Editors do a lot of things – we read, we respond, we choose things to publish. We even do actual editing – you know, get into someone else’s words and try to make them better with clarification, brevity, grammar, imagery, and all that. But the very first thing on that list, you may have noticed, was to read.
As in read your submissions.
In fact, an alternative title to this post might be a day in the life of a poetry submission.
So, let’s talk about that. What really happens here at Gyroscope Review when a poetry submission graces our submissions pile?
First of all, our system sends an automatic response to the poet so they can see that the submission was successful in getting to us. They can also, if they pay attention, see whether that submission was properly formatted with the correct title. That is because our submission response email is formatted to automatically include the title of the piece as it is entered in the submissions form. If someone sends us a piece with a lovely title like Spring Fog Has Feet Like a Mountain Lion, but they put Gyroscope Review Submission #1 in the title spot on the form, then they will receive an acknowledgement that says we’ve received Gyroscope Review Submission #1 for publication consideration. And we will probably change that title field at some point during our process so that we know which poem we are referring to among ourselves.
Lesson: put your poem’s actual title in the appropriate spot on the submissions form.
Second, we (the editors) all receive an email from Submittable when a submission hits our system. In that email, we see the cover letter the author included. Let’s talk about cover letters for just a moment. Here at Gyroscope Review, we don’t want to know your entire publication history in that cover letter. We don’t want to read through your entire curriculum vitae. All we want to know are two things: how you found us and why you think this particular submission might fit our journal. Stop there. Unless you have a great joke to share. We like good jokes.
Third, we read the piece. There are three of us on the editorial staff and all three of us will read your work. Three is a nice number. There are no tie votes. Sometimes, one of us will vote “maybe” because we are human and we might need to come back to a piece on a day when we are in a better mood. Or aren’t distracted. Or don’t have a headache. “Maybe” means we are aware it’s there, we’ve looked at it, and we have to give it a fair shake later.
Sometimes we find a piece that makes us say, hold on, what is this? That happens when we find something that is several pages long, something that looks like an essay, an excerpt from a book, is an image rather than words, a piece written in a language other than English. These kinds of things don’t belong in our submissions pile. If you have something that is a hybrid and you don’t know if it counts as poetry, contact us via the contact form on our website. We can talk. But, before you do that, read our guidelines. And read them again. Follow them religiously.
Once we make a decision on any given poem, we notify the author of that piece immediately. We don’t wait until the end of our reading period to make decisions. We try to maintain a constant movement of pieces that come in to us so that authors don’t have to wait. This is especially important if the work isn’t a good fit for us; we want poets to be able to get that work out somewhere else where it is a good fit or be able to rework the piece to make it stronger without delay.
As for the pieces we accept, we work hard to make sure the author knows what our terms are with a contract embedded in the acceptance email. We do not publish work without the author acknowledging that contract. We can’t emphasize this point enough. If someone submits work to us and we accept it, we must receive acknowledgment from the author on that acceptance or we will withdraw our offer to publish it.
Everyone who submits to us should check their email on a regular basis. Email is our official means of communication. We will not hunt you down. If we get no response from you regarding an acceptance, we will not use your work and we will withdraw it from our consideration.
By the way, to get all those acceptances chosen is no small thing. We usually have more things we like than room in the upcoming issue, so that means we have to have a group discussion about which remaining pieces are going to make it into the issue at the end of the reading period. We each rank the “yeses” still hoping for a home with us, then see if we’ve agreed on anything that way. There are usually one or two that all three of us have included in our top five. Those get in. Then we talk about the merits of the rest again, make a final team decision, and go with it. This is also the point at which we sometimes ask poets to send us a piece again during another reading period. This happens with pieces we loved that were more specific to another season than the one for the upcoming issue as well as with pieces that we just plain loved but had no more room for.
Once we have all our acceptances done for the upcoming issue, submissions close and we get to work putting the issue together. This is a massive undertaking when we put the poems in the order in which they will appear in our journal, design the cover, write the opening editorial, and format every single poem to fit our publication’s print style. This is also when we tear our hair out if a poem is formatted in an unusual way. Poetry has a lot of leeway for how it can look, but sometimes we have pieces with colored fonts (don’t!) or bold on the entire poem (don’t!) or a nonstandard font (marker felt, papyrus, etc. – don’t!) and weird margins for no good reason. Let your words do their job and leave the font choice and margins to us. Yes, there are exceptions. They are rare. Very rare.
