Very few poets ever live off the proceeds from their work. Most poets, even the most widely published, hold other jobs to pay the bills. If you want money, don’t expect to make it from poetry.
Having said this, it is still a good idea to market your poetry book. Marketing your poetry can help give your poetry recognition and appreciation from the wider public. In addition, for most poets, any money earned from the sales of books is appreciated even if it doesn’t pay all the bills. Here are some tips on how to market your poetry book.
Poetry books will sell if you go out and do a lot of readings wherever anyone will listen.
For example, you can do poetry readings at a local library or coffee shop. You can read your poetry on a street corner with a stack of books on your side. You can participate in a poetry slam.
John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Book says, “The best way to market poetry is to do live readings. Absolutely the best way. Always has been. Likely always will be.”
You might check with your local bookstore or coffeehouse to see if they host readings or other poetry programming.
You can also visit the National Poetry Map on www.poets.org, click on the state you reside, scroll down to “Literary organizations & centers” and “Reading series, conferences, & literary festivals”. Browse the links and any event listings at the bottom of the page to find information about possible events.
You can find poetry slams (a poetry slam is a competition where poets read or recite original work) at www.poetryslam.com. You can join for $20 and get information on all kinds of poetry slams.
You can organize your own poetry reading. Here is a good article on how to organize your own poetry reading: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/organiseAReading.do
Some enterprising poets have been known to do quite well going to the subway station with a stack of poetry books and reading their poetry out load to the bustling crowd until all their books have sold.
2. Online Podcasts and Video
On modern way to “read” your poetry is through the use of podcasts and videos. Poets, nowadays, often take one of their favorite poems and set it to music and visual art in a short video and post it on various online video sites like www.YouTube.com.
Check out these videos that are based on a poem:
- The Dash has been viewed more than 30 million times via various websites and books by the author, Linda Ellis, have become very popular: http://youtu.be/zsY6UrFIsNs
- Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus has had more than 24 million views (note how he promotes his new book in the video): http://youtu.be/1IAhDGYlpqY
- Forgetfulness is an animated video with Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate and one of America’s best-selling poets, reading his poem: http://youtu.be/n-a8ELOVig4
- The Don’t Quit Poem has had more than 4 million views: http://youtu.be/VkCFeNeqyHk
- Taylor Mali on “What Teachers Make” has had over 4 million views. Taylor Mail is one of the most well-known poets to have emerged from the poetry slam movement: http://youtu.be/RxsOVK4syxU
3. Social Media
Social media has become a great vehicle for poets to express themselves and become discovered by poetry lovers. Good poets should use social media to find people who like good poetry.
I recommend that all poetry book authors join Facebook. Facebook is an ideal forum to share your poetry and to discover new poems.
If you aren’t already familiar with Facebook, please view my article Facebook for Authors – Part 1. Once on Facebook, you should join one or more of the many groups on Facebook that discuss poetry. If you don’t know how to find groups, please view this helpful video: http://youtu.be/9UDE-rOxJ9I. To expand your network of like minded people on Facebook, please see my article Facebook for Authors – Part II
In addition, I recommend that poets check out these (free) online communities where you can share your poetry:
4. Reviews and Awards
Reviews and awards are what separate the recognized poets from the poets who will stay in obscurity.
To get your poetry out there and get it the recognition it deserves, I recommend you enter as many poetry contests as you can afford and have time for. Many of the online poet communities I mentioned above have poetry contests. In addition, here is a list of poetry contests: http://www.fanstory.com/page/poetry_contests/poetry_contests.jsp
Book reviews will also help your marketing efforts.
A review of your new poetry book, or even a positive review of one of your poems, from an independent literary journal will help your reputation and your book sales. Here is a list of journals that review poetry: http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/journals-review-poetry
Customer reviews are also important. No one is going to buy your poetry book off of Amazon if you don’t have any positive customer reviews posted on the site. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to post reviews of your poetry book on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com. If you have to, pay for reviews but get positive reviews for your poetry book on these major retail sites.