Poems, Presentation and PCs - Part 3 of a 9 Part series
by David S Taub
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Poems, Presentation and PCs
(Part 3 of 9)
For those who have submitted their poetry or writing for consideration of publication, and then been rejected, how many have cursed the editor?!
Maybe, just maybe, by trying to understand things from an editor's perspective, the following may actually help you be more successful with your next submission.
I can not emphasise enough that simply 'believing' your poem is the 'best thing since sliced-bread', and then hurriedly sending it off to a publisher, will not ensure acceptance and publication!
So here is the REAL SECRET - Even if your poem may be a masterpiece, that it may have received favourable critiques, that you toiled, rewrote and 'polished' ( I hate that jargon 'polish'.. I can get a cloth and polish furniture, silverware and even the windows... but a piece of writing?) - simply sending it out to the first address you can find, could well be a big mistake.
Let me tell you a short story about a salesman. This guy was a new salesman for a magazine publishing company. The magazine was of wonderful quality, featuring articles by top quality professional writers. It stood head and shoulders above its only other competitor on the market. Furthermore the salesman had an excellent track record for selling, although he had previously worked selling products for a music CD company.
In sheer frustration, he decided to personally visit the store manager that he had previously written to, sending free sample copies of the magazine. In fact he had written three times, and even faxed a letter, telling them all about the magazine, the publisher, and how many sales the store could expect. The salesman was particularly keen to do business with this store, because he knew they did a great deal of business through a mail-order catalogue.
On arriving at the store, he asked to speak to the manager, a Mr. Jones. The assistant explained that Mr. Jones was not the manager but the guy who unloaded all the new book deliveries. The salesman was then taken through to the office of the manager, Mr. James. Mr. James was a pleasant and helpful guy and gave the salesman a seat. Straight away the salesman launched into all the reasons Mr. James should stock the magazine, apologising for having previously sent the information to Mr. Jones in error. Mr. James finally managed to interrupt the salesman asking him if he looked at their store catalogue. The salesman replied that he saw no reason to check their catalogue, because he had heard how successful their sales were through the catalogue.
Mr. James politely handed the salesman a copy of their catalogue suggesting he looked at the first page. It read: " James Bookstore is a specialist supplier of hard copy first editions of all books relating to science and technology". They did not sell magazines, and certainly had no intention of diversifying into the topic of 'Gardening and plants from around the world."
Before you ridicule the salesman, I have to ask a few questions of all those who have submitted poems for the consideration of publication.
1) Did you acquire one or more issues of the publication you submitted to?
2) When writing to the editor, did you take the trouble of finding out who you were writing to? Dear Ed' is so impersonal, and there may be several editors in the organisation.
3) Did you check to see if what they published was in keeping with your style and topic? Trust me when I suggest that a *Devoted Christian* publication is not likely to print your erotic encounter with a belly dancer!
4) Did you check what the submission guidelines were? - Length of poem, how to 'present it (I'll come to that in a minute), number of poems, hard copy / disc / email, if a submission fee is required... In other words, put yourself in the shoes (or seat) of the editor. Some editors state in their publication exactly how and what they want to receive. If they don't, then try and find out! Quite often it is very straight forward, and they are not too strict. Often the answers are apparent in what appears in their previous issues.
For those of you who did their research in advance, you would have obviously overcome these hurdles. The next stumbling block may simply boil down to 'presentation'. Even if the guidelines are very liberal and flexible, there are some very basic things you should consider. You want to make it is as easy and clear for the editor to physically read your poem. Am I stating the obvious? Not according to several editors who told me that they have rejected poems because:
1) They won't accept 'hand-written work'. (I can understand that. Mine looks like Egyptian
2) The spilt coffee, tomato sauce, grease, stains had made it unreadable ( I swear this is true !)
3) The font / type-face was so small they, could not read it without a magnifying glass.
4) The *fancy* font / typeface was too distracting to read it comfortably.
5) The bright purple print on bright yellow paper made them feel nauseous (again, true story!)
6) The badly crinkled paper bag it had been written on...
All the above are genuine!
Just to finally end this practical session for you, I wanted to suggest something that is well worth investing a bit of time in. In the long run I PROMISE you it will save you time. By the mere fact that you are reading this suggests it is highly likely you own or have access to a PC (or MAC), complete with hard drive, modem and ideally a printer. Whether it is Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 2000, or whatever, you will have at least 1 'word-processor' software package on your PC. I know for a fact that even Win3.1 comes with 2 Word-processors.. Oh yes it does! Notepad and Write. Notepad is the package that saves files in what are called text (.txt) files, and Write saves in 'Write' (.wri) files. If you have a better word-processor (I use MSWord) then it is worth spending the time learning the basics about them. Incidentally, your email is also a word processor!
If nothing else you should know how to: 'Cut, copy and paste'. Three functions that come with every word-processor that I am aware of. And, did you know you can copy from one word-processor to another?
When you receive an email from someone, you can copy and paste it into any word-processor and save it separately from email. In the same way, whatever word-processor you type your poem in, you can cut and paste it straight into an email. If you are sitting there thinking, "Duh surely everyone knows that?!" I have found that is not the case at all. I do know one thing though, the time it takes you to re-type out a poem of, say, 30 lines, I could have cut and pasted several into emails, and done a 'multiple submission' i.e. to several publishers at once.
If you really want to start saving yourself a lot of time, frustration and heart-break, it pays dividends to become familiar with 'File manager' (win 3.xs), Explorer (win 95 onwards) or the equivalent on MAC. The simple task of knowing where you saved your poems on the hard drive, and organising ' folders / directories' to save your files in, is something you will thank me for, if you go away and learn! The fact is that more and more publishers are prepared to accept poems and writing by email and 'attached files' to emails.
Being able to understand what the publisher means when they say they want your submission in text, write, doc, or whatever 'file format' can save a lot of time, trouble and confusion! And if they don't stipulate which one, then you can ask them!
So to close this bit on "PC tips for poems"... the famous / infamous advice is :
BACK UP YOUR POEM/STORY FILES ON A FLOPPY DISK or ZIP DRIVE.
Just think... with all this time saved, you can put it to good use, such as writing and submitting!
Copyright David Taub (UKpoet.aol.com), 1999
First written for Internet poetry magazine: Issue 3, 1999
Due to appear as a series in "Florida Palm" (Florida Writers' Association – membership magazine), 2002
David Taub is a member of
The British organisation 'National Union of Journalists' (NUJ);
The Florida Writers' Association;
Columnist for the UK magazine 'Poetry Now';
Freelance writer for various UK and USA magazines;
Co-author of Language of Souls (listed on amazon.com)
Part 3 of a 9 part series
David Taub's official website