How to Publish Poetry for Free and Get It Copyrighted

If Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Alexander Pope, Shel Silverstein, E.E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson are your heroes, you may just be a poet. If you write poetry for adults or children, you're probably wondering what you can do to get your poetry published. While the traditional route to getting poetry published in literary magazines or print poetry anthologies is still valid, there are newer ways to publish poetry--for free--and get it copyrighted.

Go the traditional route if you prefer. Submit your poetry to literary magazines. Writer's Market Online, a Writer's Digest company, includes the publisher listings from Poet's Market. The disadvantage to literary magazines is that they may pay only in contributors' copies or only a nominal fee.

Publish poetry for free by publishing it yourself using a print-on-demand service. Use an online service such as CafePress to print your poems in a book, on a T-shirt or even on gift items and "virtually" sell them in the CafePress online store. Submit your poetry book in e-book format, for example. When a customer places an order, the poetry book is printed and mailed. CafePress offers this service free for a limited number of products. (See Resources below.)

Publish poetry for free by publishing it yourself on your own computer. Type your poems using Word, OpenOffice or other word processing software. Create a cover with a themed cover design symbolic of your poetry. Insert page numbers and page headings and a table of contents. Format the book with generous margins and an attractive typeface. Then save the file in .pdf format. You now have an e-book ready to market without having paid a dime.

Begin a free blog in which to market your poetry e-book. Optionally, you may choose to invest a small amount of money to market your book of poems on an author website designed to sell your poetry. Create a website and use a service such as E-Junkie, a shopping cart service that offers digital downloading functionality, to market your ebook.

Stop now if you want, as your work is already copyrighted the moment you put pen to paper or type on your keyboard, as laid out in the Copyright Act of 1976. If you are concerned that you may need to take legal action in the future to defend your copyright from copyright infringement, then you may choose to get it copyrighted--that is, to register your poems with the United States Copyright Office.

Go to the U.S. Copyright Office online for fastest results (see Resources below). If your poems are published in the same volume and all the poems in the volume are by the same author (you), register the volume of poetry under a single copyright. Fill out the form online, pay the application fee and send your poetry e-book electronically in one of the following formats: .doc, .docx, .htm, .html, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, .wpd or .wps. You may also mail a hard copy of your work in print to the U.S. Copyright Office.

View your registered copyright after it gets cataloged in the public records database (see Resources below).


When you self publish poetry for free and get it copyrighted--or rather, register your work with the Copyright Office--your costs are minimal and you keep all the rights to your work, earning a larger percentage of the royalties than if you publish poetry in a traditional anthology, through traditional publishers.

Leave out any sensitive information on your copyright application. The entire application, once submitted along with your fee and your work, becomes a matter of public record and is publicly accessible.

Things You'll Need

  • Word processing software that can convert documents to .pdf files
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