You Can Publish Your Own Poetry
Sound Advice for Poets and Writers
Calling all lords and ladies of the limerick, all royalty of the rhythm of rhyme—if you’re a poet, and you want the world to finally know it, shouldn’t you be thinking about getting your poems published?
You’ve mastered the art of expression when it comes to your ideas, opinions, and feelings, and you’ve proven you can produce musical melodies in free verse like a virtuoso playing a finely tuned violin. Not only do you have in your writing “bag of tricks” useful tools like metaphors, similes, and onomatopoeia, you even know the meaning of “iambic pentameter!” In other words, you’re a pro who knows how to splash and scour intricately woven words for others to devour. You are a professional ponderer, questioner, a connoisseur of life and all it means. Like a “straight A” Maya Angelou understudy, you know how to make words sing. You know how to preach powerfully to the mind, while tugging at the heartstrings with timeless rhymes. So, since you’re such a pro at poetry, riddle me this … why aren’t you published?
Who will know, as time goes by? That even you, or even I … who will ever with probing eyes see--to confirm the poet in you or me?
Okay, so I too dabble a bit in the fanciful art. But enough about me. If you’ve explored the idea of getting your work published as a book, you already know that even though you might find it easy to be a wicked wordslinger, no matter how good you are at it, there’s a big divide between slinging words and getting those words published. Word-slinging is an art, but getting them published, my dear friend, is business. And the business of publishing is a tough one, indeed. In fact, unless you are Maya Angelou (or someone of her caliber—if there is such a thing), then you can bet it’s probably easier to find the old needle in the haystack than it will be to find a willing publisher for a book of poems. So where do we go from here?
If you’re serious about the idea of getting a book of poetry published one day, then the first thing you might do is to try to create a name for yourself in the literary arena. Gaining attention and interest in your work from the editors and readers of literary magazines and journals might offer the least treacherous path to publication for most unknown poets. You can find a lot of good and/or interesting literary journals online, and some also have printed versions.
Take a look at publications such as The Writer’s Literary Muse (they accept work from poets of all genres), Shadow Express (they’re dedicated to emerging writers, including poets), Sphere Literary Magazine (they’re devoted to student writing; edited by students at Farleigh Dickenson University), the Fifth Wednesday Journal (they accept submissions for poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and photography), and the Chocorua Review (they publish art, fiction, and poetry with “intellectual weight”). These publications, and many others, provide talent showcases—print and online opportunities to be read and to become known, for poets at all stages of their craft. And remember, you can also use Google to find a variety of other poetry “e-zines.”
You should also check out resources such as Poets Market (updated annually, it contains articles to help you write and market poetry, and lists contact information and submission guidelines for publishers of poetry).
Another good resource for you is Poets and Writers magazine. It offers, online, a place to connect with others of your ilk. You can invite your peers to read and critique your work (to help you improve as a writer of poetry), and find information on all kinds of things, such as literary agents, writing conferences, and directories for poets and writers. They also provide information on writing contests and grants, as well as links to databases of literary journals and MFA programs.
Will you get published right away, or will taking the online or print literary journal paths mean you’ll still have to learn how to deal with rejection? These are questions you’ll only find answers to by taking the plunge. And even though there’s a good chance you won’t win the Walt Whitman award your first time out in public, you will undoubtedly learn from the experience of trying to get your work published. No effort of any kind ever goes unrewarded.
Then, there’s always the path to getting known as the awesome poet you are that is known as self-publishing. But hark, even self-publishing is not a trouble-free path. For one thing, you need to understand that self-publishing means you are taking on the role of publisher. It means that if you have the time and the money to invest in publishing a book, that you need to be sure that what you’re about to put in print for others to see is as good, and as marketable, as it can possibly be (rhyme not intended).
Have you had your manuscript edited? What’s that you say? You didn’t think a book of poetry needed an editor? You thought that you, as the creator and messenger of your innermost thoughts were the only person who could possibly edit your work? Think again, my dear friend. In fact, you are probably the main person who should not edit your final manuscript. Why? Because you’re biased, you’ve seen your own writing too much to be objective, and if you’ve committed errors in spelling, grammar, or usage, there’s a good chance you won’t even see them. So take my advice, either pay an editor, or ask an excellent-with-English family member or friend to take a look at your final draft.
After your final draft is edited and ready to go, then you’re ready, as a self-publisher, to begin looking for the right company to get your book in print. The Internet offers a veritable plethora of companies that are salivating while begging to publish your work for you.
You'll find a range of companies available, from those that offer few services other than binding and printing your book, to those offering a full suite of publishing services. So how do you choose one? Painstakingly—you do your due diligence. You must check out publishers, one by one, and, ultimately, you will find one that seems to be the best path for you and your needs. You will need to compare pricing information and services offered from submission to publication. For example:
- Do they offer line editing? Content editing?
- Do they charge extra for editing services?
- How will the artwork for the cover of your book be produced? Will you have opportunities for input? How many versions of cover possibilities will they produce? And how will you proceed if you don’t like any of their ideas?
- What about marketing services and publicity? How will people be able to get a copy of your book? Will you get both print and digital versions of your book? And who will distribute it?
- Will you or the company register your work for copyright?
Once you have answers to these questions and many more you should have that I have not included in this article, then you’re finally ready to self-publish. You’re on your way to fame and fortune … well, at least to some degree of notoriety as a poet. Now, aren't you glad to finally know that all the effort and time, not to mention the precious pieces of your soul that you’ve lovingly put into your work, hasn’t all been for naught? You’ve compiled an impressive cacophony of thoughts and soliloquies, lyrical impressions, shimmering sonnets, and iridescent ironies… a menagerie of allegories, epigrams, and elegies, and these are your miracles; the constant shadows and silent footprints … of your life.
You’re adequately armed with much of the information you will need to see your work in print. And now, even though you've found in my words to you inspiration, encouragement, and motivation, and even though I'm sure you're ready to go, I feel strongly that I must leave you with one final thought, as you embark upon your journey, no, your adventure—toward becoming published:
Good luck, I say, good only to you, To thine own self thou hast been true … You’ve found your reason and romanced the rhyme, And immortality you’ll undoubtedly find … Sooner or later may it be as you’ve wished, I pray life unto you friend, among the published!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD