Tag Archives: submission process

Writing: Poetry Markets in Canada

I’ve been asked by people where to send poems and what markets there are in Canada. Like the US and probably other countries, there are usually numerous literary magazines, either sponsored by universities and colleges or privately run.

Literary magazines can run the gamut but usually put out a perfect bound (a glue square-edge binding) trade size book, with fewer in a magazine format. The reason for the size is often the break for mailing rates, as well as what is visually pleasing. Of course there are many online magazines or those that do paper and digital at the same time. In Canada, the literary magazines could be funded by the university, provincial or federal arts grants (though these have been cut back to the demise of various arts organizations), advertising or by running contests. The latter has become a popular choice in the last ten years or more, where the magazine will hold a yearly writing contest and the entry fee can be anything from $5-$30 depending on the contest.

The bad thing with this is you only have one chance to win, or three if they have first, second and third places. The good thing is that the magazine continues to run and can pay their authors for their work. Literary magazines will vary in pay for poetry. Many may have a set rate, $50/poem, $10/poem plus a year subscription, while others will have a per page rate such as $25/page.

Other magazines are called genre magazines though I argue that they too are literary even if the focus is on fantasy or science fiction. Some of these are well-established and pay as well as the literary magazines, which on average will pay anywhere from $25-$100 a poem. A hundred bucks is a good price for a poem, unless you’re Margaret Atwood. Then you probably get more because your name will help sell more issues.

The genre and small press magazines are more likely to pay for poems by line or even by word though a fair number also have a set price that they pay . When you get to the small small press, mom and pop magazines run out of the basement of someone’s house it can be a smaller amount paid for a poem. Some of these magazines might only pay in copies and I would never submit anything without at least getting contributor copies. After all, how would you even know they printed your piece unless you had a copy and every writer should be paid. I personally don’t submit unless pay is offered for a poem and I don’t really send my poems anymore to places that offer $2 or $5 but I might. And I do send to some reputable magazines that pay $10/poem.

My reasons might vary with the seasons as to where I send. Some magazines are small and chapbook size  (8.5X11 pages folded in half and stapled usually twice) as this is a simple method for people who do not have the budgets for larger sizes and is a popular small press format. My own chapbook of speculative verse, put out by Kelp Queen Press was of this format.

It used to be that magazines, especially the literary magazines only accepted submissions through the mail. With the advent of computers in everyone’s home, more people started writing poetry and with email they would send off every little drib and drab set down. Magazines find the quality of the submissions is lower when they come through email, and therefore to discourage every would-be writer, they stuck to the snail mail method where people seem to take more time on their piece before they send. This is changing and many magazines are using the online submission format. You register and log in, uploading your file and adding some notes. You get an email receipt and can track where your submission is in the process and the magazine can track when items were received.

Most magazines ask for 3-5 poems at a time. It’s best to follow those rules and follow their guidelines (many of the college run magazines close for the summer when students are away). As to where to send your work; well it should suit the market you’re aiming for. Whereas genre markets require a particular genre and literary markets require the literary genre, when it comes to poetry there is more leeway. Poetry has often encompassed the mythical and surreal, using metaphor and simile liberally so a poem with angels or even a minotaur will have more chance of being accepted in a literary magazine than a story would. Most magazines have an online presence and may have a sample of the writers they publish. It’s always wise to read through these and get a feel for what they prefer or buy a copy if you can afford it.

OnSpec, Chizine and Neo-Opsis are three English language speculative magazines that accept poetry (I’m afraid I’m not up on the French-Canadian markets). Descant, a literary magazine out of Toronto, is open to some speculative elements. In no particular order, some of the literary magazines in Canada are Malahat Review, The Front, Broken Pencil, Capilano Review, Prism, Prairie Fire, Antigonish Review, Arc, Event, Fiddlehead, Grain. There are just as many if not more in the US and the best place to check for poetry markets is www.duotrope.com. For speculative specific markets www.ralan.com is the place to go.

The biggest part, as I’ve said before, in getting poetry accepted is perseverance; that’s both in writing and rewriting and in submitting. But there are many, many markets (even with the economy slump) and places for sending poetry.

