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Electronic Poetry Submissions: Some Do''s and Don''t''s

Thinking of submitting your poetry electronically but not sure how to go about it? Robin Travis-Murphree, executive editor of Poetic Voices, explains the right steps to take—and the pitfalls to avoid.
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Digital editors face some of the same problems as print editors, only with fresh twists unique to electronic submissions.

Because of the ease of e-mail, editors are flooded with submissions. What''s more, poets seem to believe that ready access to these once unreachable icons gives them the right to "Instant Message" or e-mail editors to find out if they''ve read their poems.

Several times while working online, I''ve received Instant Messages asking me to look at a poet''s work. Because I like to help aspiring poets, I asked them to e-mail the poems for later review since I was busy at the time. A few moments later the poets were sending another Instant Message to say the poems had been sent, had I read them yet, and what did I think of them?

Another frustration digital editors share with print editors is dealing with poets who don''t read the publication and/or disregard the importance of submission guidelines. Many editors, both digital and print, do not accept e-mail submissions. However, editors provide e-mail addresses for correspondence, inquiries, and requests. Poets take advantage of that address to submit their work electronically.

Because of the risk of viruses, software compatibility, and other concerns, many editors don''t accept e-mail submissions as attached files (poems should be "pasted" into the body of the message). Yet poets continue to send their work as attachments (and some of these attached files contain everything the poet has ever written; two years ago, one poet sent me a file containing over 500 poems).

And here''s an example of a more recent problem. I received two e-mails from poets who wanted their work read: "My poems are listed at [web address]. You may consider them for submission to your magazine," and "I have collected my poems and ideas in the following websites: [list of seven websites]. Please have a look at them and let me know if you are interested in publishing them."

What these aspiring poets (and many others) do not understand is this: Editors, whether digital or print, do not have time to go surfing for a poet''s work. We already receive mountains of submissions each month.

Poets need to follow proper submission protocol, whether sending work to print or digital publications. Read the publication to see what type of work the editors are looking for. Review the submission guidelines. Poets who send work to the wrong editor, attach files to e-mail submissions, refer to website addresses where their work is posted, or submit work incompatible with the publication tell the editor they don''t really care about that publication—or even their own work.

Poets also should remember that business on the Internet requires them to maintain their professionalism. They need to follow submission guidelines meticulously. After all, they no longer compete for an editor''s attention from a small pool of contributors, but from a global community.

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