Submission Guidelines

Black Zinnias First Book Award

  • Submission period - November 1, 2007 through February 29, 2008. Manuscripts postmarked after February 29th will not be accepted.
  • Lead judge - T.B.D.
  • Entry form - Click here to download the entry form or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Black Zinnias to receive the paper version.
  • Guidelines - Contestants must be living persons who have neither published, nor committed to publish, a volume of poetry 40 pages or more in length and in an edition of 500 or more copies, either in the U.S. or abroad. Manuscripts will be cataloged, numbered and submitted to the judge without the author’s name and address. Manuscripts must be original poetry, in English, by one poet. There are no restrictions on the style of poetry or subject matter. Translations are not eligible. Contestants should send two copies of each manuscript. Manuscripts must be between 50 and 100 pages (typed or printed, no handwritten manuscripts), single- or double-spaced, with no more than one poem per page. Contestants who have published poems in magazines or other periodicals may include those in the manuscript submitted along with a page of acknowledgments. Two title pages must be submitted with each manuscript. One title page should include the manuscript title, the author's name and address; the other should bear the manuscript title alone. The author's name must not appear on any other page of the manuscript. Each manuscript should be fastened with a binder clip; other bindings should not be used. Failure to comply with the guidelines established for awards made by Black Zinnias will automatically disqualify the submission. The publishers will make final judgment on this matter. Manuscripts that have selections of superior work, may have selected poems published in the Black Zinnias literary journal. The poets will be notified for permission before publication.
  • Reading fee - A completed, signed entry form and $25 fee must accompany each manuscript. Please make check or money order payable to Black Zinnias. Do not send cash. Contestants who submit more than one manuscript must include an entry form and submission fee with each manuscript in a separate envelope.
  • Winning manuscript - The judge's decision is expected in June 2008. Black Zinnias will publish the winning manuscript in paperbound editions within one year of the judge's decision. The winner will receive $2,000 and 25 copies of the first printing of the book. Additional royalties will be paid based on sales of the book. No royalties will be paid to the author on the copies distributed by CalArts for promotions and reviews. The standard contract of Black Zinnias will govern production, distribution, and royalties for all other copies. The winning poet will have an opportunity to revise before publication. The decisions of Black Zinnias and the judge are final. We require first North American serial rights, non-exclusive rights for any later Black Zinnias generated anthology, and non-exclusive electronic rights for publishing excerpts on the Internet.
  • Mailing instructions - Please send all entry components in the same envelope. Mail complete entry, inquiry, or request for printed guidelines (with a self-addressed, stamped envelope) to: Black Zinnias First Book Award, P.O. Box 470746, San Francisco, CA 94147. Contestants who wish Black Zinnias to acknowledge receipt of their manuscripts must enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard. Contestants are advised to retain copies of their work, as manuscripts will not be returned. Black Zinnias assumes no responsibility for the loss of manuscripts. All correspondence concerning the contest should be addressed to Black Zinnias. Any correspondence addressed to the judge will be forwarded to Black Zinnias unread.
  • Simultaneous submissions - Contestants may submit manuscripts elsewhere simultaneously, but must notify us immediately if a manuscript becomes committed to another organization or if it has won another prize. A manuscript committed to another press is not eligible for the Black Zinnias First Book Award. Material submitted for prizes or awards must not be submitted to other publications or for other prizes or awards deemed in conflict with the intentions or purpose of Black Zinnias. If you have any thought there may be a conflict contact Black Zinnias for clarification on your particular question.

Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award 

  • Award - The winning poet will receive $300, plus the editors at CalArts will work with the poet to select up to ten additional unpublished poems (prose or verse) from the winning poets body of work for publication in a limited edition chapbook. The winning poem will also be featured in a future edition of the journal, Black Zinnias.
  • Deadline - October 1 through January 15 (annual submissions period)
  • Reading fee - $10 (Payable by check to California Institute of Arts and Letters). Submit two copies of the poem on separate pages. One page must have your contact information and one page the poem only. Appropriate length of poems: 500 words or less, or one page approximately 50 lines single-spaced or less. All poets are welcome to submit whether previously published or not. The poem submitted must not have been previously published. The award winning poem, and poet, will be announced by March 31, 2008 (and March 31 for each subsequent year).
  • Contact information needed - Name, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address. Please enclose a SASE for contest results and a SAS postcard for notification of receipt of poem.
  • Mail submissions to - California Institute of Arts and Letters, Robert G. Cohn Prose Poetry Award, P.O. Box 470746, San Francisco, CA 94147

Black Zinnias Journal

If you are a writer or visual artist we invite you to submit original material to Black Zinnias for publication.

Black Zinnias accepts poetry, short stories, essays, reviews, short plays, and experimental forms of writing. Translations are accepted if submitted by the original author and where the qualifications of the translator are clearly established. In some cases both languages will be printed in a side-by-side format. Please contact the publishers prior to submission of translations with a written query. Visual art is accepted on a limited basis. The art must be provided in digital format that is suitable for the style and layout of Black Zinnias.

All submissions shall conform to the latest guidelines established and published by the MLA with regard to layout, proper form and cited works.

