How to Publish Poetry
Publishing is a business like any other and there are industry rules to be followed in order for an author to get their poetry published. It’s important to understand that the publishing house has a responsibility to make a profit so that they can continue to employ their staff and support their existing authors. When a publisher evaluates an item for publication, they are looking at the bottom line to ensure that it brings in money for the house. They are taking a risk every time they make an offer to an author.
This is not intended to sway you from writing poetry but rather to provide information on how a writer might best get their material published. It appears to be easier to get a regular novel or non-fiction book published than getting poetry published through one of the major publishing houses and there is a good reason for this. The reason is because it’s difficult for publishing houses to make money on just poetry books. Many times they are supported by sales in other divisions; publication of textbooks, fiction books, self-help books, etc. If a poet is well-known and respected, this can sometimes justify a publishing house taking a risk. If you are a new poet, the chances of getting your book published by one of the major powerhouses are slim. First you must begin to develop your name and reputation in many circles before a large publishing house will pick you up. It can happen but the odds are against you.
Whether you are a poet or a novelist, a publishing house has to be convinced that you will do your part to promote your product; get on chat-and-radio shows, be available and set up book signings, meet with literary societies, get on local and national newspapers if possible and do other things that can get your name and material out to the masses. It’s really about understanding how the publishing world works and what yours and their role is in the promotion game. Unfortunately many writers are not business savvy and only know the craft of writing. To be successful in this profession you have to be good at both.
The good news is that the big publishing houses are not the only way to get your poems published and you can possibly make some money with writing poetry. It’s really a matter of weighing all your options in the publishing industry and going after the markets that are willing to publish your material. For most poets, that leaves the less prestigious literary journals, the small presses and the commercial publications that may have an odd corner for a poem. But this is how you slowly begin to build up your reputation and name as a respected poet.
Getting published by one of the smaller presses is not necessarily bad as this can eventually open doors to some poetry publishing houses such as Poetry In Arts.org, PW.org, anvilpresspoetry.com, carcanet.co.uk, bloodaxebooks.com and diypublishing.blogspot.com just to name a few. Understanding how the publishing business works and knowing what a particular company wants to print is a must for every writer and understanding these two things will help accelerate your career. Again, this requires some footwork but the payoff can be rewarding.
Another market that should not be overlooked when trying to get your poetry published is the magazine industry. There are many literary magazines that publish poetry but it has to fit into their overall mission for the company. It is important that you research what a particular magazine stands for and what type of message they want to send to their audience. Don’t waste your time or theirs unless you have done your upfront research on a particular magazine. Getting published in a magazine can be the start of your career as a poet and a good way to get noticed by some of the big publishing houses. You may want to start with some of the smaller magazines and work your way up. Just like the major publishing houses, there are magazines that only look to publish the more nationally famous poets and won’t even consider your work but those can be eliminated off your list by a little research. That way you can focus on those magazines that may give you an opportunity.
The Internet and Other Mediums to Getting Published
The Internet is another good place to get your material published. Don’t overlook this market as this is another method to getting your poems out to the masses. It’s another credential to add to your resume. There are literally thousands of ezines (on-line magazines) that want excellent articles and poems for their website. Many of these ezines also offer workshops for starting poets and this can be another opportunity to enhance your craft. Another plus is that most ezines accept submittals by email. This is a huge plus for those poets submitting from overseas as they no longer will be burdened with SAEs and International Reply Coupons.
Getting your work into an anthology is another method to getting your work published and noticed. Featuring your work alongside other poets in a collection of poems can be extremely beneficial but be aware of big productions where you may get scammed. Just do your research upfront before deciding to be part of an anthology project.
Other opportunities are also available through literary associations and writer’s groups. It’s beneficial to become a member in these types of groups and also a good way to network with your peers. Many associations issue yearly anthologies where your work can get featured. Again, another opportunity to get your work published. In addition, these groups can help critique and give you feedback to enhance your writing skills as a poet.
Don’t rule out self-publishing. This is another opportunity for you; however, it’s important that you find the “right” self-publishing company. Be aware of those self-publishing companies that are looking to take your money and don’t provide any kind of service except to print your material without any regard to whether it’s written correctly.
Non-traditional Marketing Techniques
Another market not to overlook is the one in your own backyard – your local audience. There are many newsletters and newspapers in local communities looking for good articles and poetry. Go to your local library and talk to the librarian about what may be available. You may be surprised at the knowledge they will provide.
Before you venture out to find an editor to publish your material, you may want to submit your poetry to one of the many bulletin boards that provide feedback to poets. TextEtc is a great source that provides information and links to the many workshops and bulletin boards for poets. Take advantage of this site. This company is one of the best websites available for poetry enthusiasts.
Becoming a well-known and respected author takes time and commitment. It’s important to begin developing a good track record in the top literary journals – it is one step at a time. As you begin to develop your name and place in the literary world more doors will begin to open. Remember to have fun but keep focused!