The world of poetry is a competitive one, and many poets may wonder what their best options are when it comes to getting their work out into the world.

While every poet’s publishing journey will be different, the below article explains some of the most common self-publishing and publishing routes, and also discusses how much money you can really make out of writing poetry.

How Do I Self Publish My Poetry?

Self-publishing and poetry have a long history together, with many poets having had experience with self-publishing at some stage throughout their careers, such as:

There are also more recent examples of poets, such as Rupi Kaur, whose poetry you can read, who have been successful self-published poets.

If it’s an avenue you’re considering, then the first thing to do is to prepare your manuscript or best poems for publication. This means reading, proofing and editing your work until it’s ready to be seen by the world.

At this stage, it may help to bring in a trusted third party to look over your work and provide honest feedback on where poems may be improved, or what they enjoyed about the work. Equally, hiring a freelance proofreader or editor to conduct a poetry review for any formatting or spelling errors can also be extremely helpful.

If you’re looking for a third party to provide input, you could also reach out to sites such as Superprof, which have a range of English tutors with poetry specialisms, who would be happy to offer pointers on where the work could be improved, or suggest other literary devices that could be incorporated into a poem.

Once your new poems are ready for publication, then it’s a case of choosing how to get your poetry published. You could opt to create an e-book, in which case you should check whether the book’s formatting complies with common e-book formats, such as Kindle or iPad. You’ll also have to decide which online retailer is right for you, so research is crucial.

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Another option is to go down the print-on-demand (POD) route. This involves paying a company to store an electronic copy of your book, and then they print that book for you. Although this route is usually more expensive than just publishing an e-book, some people prefer to have a physical copy or copies of their poetry book in their hands.

Regardless of which method you choose, always give consideration to your budget when self-publishing and make sure that you don’t overspend.

An ebook with a charging cable coming out of a hardback book.
Self-publishing has become much more accessible through online retailers. (Image: CC0 1.0, Myriams-Fotos, Pixabay)

How Many Poems Should Be In A Chapbook?

A chapbook is a term you may encounter in the world of poetry. Essentially, a chapbook contains a collection of poems that focus on a particular theme. What’s more, chapbooks tend to be quite short in length, and usually have no more than 30 pages.

Chapbooks are a great tool for poets as they can help prepare poets for the process of writing and publishing a longer manuscript, and chapbooks can also be used as a way to reach out to an audience, build your name, and show potential publishers your talent.

Once you’ve decided you’d like to put together a chapbook, the question becomes which poems should you include, and how many? When selecting your poems, think about whether the poems gel well together in terms of your theme or concept, and try to only include your best pieces in the chapbook – after all, you’re looking to impress and appeal to new readers!

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This means that you should also try to start off your chapbook with a bang, and have your best poem, or at least one of your very best, right at the start of the chapbook. This will give your reader the most favourable impression about your poetry and hopefully entice them to keep reading.

After that, feel free to mix and match the order of where your poems fall – leaving all your least impressive works until right at the very end may leave the reader feeling underwhelmed once they’re finished, so having the correct order of poems is key.

When it comes to how many poems should feature in a chapbook, the ultimate number will depend on the length of your poems and your own preference, but as a general guide, aim for a poem a page. This would give you around 20-25 poems for your chapbook.

The word "publish" spelt out using scrabble letters, with other scrabbled letters scattered around on the table.
Publishing poetry can still present challenges. (Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images)

How Do I Get A Book Of Poems Published?

If you want to have your poems published rather than go down the self-publishing route, then there are a few different approaches you can try.

One of the most popular ways poets try to have their work published is by submitting their poems to literary magazines or a poetry magazine (whether online or in print) or by sending their work to literary journals that accept submissions.

When looking for potential outlets to send your work to, remember that research is your best friend. There are plenty of poetry contests accepting entries out there, including competitions for young writers, so it’s just a case of finding competitions that have a prize that appeals to you.

What’s more, check your poems fit the requirements of the submission or competition guidelines, that you still have time to submit your poem or poetry collection before any deadlines, and make sure that your work would suit the magazine or journal’s target audience.

Making sure that you follow all submission guidelines to a tee is crucial if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of having your work accepted, so don’t be afraid to double or triple check that you’ve put your application together correctly.

Alternatively, you could try and approach publishers to see whether they will accept your manuscript. Note that this can be quite a difficult route to go down, particularly if you’ve no previously published work, and as a result, many poets prefer to have a small collection of published works in journals or magazines before approaching a publisher, but ultimately the choice is yours.

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How To Publish A Poetry Book

Whether you decide to self-publish your poetry book or try to have your work published by a publishing house, try to keep your expectations realistic and be open to any criticism you may receive.

There are a lot of poets and writers out there and competition for readership can be fierce. As a result, it’s wise to expect that your poetry book may not earn much money, and that’s okay. For many, the ability to reach new readers, increase their profile and reputation, and having the chance to flex their poetic muscles is satisfaction enough, with any money made on the side an added bonus.

As a result, try to spend within your means when pursuing your publishing dreams, and research any potential self-publishing companies or publishers thoroughly before submitting any manuscripts to them. If you can, try to speak to other poets to see what their experience of the company was like before making any decisions.

Piles of English coins isolated on a white background. Making money as a poet can be challenging.
It can be difficult making money as a poet. (Image: CC BY 2.0, Images Money, Flickr)

Do Poets Make Money?

It’s a question that many aspiring poets have asked, and the hard truth is that, while it is possible to make money writing poetry, it’s a far cry from a lucrative career.

Although many poets are talented, capable, passionate, and willing to put the time into making poetry writing their career, the fact is that there is not as much demand for poets and poetry compared to other written works, whether they are:

  • Fiction novels;
  • Cookbooks; or
  • Celebrity autobiographies.

As a result, it can be really hard for poets to find an audience to reach out to in a way that will generate a stable, long-term income.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom! While it’s generally not wise to quit your day job to pursue a full-time career as a poet (unless you are an exceptional talent, have a well-paid publishing deal already, or an exceptionally strong fan base or social media following) there are still ways you can get your poetry out there, and get paid for it.

For example, you could try and sell your poems to greeting card companies. Some greeting card companies like to use poems as messages in their cards, so you could try and reach out to those companies to see whether they would consider any of your works.

If you do decide to go down this route, make sure to research the greeting card company thoroughly, know who the key contacts at the company are, and understand their target audience and the range of cards they sell. Essentially, treat any potential client with the professionalism you would expect in your day job, and you’ll be in a great position to start pitching for work.

Another option is to try and break into songwriting, which is in many ways closely related to poetry. It’s a competitive market to break into, but it can be very satisfying to know that there’s a band or musician out there playing your words on a nightly basis to crowds of people.

Other avenues also include working as a freelance writer more generally, or to look for poetry writing gigs on sites such as Upwork or Fiverr. While these jobs tend to be low paid, it can be a great way to see some money come through for your work. If you go down this route, it pays to be flexible, so be prepared to write short fiction, free verse, contemporary poetry, or any other written work that will require good use of your imagination.

And, of course, there is always teaching as another option. Teachers or tutors won’t get to spend much time writing poetry but you could get satisfaction from being immersed in the world of poetry and teaching others about the subject. There are websites such as Superprof out there that help link tutors together with students, so you could apply for a tutor position with Superprof and start your tutoring work that way.

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