You’ve been reading haiku widely and you’re writing and editing your own poems. You’ve found a journal that seems to be the perfect fit for your work.
Congratulations! It’s time to prepare your first haiku submission.
It can be intimidating to submit your haiku to an editor for the first time. Here are some tips to ensure that your submission gets the attention it deserves.
In general, haiku journals tend to be less formal than general poetry journals with regard to submissions. Many haiku editors don’t want separate attachments and don’t require you to use Submittable.
Read the submission guidelines carefully. There will always be exceptions to everything in this blog post! Editors sometimes slip odd requests into their set of requirements, just to make sure that you are reading their guidelines closely. (Once, I had to type the words “Sparkle Pony” into a submission. It was not a haiku publication.)
“Previously published” differs by journal. There is no uniform definition of previously published in the haiku world. Some editors consider a poem that has appeared anywhere in print or online to be previously published; others only consider a haiku published if it has been chosen by an editor and appeared in an edited journal. Haiku that you have posted to your blog or social media accounts will not be eligible for publication in some journals.
Generally, haiku are not punctuated apart from the ellipsis or dash. Haiku usually do not employ capitalization. (You can read more on editing your haiku here.)
Journals that publish only haiku almost never require titles for poems. If you are submitting to a general poetry journal, however, you usually need to add titles. (I had an editor once tell me that not naming my poems was equivalent to not naming my children. Again, this was not a haiku journal!)
Consider the time of year. Traditional haiku employ a season word, known as a kigo. Contemporary haiku may not explicitly follow this tradition, but journal issues often tend to adhere to the time of year. If a publication is based in the United States, for example, don’t submit poems about popsicles and cicadas for a winter issue. Do keep in mind that if the publication is around the world from you, they could be experiencing a different season!
Often, haiku editors request that you type your poems directly into an email. If the submission guidelines don’t specify a font, use something basic like Arial or Times New Roman.
Unless a journal specifies otherwise, you should include a cover letter with your submission. Usually, this is the first part of your email, with the poems to follow, separated by stars or dashes. Most of my cover letters look something like this:
Dear <Editor’s name>:
Here are ten of my poems for consideration in <Name of Journal>. The first seven are unpublished and the last three appeared on <my Twitter feed, Instagram, my blog, Facebook, etc.>.
(You can add an optional second or third paragraph here. Once you’ve been published, you might include a brief note about your awards or prior publications. Always follow the journal’s guidelines for what to include.)
Thanks for your consideration of my work. (Or something similar: I hope you enjoy reading my work or Thanks for your time.)
<Your Name or Pseudonym as you’d like it to appear in print>
<Optional: If you use a pseudonym, Your Name could go next. Mark this clearly if you list both a pseudonym and your name.>
<Your Email Address>
<Optional unless requested: Your Snail Mail Address>
<Optional unless requested: Your Phone Number>
<Optional: Your Social Media Handles>
<Optional: Your Poetry Website>
<Optional unless requested: Your Bio>
haiku 2 is a monoku
Always look up the editor’s name before submitting to a journal and address that person directly in the salutation of your cover letter. For formal publications, you will find this on the masthead. For a poetry website, there is usually an “About Us” section.
Keep your cover letter short. If you want to include a second (or third) paragraph on how much you enjoy the journal or include a brief list of your prior publications, you can. However, a list of prior publications isn’t necessary for most haiku editors and some find this a turnoff. Sincerity and brevity usually wins over loquaciousness for haiku aficionados.
Make sure to include your name (or pseudonym) as you’d like it to appear in the publication. Some editors want your name to appear in the title of your email, while others want to see your name listed after every poem in the submission. Most of the time, you can simply include your name once, as part of the closing of your cover letter. Follow the publication’s writers’ guidelines closely on this issue!
If you use a pseudonym, you might need to list your real name in your cover letter. An example of this would be if the journal you are submitting to is a paying market; they can’t cut a check to your pseudonym.
Include a bio if requested. This is a short, third-person description of you. You can include whatever you want here. Some poets list awards and publications; others forgo this entirely. If you read over the New to Haiku: Advice for Beginners posts, you can see how differently haiku poets choose to describe themselves! Remember, you can tailor your bio for different journals. Be sure to keep the length of your bio within whatever word count is specified in the submission guidelines. When in doubt, err on the side of brevity.
You can send a note of thanks to an editor if they accept your work, but this is not required. When I was asking for thoughts on this topic, I was surprised at both the number of poets who regularly send thank you emails to editors as well as the number of editors who appreciate them. (I had no idea this was so common. I will definitely send more thank you letters in the future.) Some poets even thank editors when their work is rejected!
Don’t argue with the editor if they reject your haiku. (Also, I’d advise against sending poems that don’t follow the journal’s guidelines just because you think they *should* want poems like yours. I’ve tried this and it’s never gone well.) Consider what the editor has said (most won’t say anything) and submit elsewhere. If an editor takes the time to tell you what they like about your poetry when they are rejecting your work, this is a good sign. Editors only do this for poets who show promise. (Ben Gaa has an excellent story about that here.) Make a note to submit to this journal during their next open submission period.
Good luck and have fun!