Once we have the issue put together, we send a PDF proof copy to contributors. This happens about one-two weeks before the issue is due to come out. Why do we do this? Because human beings make mistakes. We might be pretty decent editors, but sometimes a letter gets left out of someone’s name, a poem loses its formatting somewhere in the movement from poet to submissions system to print issue, or a bio has an incorrect reference. That proof is the time to catch those little mistakes before they are send out into the world. The response time is very tight for that proof copy due to our publication schedule. If a contributor misses that window, they are out of luck.
After all that, we upload the final version of the issue to our publishing platform. Once we have it formatted there, it goes under another review. The people doing that review are not us; they are people connected with KDP, the publishing arm of Amazon. They make sure that the issue is going to look right in its print version, and help us make that print version available all over the world. It takes a few days for this process to be complete and we always have to make sure we’ve left enough time to correct any issues that crop up at this point. While the issue is going through its review, we get the PDF version uploaded to our website for those who depend on the free version’s availability. Once we get the okay from KDP, we tell the world about the new issue of Gyroscope Review via our website, our social media, and our contributors. And we wipe our brows, have a beer, and get ready for the next reading period. And we keep our fingers crossed that enough of those print editions sell to pay for our website and our submissions system.
Over the past year, we’ve had quite an uptick in the number of submissions sent to us. That means it might take longer than it used to for us to get responses out to submitters – but never more than three months due to the structure of our publication schedule. It means sometimes submissions get closed unexpectedly because we have more than our submissions system can handle. It means that we’ve had to decline really good work because there is no room left in the upcoming issue. All of these things are okay problems to have because it means people know we’re here. It means we’ve produced decent issues that make people want to be a part of what we’re doing here. But it does create challenges that we do our best to resolve with the resources we have.
One of the things we are considering is a change to the way we take submissions. We have, from the beginning, asked for people to submit each poem as an individual submission for ease in voting on each of those submissions. For this next reading period, that process will stand, but we are exploring alternatives in order to keep the ever-expanding number of submissions we get flowing smoothly. We will keep you all informed when we do make a change.
We hope you continue to send us work, read our journal, share us with your friends. The whole point of Gyroscope Review is to share fine contemporary poetry that turns your world – and ours – around. It’s been a fine four years since we’ve released our first issue. The poetry community is just the best. Thank you. All of you.
It’s true – our fall issue reading period was scheduled to run until September 15 OR until we had enough good work to fill the issue. Guess what? We got tons of good work and were able to fill our issue more quickly than we imagined. Breathing room for all is the happy result as we move into our production phase. We appreciate all the poets who submitted work to us and are stunned by the overwhelming response to our special crone-themed category that asked for work celebrating aspects of being older, wiser, braver, and the many other wonderful things about crones from women poets over 50. We were very interested in pieces that did not conform to stereotypes.
And that leads us to a few things we’d like to share about the pieces that were rejected this reading period.
We noticed that there were several submissions in our special category that focused only on the poet being an over-50 female. Being part of a demographic is not the same as writing to a theme. If a piece came into that special category without being connected to the theme, it got rejected even if the poet was in the demographic we sought. There were some good pieces in that group, pieces that we might have considered as general submissions for another issue if they had come to us that way. It saddened us that this was the case so often and we thought it would be good to point that out here. Poets, be very careful when you are asked to write to a theme that also asks for work from a specific demographic. You have to hit both marks to make it work.
And, among those that didn’t really stick to the theme, we noticed a lot of work about loss, abuse, failure, fear. We get a lot of poetry about loss in general, and we have gotten very picky about that. Writing about loss needs to have a bit of hope woven into it, or a bit of internal change that happens as a result of loss – something that the reader can grab onto. Pieces that wallow in loss become difficult for anyone to read all the way to the end. If you are a poet who writes about loss, ask yourself what you hope the piece will eventually do for you and for your readers. Leave some breathing room, some glimmer of light that provides a way out.
