You finally got an answer! Break out the champagne! There are actually three types of responses that you may get (some of which offer happier news than others):

Access granted
Access denied
Suggested revisions

Access granted

You're a poet! You're a poet! You're a poet!

  • You're first task is to double-check the acceptance letter to make absolutely clear what the terms are. It's important not to get caught in a scam where you have to pay to get your poems published. We'll make this crystal clear: you should never pay any money to get published. And if the publication doesn't pay you with either money or copies, don't shell out money just to see your name in some "lovely leather hardbound poetry collection" they're selling.

  • If a publication offers you a contract or "agreement to publish," check it carefully to make certain you agree with the terms. Pay attention to when the magazine expects to publish your poem.

  • Don't agree to sign over your copyright to a publication unless they pay you -- if you later want to include that poem in a book, you will have to write to the publication for permission and may even have to pay them a permission fee to publish your own work. However, most places that ask for copyright will grant you permission in the agreement for you to use your work in a later collection.

  • Never sign over moral rights to anyone. This means they can alter your poem, publish it under someone else's name, and in effect do anything they want, leaving you no legal recourse but tears.

  • More and more magazines now ask for the right to publish your work on the Web or in other electronic forms as well as in their paper publication. Be certain what they're asking for, and whether you want additional payment to appear in other media. Usually, you won't care, just being happy to have the additional exposure.

  • As far as payment is concerned, keep in mind that few small literary magazines pay in actual dollars. Most pay their contributors in copies of the journal. This will not be indicated on the acceptance letter, but if the publication does pay real money, most tend to pay at the time of publication rather than upon acceptance. Most literary magazines pay per page, some pay per poem, and a few pay per word or per line. Contest prizes can vary from tens to thousands of dollars but nearly all of them require entry and reading fees, which can end up draining your financial resources fairly quickly. Long story short: be in the know.

Access denied


  • If only one or two of the poems from your submission were accepted, have a mini-celebration and send the losing poems out to other journals with replacement poems.

  • If all of your poems are rejected at once, shed a tear and view the situation as an opportunity to send them out again as quickly as possible. It's a good idea to know in advance where you are going to send your poems next in the event that they do get rejected.

  • If you like, you can resubmit your poems to the same market. However, you should wait at least a couple of weeks (and preferably a couple of months), unless the editor has specifically requested that you send them more of your work. Any poems that you do resubmit should be sufficiently revised.

  • That's about all the advice we can offer you on getting the bad news. Just realize that the vast majority of poets get rejections, and you should be proud of them. Tack them on your wall. When you become famous, use them to inspire your budding poetry protgs.

Suggested revisions

Sometimes your poems will come back with some suggested revisions. Here's how to handle it:

  • Regardless of whether or not the revised version is promised consideration for publication, it's entirely up to you whether you make the revisions and resubmit the work. If revisions are suggested but the editor expresses no interest in publishing your poetry, you can revise them or not -- it's up to you. But don't send them back to that publication.

Many poets end up self-publishing their own writing. Going this route, all you have to do is find a publisher, pay them, and bam! -- you have a book of your own poetry. The catch is that it's up to you to get that book distributed and sold. If you don't, you are left with piles and piles of copies of poetry you've read a millions times over. And a much lighter wallet. Our advice is to not even give a second thought to this route, but we thought we'd tell you about it just the same.

We'll close with this haiku:

And now you know how
To publish your own poems.
Give us the credit!