Shearsman magazine now operates a "reading-window" system, and no longer accepts submissions throughout the year. The windows run from 1 March to 31 March, when we read work for the October issue, and from 1 September to 30 September, when we read work for the April issue. Please note that this window system applies only to the magazine; books may be submitted at any time—follow the link above for further details. Responses take up to 3 months, usually, although some submissions will be dealt with more quickly, as time permits. In recent times, responses have been rather too slow for all concerned, and, starting with the September 2012 reading window, we have been trying to turn around the easier refusals (usually where the work doesn't fit aesthetically, but also when the Editor just doesn't like it...) more quickly. There will still be delays of some kind for the rest as we try to work out what we can fit into the issue in question: some manuscripts always fall at the very last hurdle, when the final hard choices need to be made.
Manuscripts intended for consideration by the magazine should be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and a covering letter of some kind. [Why? So I don't get what appear to be submissions, but which turn out not to have been so when I respond to them. A short note saying who you are and why you're sending in your work would be useful.] Poems (no more than 5 or 6 pages for a first submission) should be typed on one side of a sheet of paper, and each sheet should carry the author's name and address, so that there's no confusion if the covering letter becomes detached.
Would international correspondents please note that a single International Reply Coupon will pay for a single-sheet response, and will not cover return of any manuscripts. Also, we can only use British stamps here in the UK, just as one can only use American stamps in the USA. In view of the difficulties presented by international submissions of hardcopy texts, I would suggest that you supply recyclable copies of your manuscripts and permit e-mail responses wherever possible.
The mailing address is:-
50 Westons Hill Drive
Please note that postal submissions that are not accompanied by sufficient return postage or do not allow for email responses, will be destroyed, unacknowledged. Submissions that are accompanied by penalty charges for bearing insufficient postage will be rejected, and presumably returned to source by the Royal Mail, or destroyed. Manuscripts will not be returned unless the return envelope carries sufficient postage.
Electronic submissions can be made, provided they are embedded in the text of an e-mail message and sent to editor_AT_shearsman_DOT_com (remove the underscores and insert the usual versions of AT and DOT); rich-text emails are acceptable. If the formatting of your poems is affected adversely by the e-mailing process, this will be obvious and I will let you know if an alternative submission is required. Please do not send attachments with your Emails, unless they are in PDF format. Any other uninvited attachments will be destroyed, unread, because of the possibility of computer viruses arriving with them.
Would-be contributors often fail to carry out even the most cursory of checks on the market to which they wish to 'sell' their work. In the case of Shearsman there should be enough content on this website for you to judge whether your work fits in with the overall aesthetic of the magazine or the press. If you can't see what that aesthetic might be, then you're very likely in the wrong place to start with. If you don't like the kind of poetry you see on the website, or in the printed version of the magazine, ditto, and you can probably save yourself a lot of wasted time, effort, and postage stamps. And, if you don't like it anyway, I would have to ask why you would wish to submit your work here anyway. Unsolicited material does have a good chance of getting into Shearsman, and all issues contain some such work, frequently from writers with whom I have had no previous contact. The key to their acceptance was that they either brought something new, and of quality, to the magazine, or that their work was in tune with what the magazine was all about. Without such editorial surprises, the magazine would die from atrophy: new blood is always needed. As with real blood transfusions, however, the blood needs to be of the right type.
One difficult issue is that of female representation in the magazine and amongst the authors of books published by Shearsman. I am well aware that women have been under-represented: percentage representation in the magazine is now running at over 40% by head-count, and at least one issue has had a majority of female authors. Also, the press has been publishing ever more books by women, although a 50/50 balance may prove difficult to reach, judging by the nature of our postbag and inbox. Simple statistics do not tell the whole story, however, as a greater percentage of submissions by women writers is accepted. There is an apparent reluctance on the part of some women authors to submit themselves to the selection process (and especially with a male editor?), but we can't publish more work by women unless they DO submit their work. (And yes, we can send invitations, and have done: on several occasions these were completely ignored. I have no idea why.)
If you are a frequent contributor, or would-be contributor, to poetry magazines, please do try to buy a book from one of their associated small presses from time to time, or indeed from Shearsman Books. Most of these presses survive only through sales, even if they do receive some subvention, and, if they cannot sell to people who are actually part of the tiny minority that is interested in poetry, they are almost certainly doomed. Small presses keep the art of poetry alive, not the big publishers—who take very few risks and tend to be closed-minded concerning new developments. The more small presses and journals that disappear through lack of sales, the less potential homes there are for your work. A few years ago, the director of one fine small press that was closing down observed that, had even one in ten of his unsolicited correspondents actually bought a book from his press, then the press would not have had to close down. It's worth remembering. Needless to say, purchasing a book or a subscription does not guarantee publication of your work, so please do not be disappointed if, after having bought something, your work is not accepted for publication. Vanity presses do that: we don't. But we would hope that you enjoy the book that you've acquired, and that you gain something from it.