Like some of you, I’m old enough to remember when submitting poems to magazines for possible publication meant hours of typing, proofreading, correcting (with fluid or ribbon) and retyping manuscripts. Even a few pages might only be good for one shot. After months (often many months), you’d receive your carefully produced pages returned to you in the Self-Addressed Stamp Envelope you’d included with your submission, and with luck the pages were even still in good enough condition to mail out at least once more.
There’d usually be some kind of note, either accepting one or more poems for future inclusion, or a graceful decline, full of form letter regret. Occasionally you’d receive no reply at all and continue to wonder for the rest of your life if your poems weren’t languishing at the bottom of some pile of undelivered mail, or a pile of discarded poems in the abandoned offices of a defunct periodical.
Nowadays, submitting poems to potential publishers has never been easier. There is email, for one. Some of the smaller magazines take email submissions, and often reply very quickly, sometimes in 24 hours! And the are online magazines, too. These have far more flexibility than the strictly ink & mortar variety, and can publish more work, making it available online indefinitely. Between just these two advances, I’ve been able to submit much more work with much more ease. I’ve concentrated this summer on getting my poems out. Much as I adore (more or less) each and every one, they must see the world. And perhaps the world will see them.
Submittables is a portal used by some publications to act as a go-between. It prevents viruses from being transmitted via email, and also allows them to charge contest or submission fees easily via PayPal. Partly as an experiment, my stepped-up efforts to submit more work included two basic elements: no fees, and no Submittables. Perhaps these are unfair limits. I know many zines struggle financially, and I try to purchase when I can, but years of reading such things has convinced me that the standard advice each gives of “take a look at the latest issue to get a feel for the kind of thing we like,” has little meaning. I prefer the bolder message of, “Please support us and subscribe.”
I’ve used Submittables in the past, and it is relatively easy. However, at this point in my life, with a full-time job for the next several millennia still a very real possibility, and the brutal heat that evaporated the Northeast for much of this summer, I wanted to make things as easy on myself as possible. It would take all of fifteen minutes to locate a zine, scope out their guidelines, and send my work. I have a standard bio, if one is required off the bat, and a collection of “poet” photos that make me look serious and professional. And I never try to do more than one in the same day. I’ve been very inspired lately by the likes of Rebecca Schumejda, John Dorsey, Dan Crocker, and perhaps unethically sent work to magazines that had published theirs.
So far, I’ve had six poems accepted, and one being held for a possible future anthology, and have submitted a couple dozen maybe overall. Not a bad return for my time and electric. I’m not so focused on contests at present, because I don’t like the odds and don’t feel a need for that kind of attention. That being said, the DiBiase award of 2017 was a total surprise and I am grateful. That was also a very easy contest to enter. I was proud to be among those poets and honored to be one of their judges this year. But it’s not about contests for me right now.
In fact, I get tremendous pleasure out of printing up my own chapbooks. That will happen again. Maybe I’ll start my own online zine. It all depends on Lotto.