Wednesday, July 8, 2015

On Submitting Your Work for Publication - Dealing with Rejection

KB Imle, a friend of mine on Facebook and a wonderful poet, PM'ed me today to ask advice on getting published. About halfway through the reply, the thought came to me that this might be a good blog post, so here it is:

Hi KB. You really should try to send your stuff off and get it published. I'm happy to give advice and suggestions, but please don't think of me as an expert. My rejections outnumber my acceptances easily 5 to 1. You need to know that you can have the best piece ever, and it won't be right for what an editor you send it to is looking for at any given time. Not taking rejection personally is the biggest obstacle I face each time a "No" clatters into my inbox. So thicken your skin, and most of all, believe in the work. You're good, KB. Very good, and you WILL find a home for your work.

So here goes: First of all, get a small, trusted group of writers you know to read your work. Preferably folks who won't placate you about when a piece (or part of one) needs work or deletion. Are you a member of a writer's group? I highly recommend trying one or two. Mine have helped me immensely. Does Austin have a Poetry Society, Club, Group? Go to their meetings, meet folks who do what you like. Ask if they're in a group...yadayadayada. Then take them the good as well the questionable stuff and get feedback. Practice mics, etc. See how the work lands. Join this group for opportunities on fiction, nonfiction, poetry: They send daily lists in your email that have contests and calls for presentation. Most accept work online, either though email or submission services like Submittable.

Whew. Ok. Just getting started here. As for individual, finished pieces, triple-check for spelling errors that aren't deliberate (you ARE a poet, after all. Some things you can stretch.). Make sure you read every guideline the editors have there - more than once. Get it all right. Don't double-space if they want single, etc. Write a Bio that speaks to your accomplishments -  where you've been published, etc. Keep it under 100 words. I'll post mine for you.

Patrick Dixon is a retired teacher and commercial fisherman who has been published in Oregon Coast, The Journal of Family Life, National Fisherman, Cirque, Oberon and others. Mr. Dixon has been a featured reader at the FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon for 18 years. He recently edited the seven-book anthology of fisherpoetry, Anchored in Deep Water. His work may be seen at and

Cover letter is no more than "Hello. Please find attached the piece "Sea Wolf" for consideration in your contest/issue on Sea Stories. Thanks for taking a look." Many publishers these days don't want your name attached, unless it's specified on the name of the file. Sometime not there either, but attached to the form in a separate document. Many contests are read blind, meaning they don't know until after the jurying, who the author is. All this is to say that I'd work at getting individual pieces published as stepping stones to putting together a collection. Once you’re out there, there’s no looking back. I think for many people, the fear is in knowing you’re going to get rejected. That doesn’t translate into “The work isn’t good enough.” That’s the hard part when you’ve put heart and soul into the work, you know it’s publishable – that it NEEDS to be out there, and you’re SURE this particular publication will love it…and they don’t. No lies here: that stings. It sucks that they don’t get it or want it, but it also can rattle the cage you’re in so you don’t want to try again. Don’t go there. If you believe in it, then keep trying. Get more critiques, work it over again, or don’t. If it’s where you want it to be, turn around and find another place to send it. Do your research: read pieces in the publication – often found online – and see how you fit their style. If you’re not sure, send it anyway. If the publication accepts simultaneous submissions, send it out to several.  Just be sure to notify the other publications when it gets published elsewhere.

KB's poetry (on her blog) can be found at

Next Installment: collections of work.