Why do you want to publish your work?
The age old question. Beyond the obvious answer, “I want to be famous and live forever,” I think that publishing is sharing, and I write to share my experiences, my creativity and most importantly, my heart. Growing up with my grandparents close, the stories they told shaped my life and my outlook. They gave me a sense of home and duty, and most importantly love. I have been a storyteller all my life. I tell stories about my family, my children, my brothers, my friends and our crazy adventures. I tell stories about heartache, great loss, as well as great love. I tell stories to make a point or teach a lesson. I want to publish my work to share all of this, and not so that I live forever, but the love that is shared with me lives forever.
What have you done that has helped you meet your publishing goals?
It has only been about a year since I started my publishing journey in earnest. It is a long and slow journey, to be sure. The first thing I did was to ask someone how they do it. In this case, it was Pauletta and the others in her manuscript class. As suggested by Pauletta, I started by identifying several poets whose work I enjoyed and researching who published their books. The research included reading what they published. This was much more useful than trying to figure out what the publisher meant in the description of work they were looking for. From there, whether submitting individual poems or collections, I have tried to select works that is similar to what they published.
Understanding that the journey is long and slow and that there are a plethora of journals and publishers, I began setting aside time each weekend to research and submit to a few publishers. I do this regularly and try to select new journals as well as submitting to those that have accepted my work in the past. I find it is a little bit of a numbers game.
What is most frustrating?
At first, rejection was the most frustrating. In the manuscript class, I had prepared a chapbook and began submitting it without success. However, several of the poems were accepted for publication in various journals. That was the start. I am less and less frustrated by rejection the farther along the journey I go.
The second most frustrating aspect is the wait time. It can take up to 6 months for some journals to respond. This is usually the more prestigious journals, which means, if you submit work simultaneously, it may be picked up by a less prestigious journal first, and then you miss out if it is selected by the more prestigious journal later. This happened. I had to withdraw from a contest where I had been selected as a semi-finalist. Ah well – Next year.
What advice do you have to someone just starting out?
If you are just getting started, keep at it. Make a habit of researching and submitting work just like you make a habit of writing. Publishing is a business for the publishers, and if you are serious about getting your work out there, you should make it something of a business, at least by being persistent in your approach.
Don’t let the “no thanks”, “we’re sorry to inform you”, and the “we hope you find a home for this work” emails get you down. Look at what the journal does publish and resubmit something else. Keep submitting your favorites until you find a publisher who loves them as much as you.
You never know what a publisher will like. I’ve often been surprised by which poems have accepted for publication.