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Chapter #8 - Ways to Publish Poetry
(or anything else for that matter)

Poets generally write more than just poetry. Many poets have written historic material as well as children's stories, novels and songs. If you write, don't hesitate to take on a writing project in a new form.

Here is a short list of places to get poetry published and a few tips about them.

  • Do it yourself
  • Vanity presses and anthologies
  • Literary magazines
  • Popular magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Small newsletters
  • Readings
  • World Wide Web
  • e-zines
  • posting boards
  • newsgroups
  • home pages
  • Agents

i. Do It Yourself to Appreciate the Publishing Process

Publishing is the process of making your writing available to other people. It comes from the word public: to make public. Publish your own poetry one poem or booklet at a time, or take on a more ambitious project. One at a time or a few for family and friends is the cheapest way to go.

First you need to get the poems typed into a word processor or desktop publishing program If you don't have access to a computer, you could probably ask for help, or you might have to do it the old way with a typewriter or calligraphy. I will assume you have access to a computer.

ii. Use a Clear Readable Font

When you have your poems typed into the computer, you need to decide where the page breaks should be. The simplest way is to print one poem per page. Use a good readable font. 'Ariel' is a font that has the lower case letters large and readable in comparison to the upper case. Scripts are generally a little harder to read. Almost any computer font will be more readable than handwriting. There should be a little more white space below than above each poem. The poems should be centered in the space that will show when the book is opened. Allow for the extra space taken by the binder or folder. It is better though to just have slightly wider margins on all sides than to have the pages look off centered.

iii. Make Presentation Folders

For a pretty reasonable price, make one or a few copies using simple presentation type folders. Some of my first presentation folders were the type you can get at office supply or stationery stores for about fifty cents each. There is a folded sheet of colored acetate and a long plastic clip that slides onto the spine. You put a dozen or so pages in it with a cover page and slip it into the acetate. Then you slide the edge binder onto it and presto! You have a presentation poetry booklet. These are great to pass out to friends. Make sure you put your name at the top or bottom of each page, in case they get separated. Copyright is claimed by simply writing, Copyright 2000 Myname. You are the owner with ownership rights to anything you write assuming it is not plagiarized. If you publish with or without claiming this right, it is assumed you are doing so legally. Neither you nor others may assume they may legitimately copy any writing without written permission from the true creator of the work. Still it is good to give copyright notice.

To make a few copies of books with more poems, say 50 to 100, use loose leaf binders that you can get at Wal Mart, K Mart or Dollar Stores. There are hard cover binders in grey, black and white. Some of the better ones have a sleeve in the cover, where you can slide in a cover page with title and byline. They come in different thicknesses from a half inch to about three inches (if you are very very ambitious and extremely optimistic.)

Don't expect your friends to read even a half-inch book of your poems. If you have a stack three inches high, cull out the very best and then cull again until you have picked the most likely dozen, then make a small book and make ten copies for your relatives. They will likely keep them longer and read them more.

iv. Single Poems to Hang on the Walls

Laminate your printed one-page poems. You can buy paper that looks like parchment and cut it down to the size for your printer. Or you can print it on colored card stock.

Don't frame your first poem and give it to your mother. It will remain on her wall forever. It may eventually become an embarrassment to you. Trust me, you will write far better than you are writing today. Give her a presentation folder instead. Don't pay any attention to naysayers like me, go ahead: frame it and give it to her. Frame several and give them to your family. It will inspire you to study and improve.

v. Visit Local Printshops Who Can Bind Small Books

If you are really serious, and want to make some books you can sell in the stores on a small scale, 50 to 200 books, you can go to a copy store and have copies made and put in binders for about eight dollars each, or you can go to a bookbinder and have them printed and placed in perfect bindings or saddle stitch for a little less per copy. There are plenty of little printshops and publishers in your area or available by mail (or e-mail) who will do this. You should look at samples of their work before sending them your poems and your money. You can then see something like the finished product you will be getting for your money.

vi. Backups Have Been Around a Lot Longer Than Computers

Remember: don't give anybody your only copy of your poems. Keep a backup for yourself. When you get it on the computer, make a backup disk with the poems, and print a hard copy to keep in a binder for your absolute backup. If you don't backup your hard drive frequently, your hard copy printouts are your interim backup, so you won't lose too much work if your computer gets fried by lightning.

vii. Want to Get Published as a Poet?...

