Books are harder to publish nowadays, and paper magazines are struggling to survive. Competition for publication is fiercer, thanks to all the budding poets produced by creative writing courses. If you're going to be published you'll need be professional and stubborn. Here are some suggestions.
Perhaps there was a time when budding poets got published in ever better magazines until they were finally ready to send a book manuscript to a publisher. You can still pursue that route (details at the end) but the times they are achangin'.
There's a world beyond paper. It can replace paper for some people. For others it's a way to make progress towards book publication
- Performance - Venues continue to open
- Festivals - In summer there's a string of festivals - a chance to see and be seen.
- Creative Writing - Opportunities have emerged around Creative Writing courses and education in general - residencies, schools, etc. Once you're on a Creative Writing course you'll be able to develop a network of contacts.
- Mentoring - The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press are running a mentoring and publication scheme - see Primers
- Interning - Various organisations (especially magazines) offer foot-in-the-door chances
- Grants and Fellowships - A few exist for developing writers. Contact your regional arts board
- The WWW - Some web publications are very respectable, or you could start your own. You could put recordings online. At least you could become part of the scene by contributing to discussion boards and blogs. Web magazines are already appearing on the Acknowledgements pages of books. Here are just a few of the UK ones
If you're young there are special opportunities
- The "Foyle's Young Poet of the Year" prize is for under-18s
- The "Eric Gregory Awards" are for under-30s. These have been going for a long time.
- Mentoring - a number of organisations (not least of which Faber!) have been given money to foster young talent, often leading to pamphlet publication.
- Age-limited anthologies pop up every-so-often too
First decide on what your aims are and why you have them. Poetry is a tiny world - the amount of fame (or even respect) available is limited. According to Nielsen Bookscan
- not one of the shortlisted collections in the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry had sold more than 1000 copies by 2008. The winner ("The Drowned Book" by Sean O'Brien) sold 785. "Hawks and Doves" by Alan Gilles had sold 39 copies.
- sales of poetry in 2009 stood at £8.4m. By 2013, they had fallen to £7.8m
And "who-you-know" still matters. Here's part of an article from "The Wolf", issue 15, (Summer 2007) by its editor
- Recently I visited a sifter for a leading poetry mag in the UK. She asked me to cast an eye over a stack-pile of submissions with a clear preference on ordering all poems (and prose) into 'Friends' and 'unknowns' piles. All 'Friends' would be placed in the provisional PUBLISH folder, often before the intention to read a line of their work. Apparently this is 'how the magazine has operated for years.'
Several publishers (including many of the bigger ones) don't read their slush pile. They depend on recommendations, so you'll need to get yourself noticed. Paper magazines are a rather slow way of doing this.
Send all round the year. UK mags often don't like multiple submissions. Magazines increasingly accept e-mail submissions. I've not noticed a bias against rhyming poetry
A poem published in a poetry group newsletter probably gets read more than a poem in some of the magazines mentioned below.
Which are most worth sending to? Here are some pointers
- For 2000-1 the magazines most supported by the Arts Council were London Magazine (£27,500), Poetry Review (£25,000), PN Review (£17,500), Wasafari (£20,400), London Review of Books (£14,050) and Ambit (£11,200).
- In 2004-5, various presses and magazines were supported in some way by Arts Council England. Beneficiaries included Other Poetry (£6k), Acumen (£12k), Agenda (£29k), Rialto (£88k) and Smiths Knoll (£9k).
- In 2005-6, Arts Council England beneficiaries included Bloodaxe (£3,500),Flambard Press (£4,500), Headland Publications (£16,350), Magma Poetry (£14,950), Other Poetry (£8,750), Peterloo Poets (£165,000), Wasafari (£4,900).
- Forward Anthology
- 2003+2004: Acumen (1), Interpreter's House (2), The North (1), Poetry London (3), Poetry Review (1), Smiths Knoll (1), TLS (2)
- 2009: Acumen (1), Dream Catcher (1), The London Review of Books (3), Magma (1), Poetry Review (4), Rialto (1), Smiths Knoll (1)
- 2010: Brittle Star (2), Erotic Review (1), Frogmore Papers (3), Irish Pages (2), The Journal (1), The Liberal (1), The London Review of Books (3), Poetry Nation Review (1), Poetry Review (3), The Shop (1), TLS (3), Warwick Review (2), The Wolf (1)
- 2013: The London Review of Books (2),Magma (1), The North (2), Poetry Nation Review (1), Poetry Review (2), TLS (2), Warwick Review (1), The Wolf (1)
- The Best British Poetry
- In 2011 the top contributors were Poetry London (8), Iota (5), Magma (5), Rialto (5).
- In 2014 the top contributors were Poetry London (10), Poetry Review (8), Kaffeeklatsch (7), London Review of Books (6).
In the poetry world I think these are the big hitters
- PN Review
- STAND (prose too)
- Poetry Review (gets 60,000 poems/year, prints 120 - i.e. 1 in 500)
- London Magazine (prose too)
- The Rialto
- Poetry London
The following are smaller or less established than the magazines in the previous section, but in other respects just as serious. Some even pay.
- Acumen (gets 15,000 poems/year)
- Ambit (prose too. Accepts 3% of submissions)
- Bare Fiction (prose too)
- The Dark Horse
- Interpreter's House (prose too)
- Magma (gets over 2000 poems/issue)
- Manchester Review (prose too)
- the North
- New Walk (prose too)
- Oxford Poetry
- Prole (prose too)
- Shearsman (late-modernist poetry)
- Structo (prose too)
- Tears in the Fence (prose too)
- Under the Radar (prose too)
- The Wolf
The easiest way to research these is to visit the National Poetry Library on the South Bank, or see
- Abegail Morley's annotated poetry magazines list
- The poetry library's magazine list - http://www.poetrylibrary.org.uk/magazines/
- poetry magazine (full-text) archive - http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/
- My UK magazines list - http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~tpl/ukmags.html
A few of these accept online submissions. See http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/pbonline.html for a list of 700+ poetry magazines publishers worldwide who accept electronic submissions.
Many competitions offer few bragging rights and not that much money. Even success in the big ones doesn't lead to book publication The bigger ones are
A longer list of competitions is maintained by the poetry library.
Also known as chapbooks. More publishers are producing them now - see Carrie Etter's list. A few competitions offer pamphlet publication as the prize. They're one of the most promising ways to be published if the competition's respectable - no networking necessary, and you won't need to wait years for a verdict. The ones below are worthwhile, but the entry fees are about 20 quid.
- Poetry Business competition
- Templar Poetry competition
- Iota shots
- Cinnamon's pamphlet and debut collection competitions
- MsLexia's pamphlet competition
See also my article on Pamphlet Publication in the UK.
Not easy nowadays. Read "How not to get your poetry published by Helena Nelson. There's a lot more to getting a book published than just sending the manuscript away.