Publishing Poetry

Many a man reckons himself a poet, but few find their poems welcomed onto the printed page, and criticism can be harsh.

The critics

Getting poetry published isn’t easy – especially if publishing a poetry book is your aim – but there are certain things you can do to give your poetry a better chance of getting published. Here are some basics you should know about the industry and some guidelines on poetry and publishing.

Earning Money from your Poetry

Expecting to become wealthy through writing poetry is like expecting to pick up woman at a gay bar. It doesn’t happen. And if it ever does, it’s a miracle that goes against the natural order of the institution. Here are some aspects to keep in mind when pondering the financial aspects of publishing poetry.

  • There is no money in writing and publishing poetry, although an established poet can earn a living doing readings, reviewing, and running workshops. Most poetry publishers are in game simply for love of poetry and run at a loss regardless of whether they’re publishing poetry books or magazines.
  • ‘Payment’ for a new poet will often only come in the form of a copy of the publication in which their poems appear. Do not frown on such an offer, as poets generally have to establish a reputation – through these types of publications – before other paying poetry publishing companies will consider their work.
  • Whatever money you make from selling your poems will be minimal, even for an established poet. Copies of the publication – or nothing – should generally be expected, especially if you’re just starting out. Remember, poetry publishing houses normally run at a loss.
  • Trying to publish a collection of poetry will be very difficult unless you are well known through the magazines or have won some poetry contests first. Most poetry publishers, if not all, will most likely reject a collection – without reading it – if it is submitted by a poet not yet established through magazines, poetry competitions, or public readings.

Getting Published in Poetry Magazines

If a poet is to have any hope of getting a collection published, the chances are they will most likely have to establish themselves in the poetry magazines first. Here are some tips on how to go about doing that.

  • Make sure you have read at least a few copies of the poetry magazine you are submitting to. That way you will know whether your poems are suitable for that publication or poetry publishing house. For example, you don’t want to submit your philosophical poetry to a magazine that specialises in publishing children’s poetry.
  • Once you have found a suitable magazine be sure to follow their specific submission guidelines, which can generally be found on the magazine’s website.
  • To find out which magazines to submit to you should check out the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (A&C Black), Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books) or go to online.

Competitions and Other Means of Establishing Oneself as a Poet

Winning a poetry competition can in some cases be a short cut to getting a book of your poetry published. There are also other ways – both traditional and modern – to establish yourself as a poet. Here is some general information on how to go about navigating the areas mentioned above.

  • Poetry competitions have helped many poets get their careers started because sometimes part of the prize is getting a collection of your poetry published. Also having a win or two to your credit will make your poetry more attractive to the poetry magazines and publishing houses.
  • Many established poets don’t bother entering poetry competitions that offer minimal prize money. This, of course, makes it easier for a new poet to win recognition. So if you are a beginner try entering some of the less known competitions first.
  • Lists of various poetry competitions can be found in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (A&C Black) or Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books).
  • Another way to get established as a poet, is through online poetry publishing. All you need to do is type in something like Internet poetry and a number of online publications will pop up. Some of these will let you to post your poems right away.  You can also create a poetry blog.
  • Getting involved in poetry readings and poetry groups can also help establish you as a poet. To track these down it is best go onto the Internet or check out your local literary publications to see what’s happening in your area.
  • Of course, improving your poetry is probably the best thing you can do to help yourself get established. Read some book like Writing Poetry and Getting published by Mathew Sweeney and John Hartley Williams (Hodder) or Writing Poetry by John Whitworth (A&C Black).  Attending a workshop by a poet you admire can also help make your work more professional. Alternatively, you can attend the to whip your poetry into shape.


How to Submit your Poems

  • Print your poems out on a clean A4 paper, using regular type.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of each poem you send out, as the publisher will not assume any responsibility if your originals get lost.
  • Do not send too few or too many poems – 4 to5 should be enough to give the poetry publishing company the general feel of your work. If you write different types of poetry, make your selection reflect this, although don’t, of course, include any that are totally different from anything the publisher has published before.
  • Your name and address should go at the bottom of each page you summit.
  • Don’t fold your poem several times then shove it into a tiny envelope. Use an A5 envelope so that you only have to fold your pages once.
  • Be sure to include a brief covering letter, mentioning any previous poetry or other publications – aside from vanity press. If you have no previous publications, a short request that the company consider publishing your poetry will do.
  • Include a stamped self-addressed envelope. Publishers won’t respond to your submission or return your poems if they have to pay to do so.

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