Another thing we noticed was that there were many pieces that did, indeed, celebrate aspects of aging but they missed the mark as far as steering clear of stereotypes. Aging is a complicated process, different for everyone even as women over 50 share many aspects. When it came to celebrating memories, several pieces focused on the late Sixties, a time period that has been done almost to death. We kept asking ourselves, as we read the work, what might be celebrated here that is unique? Or that is universal, but the narrator’s take on it is a little different? What is being presented as joyful but is a cliché? What memories connect to this moment in a positive, joyful, meaningful way? Do grandmothers, for example, have to be defined in relation to their grandkids, or can they take the idea of grandmother and breathe new life into it? What is funny about this whole aging thing? What is dignified about it? What has emboldened women of a mature age? What older woman believes it when someone tells her she has become irrelevant? You get the idea.
Finally, we noticed that we received submissions in both categories that were out of season. We pay a lot of attention to the seasonal feel of the pieces we accept and, if a piece sent to us for the fall issue feels like summer or spring, we must – and do – reject it. We’ve consistently published work that fits the season in which the issue appears and don’t plan on changing that about our journal.
There are other reasons, of course, for rejecting some of the poems that come to us, and most of those have to do with the work not fitting the aesthetics of Gyroscope Review. We want you to know that we read everything. We considered everything. We looked for gems. Each poem that comes to us is handled with care and respect.
We hope that this post helps future poets figure out whether their work fits here, and encourages more attention to the details in our guidelines, seasonality, special themes, and work that has previously appeared in our pages. Part of our job as editors is encouragement and education around submissions from poets everywhere. We hope we’ve done well by you.
Our next reading period opens on October 1, 2018. We are looking for pieces for our Winter 2019 issue, so if you write poems with a seasonal bent, think of winter after the holiday season. Remind yourself what we are looking for by reading our guidelines HERE.
We are now at the end of our first year of offering a print edition of Gyroscope Review and we thought, hey, let’s look at those numbers hanging out in our Submittable account. Just how many submissions did we get in 2017?
The answer: 1,854 submissions from 559 poets arrived on our virtual doorstep during the 2017 calendar year. No wonder our eyeballs need a holiday break. If we look at the percentage of what we accepted, an important bit of information for those of you considering where to send your work, our acceptance rate hovers slightly over 10%.
What about what we published during 2017? Those of you who ordered a copy of Wrap This Up: The 2017 Issues may already know the answer. We published 196 poems from 116 poets, 61 of whom were women. Poets published in our pages came mostly from the United States, but also represented Australia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sweden, Turkey, and the UK. One more fun little fact: our youngest published poet, as far as we know, was an 18-year-old high school senior. We have no idea who our oldest poet was; we thought it might be a tad rude to ask. We don’t collect personal statistics when poets send us work, so these results are gleaned from bios and mailing addresses in our submissions system.
What’s on tap for 2018? We are still working that out. Here’s what we do know: we will continue to offer the best possible work in digital and print formats. We will add a new staff member in January. We will encourage the sharing of poetry far and wide as a reflection of and refuge from this world of ours. And we will keep the dialogue going with everyone who works with us to keep our poetry community strong and welcoming.
Our next issue will be available January 15, 2018. Submissions for the Spring 2018 issue will also open the same day. As always, please review our guidelines before submitting.
Happy New Year from Gyroscope Review.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
With one month to go in our current reading period, we’ve received 229 submissions. Of those submissions, we’ve already declined or withdrawn 148. There are 63 pieces in process right this minute, and that will change by the time this post goes live.
Every reading period, we see some of the same trends, not all of them good trends. Since we want you to succeed as poets, want to get submissions that both make us honored to do this work and make you honored to be part of it, we thought it was time to talk about what makes us love our poets.
Submitting work is not always the fun part of being a writer. Okay, maybe it’s never the fun part unless the work is accepted. Acceptances are fun. Acceptances are what we all strive for.
When editors have the opportunity to say yes to a piece, they sometimes do a little dance.
