i. Who Is Your Promoter?
The commercially successful poet writes prolifically,
promotes in all directions and seeks opportunities to read
poems to others. First he reads a lot of poetry without pay
while paying his dues. When asked what he charges for a
reading he is not hesitant to name a price, nor is he hesitant
to renegotiate, or do freebies.
ii. Do You Have a Literary Degree or a Handicap?
There are many poets who have no literary degree for
each one who does. About 80 percent of American adults
have finished high school. All of them know how to
communicate in writing to at least a minimal degree. 25
percent of adults have at least one four year college degree.
Only 3 percent or less of those are in communications and
less than that in arts. If you have such a degree and a
strong interest in poetry, you will have laid the groundwork
for a more successful career as a poet, most likely teaching
poetry, as well as taking your writing on the road and
sending it to publishers. But poets can come from any
interest area. If you start young, and learn writing skills in
the universities, you will likely find many opportunities. If you
are also talented and interesting, you will have the skills to
take advantage of those opportunities. Many skilled
academic poets have few promotional skills. Poetry is not
generally considered a very lucrative field, but fulfilling for
iii. Identify Your Hopes and Dreams
There are many poets who did/do not have academic
degrees. It is possible in our age of literacy to have a lot to
offer as a poet without having accumulated high honors in
college. Each poet must consider his ambitions and goals.
Many write for modest reasons and are satisfied to write for
a small readership. Some have hopes of great acclaim or a
best seller poetry book. Knowing what must be done to
achieve a goal can help the poet along the road or make
him realize that he did not want it all that badly.
iv. Editing and Distribution: The Real Advantages of Publishing
It may sound as if the prospects of commercial
success for a poet are pretty dim unless he teaches college.
Yet many poets continue to write, hoping for wider
publication, and at least some monetary rewards. Few poets
become fabulously wealthy from their writing; but a good
poet with skills in writing poetry has a great number of
related and marketable skills. He can therefore make a
significant mark in writing by starting with writing poetry.
v. Learn To Appreciate Any Publisher Who Prints Your Work
This author attempts to point out some factors that
will help the poet approach profit making in a rational way
that can produce results. Learn the dead ends and the
opportunities first. Persist in the right directions when you
have learned them. Be very appreciative when you find
publishers willing to publish your work or to pay for it. Such
people can be of great value in helping you to steer your
vi. Never Underestimate Your Editor
A reputable publisher will help you with editing and
distribution. You must try to learn to write so well that editing
is not necessary, and then utilize the skills of the best editor
available, to make your writing even better. Even when
editing is not necessary it can be helpful. An editor can help
the writer understand better how an intelligent reader might
misunderstand what the poet has written and therefore
enable the poet to correct the problem before it gets into
vii. Learn More Than Writing: Let Your Readers Know You
Distribution also is partly the poet's responsibility. If
you get a book published you must go out and promote it at
poetry readings, book sales and signings. Even a small
scale publication will sell much better when the readers
have a chance to get to know the poet.
viii. Newspapers, Newsletters, and Readings are Opportunities for a New Poet: Reach Out.
If you want to promote your writing, you must try to
become known at home as well as nationally or
internationally. Until you try, you won't know whether your
natural readership is the home crowd or a distant one. If you
have time to spend promoting your work, definitely examine
the local options. Newspapers look for poetry as filler. They
have to fill every column every day. They must have a great
amount of material that is flexible enough to fit any given
blank spot in the page as it is being made up. Read the
poems published in your local paper to see what the editor
seems to prefer. Don't assume that he has no wider latitude
than what you have seen in print.
There are likely many businesses who have small
newsletters in your town. If you have a lot of writing that you
think could have popular appeal to their readers, go to such
businesses and meet their newsletter editors. Take some
samples of your work with you. If you get accepted by one of
these newsletters, learn more about their business and try to
write a few poems specifically for them. Don't be too
disappointed if they don't see the value in all of them.
Always think a little about the rejections you receive and
reexamine your first assumptions about the publisher. Take
enough samples that the editor can see your range of skills.
Just as you have to cull out the best he will also.
To get yourself prepared to do readings, first try to
find a group of poets who meet to read their poems to each
other. There may be a poetry club at a local school or
college. Check to see if guests are welcome at their
meetings. Start by reading one or two poems at a meeting
and listening to the readings and comments by the other
participants. If you can become accepted at such an
organization, you may find that reading opportunities will
come along with your participation.
Offer to do readings locally at schools, colleges,
senior centers, civic clubs and churches. When you think
you are ready to start doing readings, select a group of
poems you think is appropriate for each type of audience
and read in front of a mirror. When you are ready, go to a
school for example and take a sample of ten poems along.
Talk to the principal about which teachers he/she thinks
might be interested, or ask to visit with teachers of
communications or English, then meet the teachers one at a
Reading for Senior Adults is a Valuable Opportinity
At the senior center, talk with the activity director
about your interest and willingness to provide a presentation
of poetry. Pay is likely to be low or none for such an event;
but the experience of seeing the response of mature people
to your poetry is of great value. Nursing homes are another
option that may be even more demanding as there is a wider
range of responses. Some people may seem completely
unresponsive until you have finished and then surprise you
with a favorable response. Residents may not waste their
energy applauding, but will willingly tell you their
impressions later. After you have finished, go around and
talk with each of the residents who attended.
Colleges Have Budgets
If your poetry is ready for readings at colleges or
junior colleges you may find a varied response from the
students, but better pay, as colleges have budgets for such
activities. You may read in a noisy lunchroom or an
assembly hall. The pay may be the same for both.
Arts Centers and Arts Commisions
If you want to do poetry reading and writing
workshops, check your state arts commission. They may
subsidize your presentations by matching funds so you can
charge the school or city arts center less, and still earn the
same amount for your presentation. If your city has an arts
center or an adult education center you may be able to
affiliate with it.