Do: Read any written communication from the publisher carefully. Even if it’s a straight rejection, it may contain useful comments. Remember publishing is a business. The main reason for rejection is because the publisher doesn’t think he or she can promote and sell your work effectively enough to keep the business going. Reflect on this.
Do: Reply to a rejection letter if it says something useful. Say thank you if someone has spent time with your work. Courtesy gets your name remembered. You want your name to be remembered. You want to be a person, not just print on a page.
Do: Keep in touch with the publisher if invited to—take a look at the website every few months to see what’s going on.
Do: Check whether the main editor is also a poet, and if so where he/she publishes. Try to get your poems into those same magazines, since it’s likely he or she reads them.
Do: Keep an eye on the poetry publishing business. Read about what’s going on. Go to festivals. Meet other poets. Make contacts. Make friends by being nice to people and interested in what they’re doing. Support other poets, and they will support you.
Do: Find good readers for your poems, astute people who will give truthful reactions and help you improve. Distrust people who say everything you write is marvellous.
Do: Talk to other poets who have published first collections. Ask them how it worked and how they managed it.