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Writing: Taking it Personally

This could just be called Writing and Ego for any time a writer submits a piece of work to an editor, ego does get involved. We write because of ego, because we think we have something to say, because we think we’re good enough, because we want to be rich or famous. But to write means also to be able to disengage the ego some.

The other night I was talking with someone who has a friend trying to be a writer. Great. Everyone should try to pursue their dreams. But writing, for 99% of us, takes work. A lot of work. It takes honing your craft. It takes knowledge. It takes a certain skill and perception that is ephemeral, that could be called ideas but is also your unique way of stringing them together. It takes perseverance. And yes, it takes luck.

The first part, learning your craft, is where everyone must start and stay to a degree. It is always a judgment call as to when you think your piece is ready. Once it’s been written, reworked, critiqued, rewritten and edited, it is then ready to send out, maybe. But sometimes you must take a leap of faith and submit the story or poem. Every writer can benefit from workshops, classes and writers’ groups. If I could afford to do it more, I’d take more workshops. Until I’m selling my pieces 100% of the time I still have something I can learn. To think otherwise would again be ego. A workshop might just be a new way to work or come up with ideas or just the camaraderie of other writers, because, as any writer knows, writing is a fairly solitary process.

Selling your writing takes the knowledge not just of how to write, but of the submission process. Sometimes people have an idea, their cherished baby, and they write it and then send it out. If you haven’t learned much about writing or even had your story read by knowledgeable people (editors, not friends unless those friends are writers/editors) then you jeopardize your chances at publication. Such basics as grammar can stop an editor from reading an otherwise great story. Editors read so much every day that they have no patience for people who cannot follow basic grammar, spelling and guidelines.

No one can teach a person ideas, but there are workshops that look at how to take those rough ideas and chisel them into the best and most clear idea, compelling, interesting and filled with tension. But the beginning idea must be interesting in and of itself and unique, not done before. There are many stories, even within a genre, that follow certain motifs. Each one that is published must present something new.

Next, and how we get back to the person trying to be a writer, is perseverance. He had sent his work out to a publisher or two and when it was rejected, he took it personally. They (those faceless editors) hate him. Really, the editor or publisher doesn’t know most beginning writers from Adam. The writers too, are faceless. There is rarely anything personal unless you take to insulting the editor in your cover letters.

It may not even be that your story sucks. Here are just a few reasons that an editor/publisher may not have accepted your story/novel, which has nothing particular to do with your work:

  • doesn’t fit their theme
  • they’ve just spent two years publishing books on this topic and the market is glutted
  • budget cuts
  • there are limited slots and even some of the good stories must go
  • you wrote on a topic that the editor personally hates
  • the slushpile has grown so big that there is some wholesale rejecting to get them caught up (not as frequent but it can happen)
  • they’re changing their focus
  • they’re folding (I’ve sold too many pieces to magazines/anthologies, which were then never published because they closed down–I call it the kiss of death)
  • the structure of the magazine/anthology has changed (I sold one story to an anthology which then went to a different publisher and then was halved–although I received a kill-fee the story was never published.)
  • the editor has changed

Those are a few reasons that has nothing whatsoever to do with the writer. Grammar, typos, conflict, tension, characterization, plot, theme, structure and flow have to do with the written piece. Editors also reject on those reasons, if the other reasons haven’t come into play first. Again, this is rarely personal. They don’t know you. They base their thoughts on the manuscript before them.

This is why perseverance is the mainstay for most writers. It is a very tiny percentage of us who can send out our work and sell it on the first go. My ego had to accept that I wasn’t the greatest writer since sliced bread. Otherwise I would sell everything or mostly everything. I’m still a small pea in a big pod. Even the best writers, the award winners, don’t sell some pieces. You and me and most other writers have to keep writing and submitting. If I’d quit after my first year, I would have only sold a couple of poems. I keep going, getting better the more I write (and read), the more workshops I take, the more I discuss my ongoing projects before submitting.

If you want to be a writer, you’ll need to disengage your ego enough to get through the rejections. At one time I could paper my bathroom in acceptances and my house in rejections. Now I might be able to paper a house in acceptances…and several houses in rejections. So it goes. If you take it personally, if you want to be an overnight sensation, if you get overly depressed or angry at a rejection, then you better not be a writer.

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