First, Learn About a Vanity Press and a Literary Magazine.


When writers talk of getting published they usually speak of commercial publishers who pay for published poems or pay royalties on books sold, and who distribute, promote and primarily manage the selling of the books. A vanity press, on the other hand, makes its profit directly from sales to the writers who pay for the opportunity to see their work in print. A vanity publisher does not make its money from royalties or sales of publications in bookstores but directly from the writers who must provide their own distribution.

They may suggest that there will be distribution, but will not include any such specific guarantees in a contract. They will get their money up front from the writer so they are taking no risk. Vanity publishing is most similar to self publishing. Novices are often enticed by vanity publishers. These publishers direct their advertising to inexperienced writers who have had very little experience or success in traditional publishing.

The high sounding anthology is a favorite of a vanity press. The International Anthology of 21st Century Professional American Poets or some similar high sounding name is usually the enticement of a vanity press who will print anything submitted. The vanity publisher prints such a book often as there are always new inexperienced poets to pay for them. and make it a profitable venture. It usually has an expensive looking cover and cheap paper. The poems are printed in fine print with many poems to the page. The selling price is 50 to 100 dollars per copy. Orders are taken from the submitting poets, and advertising is directed at them. Beginners who submit are always flattered by claims that their work is wonderful. A poet could self publish 25 to 50 copies of his own book for the same price at a local printshop. A self published book would need twenty-four to fifty pages of poems which may be more than the targetted poet has written. If a person has written less than a dozen poems he may be more likely to appreciate a vanity press anthology or any magazine that will provide a publishing credit.

You will not likely find vanity press anthologies at public libraries. Bookstores do not clamor to buy or stock them. Such publications do not attract attention to the careers of their poets. They may contain some well written poems, but do not add to a poet's reputation in the world of serious publishing.

The vanity press may also try to sell you postcards, framed copies and other promotional versions of your "Famous" poem. They will offer to publish anything. Ask them for a written estimate with details of what they offer and the price. Compare their price with your local printer or copy shop's price. If you have a computer you can do most of the promotional type presentations yourself and will not be enticed by a vanity press offering wallet sized copies or laminated copies or copies on card stock or parchment.

viii. Literary Magazines

2013 Poets Market Literary magazines do not often pay much for the articles or poems they publish. Most commonly the pay is in the form of free copies of the publication that contains the writer's work: usually one or two copies. Although there is no pay, literary magazines are good places to seek acceptance; as their standards are usually higher, and their editors more knowledgeable. Such publishing credits may be very valuable to a writer seeking to improve his skills, or gain approval or endorsement.

2013 Writers Market Literary magazines are varied in their submissions requirements. They require writers to demonstrate ability to write in various or specific styles. Writers' resource publications such as Writer's Market or Poet's Market will give lists of magazines which rate the publisher by type of poetry and level of achievement required. They provide a list of publishers who will publish beginners and those who do not. Some publications mention that they are not open to unsolicited submissions. If you are solicited, expect payment to you for your poetry. Don't be fooled when vanity presses "solicit" your poetry at a price you pay to them. Lists are also provided for poetry fitting specific interest areas and geographical locations. Another resource for discovering available publishers is Literary Marketplace.

ix. Publish in Literary Magazines But....

Publishing credits from literary magazines alone may advance a poet's career very little, although it is likely to be an important part of the process. Eventually an aspiring writer would hope to gain acceptance of his works in textbooks, chapbooks and single-author perfect bound or hard bound books that have the chance of greater circulation. The literary magazine path is of more value in the academic community than to the larger reading public, but circulation numbers alone are not the measure of a magazine. A writer should hope to reach readers who appreciate his writing, or magazines which can help him grow in skills. A poetry professor who publishes and reads widely will usually find greater opportunities to advance his or her career than a plumber who writes a similar amount and publishes in literary magazines, but does not seek or find wider public attention. Promotional efforts will sell more poems than passive publishing in literary magazines. Publishing alone is not the silver bullet that will make a poet famous or rich. Acceptance in literary magazines is nevertheless very important to most poets.

x. Want Cash for Your Poems? Learn About Commercial Magazines

A beginning poet will earn the greatest income from publishing in textbooks, commercial anthologies or commercial magazines if he can get published there. It is likely that first publication will not include these, as commercial writing has demands that are not at first evident to the brightest or most skilled beginner. Mainstream publications yield little income per poem and require an organized effort to keep sending poems to potential publishers.

