Editorial – Our Processes

We believe in transparency, and see no value in being gnomic.

We deal with all submissions in monthly batches. The actual monthly cut-off date is a little variable , but is never earlier than the 28th of the month. We usually receive between 200 and 300 poems per month.

The Chief Editor screens the submissions to produce a long-list of between 60 and 100 poems per month. These poems are in the right ballpark in terms of style and quality. That long-list is given to the co-editors for blind reading.

All three editors independently choose a shorter list of poems that we would each want to publish. All the poems favoured by at least one editor form a shortlist, from which we make the final selection. Typically, the shortlist is around 25 to 35 poems, and on average we accept about 15 poems per month for publication (that is about 6% of the poems received).

For example: the October window has just closed (this month on 28th). We are currently making our selections and responses will be sent out on or before 10th November. The accepted poems will be published in December.

 

The upsides to this process are:

  • The selection process is largely anonymous.
  • Maximum response time for submissions is about five weeks (and often less).
  • Maximum delay between acceptance and publication is about two months (but 3 to 6 weeks is more usual). Our system does not ‘front-load’ the publishing schedule far in advance, as we trust that each month we will get a new batch of quality submissions for the next month’s schedule. And we do.

We have a rule that no poet gets more than one poem published in a given month. Where we want to accept multiple poems from a single submission, they are staggered across successive months. This forms an exception to the usual delay between acceptance and publication.

The long-listing is not done anonymously, as it cannot be. But the Chief Editor is a hard-nosed bastard and has a magical hat of objectivity welded to his head. He has other hats, when he can be arsed to give the appearance of being friendly and sociable, but those are discarded while the long-list is being prepared. The ability to wear different hats and juggle them effortlessly is perhaps the most crucial and overlooked skill an Editor needs. It is not enough, or even necessary, to be a good poet. Different job.

We necessarily say ‘no’ to very good poems, because there is a space limitation and we always trust that next month there will be more good poems (that we may also have to say no to), and want to keep the time lag between acceptance and publication to a minimum.

We still receive submissions that ignore the guidelines here We do not read poems sent as attachments. When we get sent these, we just send an email saying the submission has not been successful and then delete it. We cannot be arsed explaining to people that we actually never read their poems, because if they don’t care about reading our guidelines, no time will be expended on them.

This Editor, unusually, does not care how your submission is addressed (‘Dear Twonkface‘ is fine) or what you say in the opening blurb of your email. I only read the poems anyway. So in many ways, the fewer other words there are the better.

Sometimes I am approached at poetry events by people asking:

How would I submit work to Algebra of Owls?

Such questions make me question whether I should attend poetry events, and I am always tempted to reply READ THE FUCKING SUBMISSION GUIDELINES ON THE WEBSITE, DOOFUS. YOU KNOW, THE WEBSITE? OF AN ELECTRONIC MAGAZINE? MAYBE YOU COULD GOOGLE IT? HAVE YOU HEARD OF GOOGLE?

However, at such events I am usually wearing my magical hat of long-suffering, and can muster a little politeness.

Of course, they know the answer already. They were really saying:

I was going to submit some poems, but wanted to ask you a stupid question first. To give you the opportunity to accept my poems before you have even read them. Saving me the soul-crushing ignominy of being rejected by an Editor I once shared a chocolate eclair with over breakfast. Oh, and this is where you say ‘Yes yes yeeeeeessss I would love you to submit your work to us, please please send us your marvellous poems because you are wonderful’.

Fuck that.

Apparently, submitting to Algebra of Owls is ‘scary’. Someone once said that to me. Really? No. It is professional, or at least we are. So be professional.

6 thoughts on “Editorial – Our Processes

  1. That has put a huge smile on my face. Not only that, it’s inspired me to get on with actually submitting work, rather than just meaning to.
    Happy editing, if that’s not too wild a wish. 😉

    Like

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