When editors have to say no, for any reason, it makes them a little sad. Much of their sadness, and yours, dear submitters, could be prevented with simple attention to guidelines, details, and a respectful tone.
Let’s start with those guidelines. You’ve read it and heard it over and over: read the guidelines before submitting. It usually goes with the advice to read the publication to which you are submitting. This is really important. If you’ve read Gyroscope Review at all, you will notice that we publish contemporary poetry. We don’t publish work that sounds like it was around in Shelley’s time or harkens back to Beowulf. We seldom publish pieces that rhyme. We’re picky about pieces that have racist or sexist undertones, don’t care for gratuitous sex, aren’t fond of political rants even though those are tempting at this point in history. So, tone and form are something to study.
Our guidelines also point out some housekeeping items. Every reading period, we have someone who sends us a piece that we like, that we accept, and then we get an email that says, oops, someone else already accepted that piece. We take simultaneous submissions, but we want you to do your part. And what is your part? Tell us immediately if a piece you’ve sent us gets accepted elsewhere. We spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and Google-checking work. If we’ve done all that and made a decision only to learn you forgot to tell us that this piece is no longer available, that’s not respecting our time. Respect needs to go both ways.
While we are on the subject of knowing and sharing the status of your own poems, don’t resubmit something we’ve already rejected. Chances are pretty good we’ll remember the piece and wonder what you were thinking.
Another housekeeping item in our guidelines that someone ignores every reading period is when a submission contains more than one poem in a single document. We have our system set up for one poem in document = one submission. Why? Because when we vote on each poem, we need to be able to filter between accepted and declined. If everything is in one document, we can’t do that on a poem-by-poem basis. Therefore, multiple poems in one document means they will automatically be declined. And don’t think that you can submit one big document four times to make up for there being four poems in that document. One poem in one document = one submission. No exceptions.
Now, can we talk about appearance? We know you play with fonts sometimes. They can make writing something fun, shake things up a little but. We do it ourselves – on our own computers for our own amusement. When submitting, stick to a standard Times 12 pt font in basic black. A piece submitted in purple Comic Sans is distracting and takes us out of the piece. We sit there and wonder, why purple? Why Comic Sans? Just don’t.
And now a little bit about respecting our decisions for our own journal. Let’s say you send us a piece and we have to say no. Maybe our rejection has come to you on a bad day and you rapid-fire write a response telling us we don’t know good poetry from a hole in the ground. And then you hit “send.” When we open that email, are we likely to take pity on you and your submission? Nope. Are we likely to think, oh, that poet must be having a bad day and give you a pass on your rudeness? Nope. Are we likely to remember who you are? Oh yes. Yes indeed. And when we see your name in the slush pile in a future reading period we may not read your work with as much enthusiasm as someone else’s.
Now, if you had sent us a different email that asked us if we could give you more feedback on why your poem did not make the cut, would we be likely to answer? Yes, we would. There are hordes of reasons why pieces get rejected on any given day. Maybe we already have lots of pieces in the same vein. Maybe your piece, though wonderful, is better-suited to a different season. Maybe you’ve submitted four pieces, and we’ve already accepted three. Perhaps the subject matter just doesn’t fit with our vision for Gyroscope Review. And maybe the piece honestly could benefit from revision.
If you have a piece that gets rejected and you are going to revise it, give it enough time. A revision done within hours of a rejection is too fast. You know how a good stew slow cooks for hours so all the flavors can blend? Good poetry is like that: it needs simmering time for all the nuances and metaphors to come together into a delicious stew of lines that makes the reader want more. It cannot be rushed. If you try to shortcut revision, you will end up with an inferior piece lacking in essence.
And what about sending us something else if we decline your work? You are welcome to do that, but please take a moment or three to think about why we said no to your poems. Think about whether the next batch of work you want to send us looks just like what we’ve already rejected. Think about whether we are a good fit for you.
We should tell you that we have accepted a piece or two – or, well, 18, if you want exact numbers. We expect to at least triple that by the time we go to press; we expect just as many submissions during the last month as we’ve had up to now. So, you still have a shot if you like Gyroscope Review. Get writing. We’re waiting.
Still not sure? Ask us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will answer.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.