Request - Resubmitting to a Journal that has Rejected Your Work in the Past...

Thank you for all the requests that you've sent this summer.  They've been interesting to respond to, plus it's really nice to have topics to blog about that people are interested in.

If you have any more requests, please free free to email them to me at kelli (at) agodon . com

Today's Request--

1.  What is the proper etiquette when re-submitting work to a journal that has rejected your work in the past, but has asked to see more?  My cover letter is usually two sentences:  "Enclosed please find poem 1, 2 and 3.  Thank you for considering my work."  But is it common practice to refer to the editor's request to see more work, or should I just stick to the usual cover letter?  (You can tell from this question that I am a true newbie in the poetry world).

Good questions!  I think that as writers the life on the other side of the literary journal seems like more of a dark and directionless cave than it actually is.

Before I answer it, I'm going to go back to when I was a newbie, which I hope will give you encouragement that most newbies these days are about 1000 times smarter than I was when it came to submitting.  But also so you can see that we are all newbies once we learn and do better (with both our work and our cover letters, etc.)

For a long time in my 20's, I thought there was a secret handshake to get my work published into literary journals.  I was convinced that the poetry world and literary journals were an exclusive group for insiders and I did not know the password, handshake or have my secret decoder ring to get in.

Then I got published by a national journal.  A national journal where I had no connection and did not know the editor.  Pre-MFA.  Pre-book(s).  

It occurred to me that secret code words were:  Strong work.

Imagine!  Editors were looking for well-crafted poems that were not first drafts, but get this-- revised!  

And many expected the poems to make sense or have some sort of meaning.  They did not want my crazy-mix-every-image-together-including-a-few-words-in-French-poems, but instead they were looking for Strong Work.

So this was me in my 20's trying to publish.  Completely convinced that literary journals and contests were rigged and only the in-crowd could get published.

Fast-forward to today--  Now I'm the co-editor of one of the first journals that rejected and accepted me.  All the stuff I believed about not knowing the secret handshake and believing literary journals were rigged seems idiotic now.

What I've learned is

1)  Editors have different tastes and styles, but they are all looking for the best work in their eyes.  Period.

True, some editors may take a lesser poem by a well-known poet, but many times I do not think they may even realize it's a lesser poem because they are so excite to have Poet X submit to them, it may seem wonderful at the moment.

But yes, mostly editors want the best work they can publish.

So, (she says, finally getting to your question!) if an editor wants to see more of your work, YES, do put that note in your cover letter.

And you can even write something like -- Thank you for commenting on my work and asking to see more.  I've resubmitted four poems for your consideration...

I know one poet who would staple the rejection note with the editor's comments on it just to refresh his/her memory.  (There are a few poets who will pretend that an editor asked to see more of their work when you didn't, just to get past the first readers and onto the editor's desk...)

But for me, just acknowledging the editor's note and request to see more work is enough.  But yes, do include it.  And if you read something you liked in the last issue, include that as well.   I always like to hear what part of our journal readers liked best.

Also, I know you didn't ask this, but tomorrow (before I answer your second question), I'm going to write about what I see as the difference in men and women in resubmitting.  This is something I've noticed as an editor and with my women writer friends...

Stay tuned!



  1. This is one of your best answer-posts ever, Kells. Hats off to the newbie-turned-editor. Strong work?! Who woulda thunk it??


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