1. Get your work into the best possible shape before you start submitting it.
2. Think clearly about how you should present your poems, researching what else is being publishing in that area so you really understand what particular editors will be looking for.
3. Do your research on poetry publishers and their lists. Make sure any submission is going to an editor who is likely to be interested in it, as otherwise you are wasting your time and theirs. Poetry is a small world and there aren't an infinite number of publishing houses or editors out there, so make every submission count.
4. Do your research on agents and their clients. In general agents will not be interested in representing you as an unpublished poet and it's best to go direct to publishers. If you feel you must try to get an agent, at least make sure you try one who does represent other poets.
5. Your research into publishers and agencies should encompass what they say about submissions. There's no point in sending your manuscript to a publisher which does not read its slush-pile. Make sure you follow their submission guidelines exactly.
6. Do your homework and put together a good submission package consisting of exactly what the publisher specifies. Unless the publisher is specific about accepting email submissions, always send your poems by post. It's just too tempting for them not to print out your submission.
7. Remember, less is more. It's better to send a small selection of your best poems than to send out everything you have ever written and overwhelm the publisher, who will inevitably be very time-strapped.
8. Manuscripts should be clearly set out in a simple font such as 12 point Times Roman. Send a clean copy of your material, to make sure it doesn't look as if it has already done the rounds. Never submit handwritten material.
9. Use any connection you have when you are submitting your poems. Try to send them to a named editor at the publishing house and do mention that such and such an author or contact suggested you should do so, if you can. There's nothing fair about this, but it may help and you need to do anything you can (in a good way) to draw attention to your submission.
Don't give up too easily, as submissions are pretty tough at present and it's always hard to get a first collection published, but if you do find in the end that you are not successful, consider self-publishing as a serious possibility.
Chris Holifield is the Director of the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Bookshop Online. She is also the co-founder of Writers' Services, the largest writers' website in the UK, which offers a range of information and services for writers.
Other articles in this series:
Getting your poetry published
Promoting your poetry (and yourself)