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Writing

How to Write and Publish Your Own Poetry Book

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 24, 2020 • 3 min read

Publishing a collection of poetry is a great accomplishment for any writer. Luckily, you don’t have to be a bestselling author to get your book of poetry published. Between traditional publishers, small presses, and self-publishers, there are now more opportunities than ever to get your poems in front of an audience.

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Billy Collins Teaches Reading and Writing PoetryBilly Collins Teaches Reading and Writing Poetry

In his first-ever online class, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins teaches you how to find joy, humor, and humanity in reading and writing poetry.

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5 Tips for Publishing a Poetry Book

Here are some tips to help you get your own poetry collection published:

  1. Cultivate your poetry collection. The most essential step towards attracting the attention of a book publisher is having a collection of poems that is unimpeachably strong. Most poetry books contain between 30 and 100 poems, so it’s important to constantly be doing writing exercises and writing poems. Once you have a strong collection of poetry, you’ll need to organize it. A book of poems isn’t simply all of your poetry writing sandwiched under one book cover. The best books of poetry contain poems that are in conversation with one another, unified by theme, style, or choice of poetic form, and placed in a meticulous and deliberate order. Finally, make sure your work is free of typos. Many poetry publishers won’t take you seriously if your poetry manuscript is littered with sloppy mistakes.
  2. Review submission guidelines. Once you’ve assembled your own work, it’s time to begin the submission process. Perhaps you already have an idea of which literary magazines, literary journals, or book publishing companies you’d like to send your poetry submissions to. If so, it’s important to research their specific submission guidelines, since many entities in the literary press or publishing world have their own unique submission criteria. Many book publishing outfits don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Others require query letters, a synopsis of your own book, and a sample of your work. Make sure you’re adhering to proper submission guidelines when turning in your work.
  3. Consider small presses. Many traditional publishing houses are unlikely to publish a poetry collection by an unknown poet, especially if it’s your first book. If you aren’t already a published poet, small presses can be an appealing alternative to traditional publishers. Though these presses may not have the same reach, resources, or book marketing budget as the major players in the publishing industry, they are more likely to take a chance on previously unpublished authors. There are hundreds of small presses in the United States, many of which specialize in specific art forms and poetry styles. If your poetry collection is heavy on haiku or non-rhyming poetry, there is likely a small press that focuses specifically on work like your own.
  4. Enter chapbook contests. If you’ve only been writing poetry for a short while or you don’t feel like you have the output necessary for a full collection, you might want to consider a chapbook. Chapbooks are shorter collections of poetry, usually 40 pages or less, that are unified by a specific theme or style. Many small presses and university presses offer poetry contests, the winner of which gets a published chapbook. Entering poetry contests can be a great way to circumvent the traditional book printing and publishing process.
  5. Try self-publishing. If all else fails, indie authors may choose to go the route of self-publishing. Though self-publishing poetry may lack the prestige of going through traditional publishing houses, it does provide the author with complete creative and financial autonomy. The author decides everything from the layout of the pages to the cover design and cover art. Then, you can choose whether to release your collection exclusively through digital booksellers or to use a print-on-demand service. Print-on-demand allows you to print the specific number of books ordered by customers.

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