TO EWAN ELLIOT
I assume what you were asking in the Fidonet Poetry Echo was how to go
about getting poetry sold to magazines, etc.. Here's the basic run
down, and I assume things are roughly similar in the New Zealand market.
First, realize that there is no money in publishing poetry. If you
want to get the poems read, then proceed, otherwise skip it. Money is made
from poetry only by using the publication of it to get other writing jobs
or teaching jobs. Writing lyrics, however, (which I know little about)
is a huge and lucrative industry. Sung poetry is alive and well.
Second, look around in your environment for any publications that publish
the kind of poetry that you like to write. For literary poetry this
starts with a trip to the local college library and looking through the
periodicals for literary magazines. Take addresses, check out writer's
guidelines. Make up your own database. For other kinds of poetry
there are always scores of markets, including some newspapers, and many
non poetry magazines that use them as filler. Look through the magazine
racks in stores, take names and addresses.
There are also some books that list markets, including the Writer's Market
poetry volume (I assume they sell them in N. Z.) and an expensive volume
called something like The International Guide to Little Magazines and Small
Presses. I have never managed to sell anything to markets I got from
those sources. The former because EVERYBODY buys those WM. books
and they deluge the listed markets with poems; the latter because it's
always out of date and full of already dead markets. They both seem
to be a waste of money here in the States. Might be different from
There are also contests. Never, under any circumstances, enter a
contest with a reading fee or which requires you to buy copies of the "anthology"
or anything like that. They are usually scams, and always a waste
Next, once you have a list of the markets you want to try to break, prepare
manuscripts. Format is simple. Typed, one side of page.
One poem per page. Name, address, email address, and phone number
in upper left corner. Number of lines in upper right corner ( "34
lines") because poetry, if it is paid for in anything other than copies,
is paid for by the line. Poems are single spaced, not double like
a prose manuscript. You can double space between stanzas or sections,
of course. Three blank lines after the title. Lay it
out basically the way you do on the Poetry echo. The one trick is
if the poem is more than one page long. If so you number the pages
at the bottom and at the bottom right of each but the last page, in parentheses
(and a different type face if possible) you put either "continues next
page; stanza break" or "continues next page; no stanza break" as appropriate.
Now you take 3-5 poems (I never have done more than 3) and mail them to
a market. You may fold them into a business envelope, and include
an SASE for their return. Or SAE with one or two IRCs if sending
to another country. (I don't know if you have some special postal
arrangement with Australia, etc..) I know you have a lot of poems,
so you could probably hit every market in your database at the same time.
Keep track of what has been where. And keep hitting the same markets.
The reason is that poetry markets often resist newcomers until they become
familiar. And just as with prose, you are teaching the editor to
hear your voice. It may take a number of tries before you break in
to a market that would be viable for you, and it isn't always the quality
of the offerings that makes the difference. (An example is Asimov's
SF Magazine. They rejected my poems the first ten times, and then
they started buying half of what I sent. No gradual build-up, just
nothing to 50%.)
That's basically it, until you sell something, and then you mention that
sale in every cover letter you send after that. (No real reason for
a cover letter at all until you have a sale, unless you'd feel more comfortable
saying something like "here are x poems for your consideration".)
I know it's discouraging, but you haven't even tested the waters until
you have racked up a couple of hundred rejections. If you haven't
sold by then, well, maybe you haven't got it. But you could easily
be good and get quite a number of rejections before a sale.
As I may have pointed out a couple of times in the Poetry echo, the realm
of genre poetry is a much easier nut to crack than mainstream poetry.
SF, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery magazines often publish poems and the competition
is far less fierce. There are quite a number of online markets for
poetry of this type, and all types, as well.
Any questions, just
And good luck.