When I visit a journal’s website I first look to see if the site is aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. If it is, I go to the menu bar and click on “submit” or “guidelines” to find out whether or not they accept simultaneous submissions. In other words, are they willing to look at a poem that is also under consideration somewhere else? If not, then the poems you submit to them will be tied up until they inform you of their accept/reject decision. I never submit to journals that do not accept simultaneous submissions.
If I can’t find that piece of information on the journal’s website, I google the name “Duotrope” along with the name of the journal. That takes me to the part of Duotrope’s database that’s free of charge. The journal’s Duotrope entry should come up at the top of the search list. Click on it, and scroll down to a table labelled “Submission Types.”
Some journals that do not accept simultaneous submissions will be courteous enough to get back to you relatively quickly. Some may not get back to you at all (though in all fairness that would be an oversight, not their policy). So if you don’t have a large body of work, you may have most of your poems tied up most of the time. This may not suit you, especially if you are young and eager to publish, or are not young and feel you don’t have decades left for career development.
This preference varies among poets. I know a writer who has about 10 poems out of her large collection outstanding at any one time, waiting for publishers’ replies. She is comfortable with that. Having some poems out of circulation until she gets an answer suits her. It does not suit me.
This past October 9th I received an acceptance letter from a journal editor for a poem I had submitted on June 2nd. That’s not unusual. Editors of “lit mags” are extremely busy, with many many submissions to read, and they may well have day jobs too, because, let’s face it, there’s not much money in poetry—the job is usually done for love. Some may take almost a year to get back to you.
Editors’ approaches vary from “No simultaneous submissions, period!” to “You’d have to be crazy to avoid simultaneous submissions!” Always check. Many bloggers have written about simultaneous submissions, from the viewpoints of both writers and editors. Here are a few good pieces on the subject, from Hannah Karena Jones, Moira Allen and Becky Tuch.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule — what you do is up to you.