Black Zinnias will accept material submitted to other publishers under the following conditions:

  • The material must be marked as submitted to other publishers and;
  • The writer must notify Black Zinnias immediately if the material is accepted for publication at another publisher.

If you want submitted material returned you must include with your submission suitable packaging and return postage. The return address must be filled in and legible. The publisher will not address return materials or trace shipments, packages or letters. Items returned by the carrier for insufficient address or postage/fees will be thrown away or recycled. The publisher will not be responsible in any way for lost or misplaced material or material damaged in transit.

Material submitted with delivery fees or postage due will be refused.

The content of Black Zinnias is selected based on the literary or artistic merit of the material as judged by the publishers, editors, guest editors or others hired by the publisher. The publishers will decide what is published and along with the selected lead judge will be the final judge for any awards or prizes offered by Black Zinnias.

The publishers and editors of Black Zinnias expect to publish original material from a variety of writers. The content will be attributed to the writer of record on the submission. The publishers and editors will do their best to comply with all applicable copyright laws, but ultimate responsibility shall rest with the writer of record. Writers submitting work for publication, as part of their submission, acknowledge the suitability of the material for publication as original work, except where cited, and assume all responsibility for copyright claims based on the content of the material. Authors and others making submissions must include a cover letter with their submission that states they have read the submission guidelines and agree to comply with the submission policies of Black Zinnias.  


Open Submissions

Manuscripts are accepted throughout the year and can be recommended for publication at any time. Each submission cycle ends on December 31st. Manuscripts are usually published within 12 months of their selection date under the Black Zinnias imprint. In addition to the instructions you will find answers below to some frequently asked questions. (Note: Open submissions are not considered submissions to any specific award. Award entries must be submitted separately and must comply with the award guidelines for which you submit a manuscript.)

Submission Instructions

Include one page with your name, address, telephone number, e-mail and the title of your manuscript. Send two copies of the manuscript (paper size: 8.5x11, print on one side only, please number the pages). Put your name on the title page, but do not include your name or any identifying marks on the rest of the manuscript pages. Bind the manuscripts with a binder clip (please do not use rubber bands, folders, notebooks or file folders). Make sure you retain copies of your work because manuscripts will not be returned. Include a self-addressed, stamped, business-size envelope for notification.

Send manuscripts to:

Submissions: Poetry
California Institute of Arts and Letters
P. O Box 470746
San Francisco, CA 94147


Frequently Asked Questions: Open Submissions

  1. Do you have a reading fee? Yes, for manuscripts submitted there is a $25 reading fee.
  2. Why do we require a reading fee? There are costs associated with handling submissions. We pay for advertising, mail costs, and other miscellaneous costs. Donations contribute to the cost of publishing the selected work, which includes marketing the book(s) and submitting the book(s) for review. CalArts does not have any paid employees. Everyone who works at CalArts donates their time and talent (and money!).
  3. When will we receive notification of the manuscript(s) selected for publication? Notification of acceptance for publication can be made at any time. 
  4. How many manuscripts will be selected? We expect to select at least one manuscript from each yearly submission period, but additional manuscripts may be selected for publication. In prior years, when we have offered a poetry prize, we often felt more than one manuscript was worthy of publication, but we had announced our intention to give one prize. We hope the new submission guidelines will help us publish more than one book per year.
  5. When will the manuscripts be published? Approximately 12 months after notification.
  6. What is the publishing imprint for the manuscripts selected? Titles will be published under the Black Zinnias imprint, the same imprint that previously published a first book award. See the authors listed under the Black Zinnias section of our web site.
  7. Are simultaneous submissions accepted? Yes, but please notify us immediately if your manuscript has been accepted by another publisher.
  8. How do you insure fair evaluation of the manuscripts? We use multiple readers for the open submission process and there must be strong consensus from all of the readers regarding the quality of the work, but like any selection process it has subjective elements. Please keep in mind that selection of a manuscript is recognition of that work alone and is not necessarily a comment on other submissions. The first year of our first book award the three finalists all had their work chosen by other publishers within 12 months!
  9. Can I submit a manuscript if I have previously published a book of poetry? Yes.
  10. Can I submit a manuscript if I have not previously published a book of poetry? Yes.
  11. Can I submit a manuscript that has been published previously? No.
  12. Can I submit material previously published in a chapbook? You may submit a manuscript that includes poems previously published in a chapbook. The poetry previously published in the chapbook may not comprise more than 50% of the submitted manuscript.
  13. Can I submit my manuscript via fax or e-mail? No.
  14. Can I revise my manuscript after submission? No.
  15. Can I submit more than one manuscript? Yes.
  16. If my manuscript is chosen, can I make changes before publication? Yes, editorial changes can be made.
  17. Who retains the copyright to my work? The author retains the copyright.
  18. Does it help to have a long history of publishing work in journals or magazines? Yes and no. No, in that the editor(s) choose based on the merit of the work submitted. Prior publication is not always an indication of quality. The submission process, over time, is likely to help improve a poet's work. Most poets have someone they trust to read their poetry and provide a critical response to their work.