The Geekier Side of Poetry: Personal Publishing Stats

Smiley with Sunglasses Shrugging

Publishing poetry is like a bill becoming a law?

Maybe. Remember that Schoolhouse Rock song about the bill who becomes a law? (If you don’t recall it, or were never exposed to it, you can watch the video at the link. It’s about a 3 minute cartoon.) It’s a torturous path, yet bills do in fact become law. Not all of them, but some. Which is pretty much how I think about poems being published. Tortuous path, yet some do get published.  Perhaps the path is somewhat clearer for the bill than for the poem. What they have in common is that most don’t achieve their desired status. Most bills don’t become laws; most poems don’t become successful in the publishing world.

With that in mind, yet without the catchy tune, I thought I’d share some of my publishing stats. It is a bit like taking the Mad Hatter’s approach to un-birthdays, celebrating my un-publishing stats.  Ironically, on the eve of National Poetry Month. *grin*

So below are a few facts and figures about my success, or lack thereof, of getting poems accepted for publication in literary journals.


Dictionary definition of "definition"
PDPics / Pixabay

What statistics would be complete without at least one definition or disclaimer?

Literary Outlet:

I include in the term ‘literary outlet’

  • online/website based publications
  • any format of e-periodical
  • physically printed periodicals whether bound, stapled, or printed as broadside or some other format
  • disseminators of poetry  in audio or audio-visual formats

Basically, if someone can read / hear my work as a result of interacting with the outlet, I think that market is fair game for inclusion. And of course it need not be exclusive to poetry.

Poem Submission:

You would think that a ‘poem submission’ is self explanatory, right? Again, maybe.  But just in case…

A submission to a literary outlet typically consists of more than one poem at a time. Yet when responses are received, some or all of those sent at one time for consideration may be accepted. Or not. Usually, or not.

So for purposes of better statistics, I consider the group of poems submitted together to be one submission packet and each poem inside that group to be one poem submission. Trust me, it makes the math cleaner. As an example, if I send a group of 5 poems off to the New Yorker, then when I get my rejection notice back for the group, that is 5 rejections.

Don’t be so negative, you say?  Ha ha ha ha ha!  Poetry publication (like most publication, I think) is an exercise in rejection management.

Here’s the Numbers:

edar / Pixabay

For a little over 600 poem submissions, my acceptance rate is 1.9%.

At any point in time, I have 80-150 poem submissions awaiting responses from literary outlets.

The typical poem submission packet is 5 poems.

Over a couple of years (since I got my tracking system lined out) I have submitted poems to 91 different outlets, of which at least 3 are no longer actively publishing.

Getting responses from outlets is either fast, slow, or somewhere in between, and you can’t assume anything, positively or negatively, based on the time it takes to get a response:

Average Days to Respond Minimum Days to Respond Maximum Days to Respond
Accepted 63 3 115
Declined 53 0 305

Why it takes 305 days to decide you don’t want to publish my poem, I will never know.  No, that outlet is no longer on my active list.

The average poem has been to 6.2 outlets. Poems accepted for publication have been accepted on anywhere from their first outlet to their eighth.

So what?

Smiley with Sunglasses Shrugging
OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

As Alice said in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass,  “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Finding a good match is not just a matter of researching outlets. Even a poem perfectly matched to a publication’s style and preferences may fall short of the mark. It can be similar to something already accepted. Or hit the readers/editors on a bad day. Or they may have too many other good choices and my poem(s) fall into the regrettably declined pile. (Well, it could be a lousy poem, too. But no one wants to dwell on that.)

So publishing is a numbers game, in part. Best poem, best outlet, best luck. For that reason, I really do appreciate those places that reject quickly if they are going to reject. There are more outlets out there.  Move on, I say.


Bluebonnets Brighten Stormy Day

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

Pictures of bluebonnets 🙂

Bluebonnets! That’s not code for poetry, nor a poem title (yet?), nor even writing-related…

I’m traveling and stopped to photograph some bluebonnets yesterday, near New Braunfels, TX.  We parked in a grocery store lot and were able to walk along a sidewalk that ran between the stores and the highway.

Right now it seems that the bluebonnets are flowering along roadways and in some broader patches, but from what I read online it seems that they aren’t really at their peak yet. But viewing flowers along a highway can be difficult if there isn’t a safe place to stop, so we felt pretty lucky to find this patch.

I was also lucky to get these shots at all. The weather wasn’t really cooperating. It seems like a bright sunny day would really make the blues pop. But it was gray all afternoon, with ominous clouds made of dark and darker grays rolling overhead.

A few moments after I took these pictures, a thunderstorm let loose. It was quite the deluge.  Have you seen road signs that say “Road May Flood”?  This was the kind of storm for which those signs were created!

But no storm pics, only flowers.

In a couple of these you can see some of the clouds, but these photos don’t do the clouds justice.

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

Here the clouds look all soft, but that’s just the camera fooling you:

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

Besides the relatively dark day, and the fact it was close to sunset, the other problem I had was the wind. The constant and sometimes gusting wind made it difficult to get a shot of the bluebonnets that wasn’t blurry. These are the better ones:

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

I have lots that look like this one, not really sharp enough:

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

This is probably the sharpest of the broader shots:

2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX

On the positive side, since the bluebonnets grew right up to the sidewalk, I was able to get a close-up.


2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX
2017, Bluebonnets, New Braunfels, TX