirty-five years and it never gets easy. The bottom line is: grow a think skin and grow it quickly. Most of the time it is not personal. There are so many places to submit that if what you write doesn’t suit on then try somewhere else. I make a point of keeping a large number of poems and stories out there. Once I get a few replies back I send a few more out normally at the end of each month.
Remember it's the work, not you. Look for a sympathetic editor - i.e. one who publishes work similiar to yours. Do workshops regularly to keep honing and sharpening your critical eye. You do get lucky eventually and one thing leads to another.
You’ve got to be persistent. I don’t submit much, I only submit my best stuff, and I only submit to magazines I really like. That cuts down my options quite a lot, but I’ve found it does increase my percentage of acceptances. I’d be lying if I said that rejections didn’t bother me – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t – but you’ve got to shrug them off.
The list of what to do is simple. Type up your poems in a clear, legible font on plain A4 paper. Proofread. One poem to a page, please: give them room to breathe. Write a brief covering letter. Be polite, but don't try to butter up the editor. Your poems should do the talking. Mention briefly any previous successes, publications and / or prizes. Make sure you include an SAE and sufficient return postage with your submission, and make sure that your envelopes are a decent size (A5). Be patient when waiting for a response. A gentle email nudge after two or three months (unless the average reading time is stated as being much longer) is usually acceptable.
Unwavering belief in my own genius. Seriously? Because sooner or later you'll crack it, or before that, you'll find an editor who offers you some kind, encouraging words out of their otherwise busy, often tiring and sometimes thankless job (bear in mind that almost all poetry magazine editors have other jobs as well). The best favour you can do for yourself in terms of avoiding rejection (aside giving up writing poetry, which isn't a half-bad idea) is to subscribe to as many poetry magazines as you can and get a feel for the sort of publication that includes the work you admire. Then send your very best poems to that publication (before you seal the envelope, ask yourself – would I publish these poems?). Whatever you do, don't send off poems on a whim to a magazine you've never read and know little or nothing about. That's just an invitation for rejection, not to mention a waste of stamps. The simple fact is this: if you're going to write poetry, you're going to have to learn to be pretty thick-skinned. Learn to take criticism, but only when it comes from the people and places you trust. Keep reading. Then read some more.
One would hope that after numerous rejections, a poet would find somelike-minded artists to review her or his work. But perseverance iskey, and one must realize that editors receive a staggering amount ofpoetry, and also an editor can be as idiosyncratic as the folksattempting to woo them. A good poem might not connect with a certaineditor, and blind luck may put three or four of those editors in a rowduring a poet's submission process. So, take the Apostle Paul's adviceand persevere.
Hazel B. Cameron
Cut out or copy any good words and comments from the rejection note and paste them in a book to create your very own positive rejects. But do take on board any useful advice and ignore everything else.
Keep a good rota of poems out there so there is always one you’re waiting to hear from, that way you always have hope.
Thanks again to all of the contributors, this is the last piece for the questions for the audience series.
*Also, for those who guessed right about the truth behind Poet Hound’s April Fool’s Joke, your poem will be sent in the mail shortly. For those who guessed wrong, well, better luck next year… That’s right! I’m not giving away the answer unless someone else blurts it out on their own site. So you’ll just have to find out some other way…
Thanks for stopping in, please stop by tomorrow…