Every poet needs an outlet. The challenge is getting exposure for your work. Though it's difficult to make a living off poetry, you can find numerous outlets for your work. Blogs, literary journals and self-published books are just some of the more popular ways that poets reach their audiences. However, each approach has pros and cons to carefully consider in deciding which one is right for you.
Blogs and Websites
Through blogs and websites, you can reach an unlimited audience and publish your poetry right away. Websites like Blogger.com allow you to create a free blog within a template that the provider offers. Creating a website is a better option if you want a more personalized look and feel. Just expect to pay hosting and design fees to maintain the site on a regular basis.
Creating a chapbook gives readers a taste of your work with having to produce a full-length book. The basic format consists of four to 48 pages of 8.5 x 11 paper that you fold in half and staple together with a cardstock cover. You can design and print chapbooks on your home computer, or let your local copy shop handle the photocopying, folding and stapling. Either way, you produce as many copies as you like at minimal cost.
Online and printed literary journals remain the traditional route for finding a wider audience. These markets typically pay contributors a small fee or a free copy of the publication, according to Poets and Writers magazine, which maintains an online database of 800 journals and magazines alone. Such resources help you find potential matches for your work. According to the Poetry Foundation, numerous journals are also experimenting with audio clips, animated content, blogs and YouTube videos, which boosts the number of outlets and the chance of someone seeing your verse.
A professional presentation is a must if you self-publish a collection of work. This arrangement requires paying a company to print a prearranged number of books for selling at readings or through your website, editor and designer Denise Enck explains on the Empty Mirror Books website. Many self-publishing companies also offer print-on-demand services that produce one physical copy when someone orders your book. Most print runs average 100 to 200 copies, since poetry is a small market. Avoid including poems that you may later enter in contests or submit to other publications – whose editors generally don't consider previously published material, advises Writer's Digest.
Small independent or university presses offer an option for poets who don't plan to handle their own publishing. Request submission guidelines to see if your work is a good fit, Poets and Writers magazine advises. If the verdict is positive, you'll sign a contract that generally doesn't include an advance. Also, unless you're signed to a university press – whose budget is bigger – expect to handle the promotional work yourself. For this reason, ask upfront what any publisher will do for you.