Pay is often by the word; but lengthy poems do not sell as readily as short or moderate length poems. The Poet's Market gives the prices paid by various publications; so it is not hard to figure how many poems you need to publish to earn a specific amount of money. You must write a lot, write very well, appeal to a large segment of the public, or many specialized segments, and promote your work enthusiastically and effectively. You must also come to know the requirements of the various publishers and know what to send to each. Even then you may not get 100 percent acceptance.

xi. Learn from the Books and Writer's Magazines

There are numerous new books that explain the ins and outs of getting published. It is wise to take a lot of time skimming through the books in the bookstore to select books that will be helpful to you in your quest for publication. Subscribe for a year to one or two writers' magazines. You should learn to identify which writers' magazines are authoritative and which ones are not. Writer's Digest is a good standard to start with. Some so called writers' magazines are very poorly written. Visit your local bookstore or magazine stand and see what is there. Many supermarket or department store magazine racks may not include anything as specialized as writer's magazines, so you may have to shop around. The magazine rack in your public library may have more variety of magazines than anyplace else in town. If you can't find them in your area, try surfing the net for a magazine.

There are many websites on the Internet which give articles about writing and publishing. Learn to use search engines to find them. Writer's Digest can be found online at and gives an opportunity to browse through back issues. The browsing however seems to be more in the form of descriptions of articles, than actual articles.

xii. Commercial Magazines

Commercial magazines make their profit from advertising and subscriptions. They do not try to make poets pay to be published. They do not depend so much on subscription revenue as do literary magazines. Literary magazines earn a significant portion of their support from subscriptions; and operate on tiny budgets, often subsidized by grants, donors and alumni, whereas commercial magazines do not. Nor do they ask poets to subsidize them by any other method than providing writing for which they can expect to receive a standard pay rate. If you feel you are subsidizing a publisher, you probably are.

xiii. Learn the Difference Between a Poetic Bass Boat and a Cruise Ship

Commercial magazines are much more varied in their appeal to readers and they usually reach a far greater readership. Comparing the budget of Reader's Digest to a university literary magazine is like comparing a cruise ship to a bass boat. You can get a beverage on either, but it will be served with considerably more style on the cruise ship. Remember though that the bass boat may be more likely to have your usual brand or flavor.

You may hope to appeal to one, or a few, preferred literary magazines. A person who starts out expecting to make a lot of money writing poetry is not likely to follow through with the work necessary to accomplish it. Besides, most poets just want to court the muse and join the ranks of other poets. Poets are not among the most greedy members of society.

xiv. There are Two Sides to Every Publishing Coin

The cruise ship does not need to resort to amateurs for entertainment, but can hire the Las Vegas acts. When you submit your writing to the commercial magazines, especially the ones with great circulation, you are in heavy competition for popular writing. For every poet who submits to your favorite literary magazine there are many who submit to the slick magazine. Such magazines pay better but print fewer poems and have more poets to pick from. The literary magazine may print 60 to 100 poems per issue while the commercial magazine prints a half dozen or fewer. The literary magazine may print one out of every ten submitted while the commercial magazine prints one out of a thousand. If you are a good poet and find a magazine that likes your style the literary magazine may print most of what you send while the commercial magazine still picks one of twenty.

xv. Preditors and Preygents

If you look for an agent or an editor you must be on guard to prevent being exploited by sharks who will take advantage of you, not to help you promote your poetry but to make money from you, pretending to be an editor ar agent. An editor or agent who charges you for operating expenses beyond return mail costs may be one of these. Reading fees, distribution fees and such are normal expenses for an editor or agent to bear as his or her contribution to the effort. If your writing is not good enough to make money for both you and the editor or agent, you should not be paying them to be part of your effort. Read about Preditors at Publishing Scams Internet sites. A preygent is an agent who preys on people who are not well informed about writing and marketing. If your work is salable, your contribution is the writing, not financing. The agent is an advisor to you and negotiator with the publishing world. Learn more about agents, marketers, distributors and editors before you ever sign a contract with one. On the other hand if you are wealthy and want to indulge yourself, you can afford to pay for any kind of marketing effort you like, and you get to call the shots.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

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Introduction   |   1   |   2   |   3   |   4   |   5   |   6   |   7   |   8   |   9   |   10   |   11   |   12   |   13   |   14   |   15   |   16   |   17   |   18   |   19   |   20   |   21
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