Sheila-Na-Gig online


Sheila-Na-Gig Editions: Tips for Submitting Poetry for Manuscript Contests

Hello, Poets — Are you planning on entering your full-length poetry manuscript in Sheila-Na-Gig Editions’ 3rd Annual Contest ( or perhaps another journal’s contest this year? Here are some tips that we shared recently at a writer’s conference:


Respect an editor’s time and their attempt to keep contests fair.

We’ve especially had to reject manuscripts for:

  • Book length – ours is 60-100pgs
  • Author Names — Don’t include your name for Blind contests.  We also ask writers not to include bios or acknowledgements pages for our book contest, but many just can’t resist including these things.


Ask yourself if your poems are a good fit for the publisher.

  • What themes/motifs/topics do you see recurring in the journal or the publisher’s book publications (know all their venues)?
    • Nature poems, Religious/Inspirational, Daily life, Classical themes, etc.?
  • Do the editors lean towards the confessional or reserved, conservative or liberal?
  • What is the intended audience?
    • Gender? Age? Ethnicity?
  • What style does the editor mostly publish?
    • Free verse or form?
    • Traditional or experimental?


Proofread! Be sure to present the very best version of your manuscript!

  • Your manuscript needs to read as a cohesive collection. It should not just be a random collection of whatever you’ve written this year.
  • Even in manuscript form, think of it as a book.
    • Include a title page (no names for blind contests)
    • Table of Contents
    • Acknowledgments page (remove if required by guidelines)
    • One poem per page
    • Page numbers


  • Avoid fancy fonts
  • Avoid an overly formatted TOC
  • Avoid blank pages (the publisher will have their own style for that)
  • Do not include photos or artwork unless the publisher is specifically looking for that.
  • If your work is selected by a publisher, you will mostly likely have some input on book design, but in the manuscript stage, just let the poems speak for themselves.


About Grimmgirl

I co-founded the small press poetry magazine Sheila-Na-Gig in California in 1990. I ran the press for 10 years, producing 14 print copies of the journal. I now hold a Ph.D. in 20th Century American Literature from Ohio University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. I am currently an Associate Professor of English at Ohio University Southern, where I teach courses in composition, American literature, and creative writing. My poetry, creative nonfiction, and critical essays have appeared, or are forthcoming, in The Brock Review, Proteus, Rattle, Spillway, and the critical anthologies, The Body in Medical Culture; On the Literary Nonfiction of Nancy Mairs; and Stephen King’s Contemporary Classics: Reflections on the Modern Master of Horror.

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This entry was posted on December 27, 2019 by in Sheila-Na-Gig online: News.
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