Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fantasy versus a realistic publishing goal


This article comes with the warning of bursting those fantasy bubbles floating around cyberspace – the persistent idea that the poems on a poet’s blog will be found by millions of readers and at least one publisher who wants to print every word in a book of poetry. Of course, the odds of a reputable publisher looking for poems, much less finding them, is about as realistic as sitting on a park bench, humming an impromptu tune that’s instantly overheard and becomes a gold record. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but poets usually do better by hanging out in bookshops, buying poetry journals, and attending poetry readings.

Reality need not get harsh, however, just more practical. As happens, for instance, with any other art, craft, trade, profession, occupation, calling, or hobby, the more you practice and learn, the better you get. The same holds true for poets and poetry. Therefore, a big step is to get real with fantasies:

Do you want your poems published?

If so, no problem! Cyberspace has lots of room. So a more relevant question to help you establish a realistic goal is to ask which readers do you want? Poetry lovers? Poetry scholars? Other poets? Everyone? Or do you mainly want your poems published so your friends and family can readily read them?

Each answer brings different questions on how to go about meeting your poetry publishing goal.

For instance, if you want people who love you a lot, but poetry not so much, to read your poems, the truth is, they will most likely read them on a free blog. Self-publishing provides another choice, but why go to that expense unless necessary to meet a goal? Maybe you want a print-bound copy of your poems in your hand. If so, good reason! But if you want your friends and family to remain your main readers, you’ll probably need to give away pricey copies or convince people to buy your book and get a free autograph.

Conversely, blogging verse is free – for you and other people. Then, the goal is to send everyone you know the full URL with http:// or www or whatever it takes to make a hotlink hot, so people can click onto it and find your poems.

If, however, you want your poems available to the poetry-reading public, you have other questions to ask that answer before you find a realistic route. For example, do you read poems by other people? Do you prefer reading a poetry journal, chapbook, book of poems, or anthology? Are you familiar with each of those choices for publication?

The Internet provides online bookstores, journals, e-zines, and everything else a poet’s heart desires. So investigate. Get real with your work. Find the types of publication you enjoy. Then submit your poems accordingly.

To find potential markets for your poems, investigate literary journals, books, and e-zines that interest you, then follow their Submission Guidelines as you send poems suited to that publication.

When you have several published poems, send a poetry book or chapbook to a traditional publisher.

For other realistic ways to meet your publishing goals, search the archived articles on this blog. If you cannot find a subject you want to know more about, ask a general question, post an encouraging comment, and suggest an enticing topic in the Comments section below.

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© 2012, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. If you need help improving your poems before you submit your poetry to a traditional publisher, see "Feedback & Fees" for more information. Or, if you're self-publishing, the minimal cost of a poetry edit will be more than worth it!

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2 comments:

  1. Mary, thank you for confirming what I already do! I've been in the journals-to-chapbook chain for years without yet reaching a full length book.
    Though I'd never expect an editor to find me through my blog, blogging has other great uses - including sharing poems.

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  2. Thanks, Ellen. Hope your book-writing goes well. Yes, blogs have all sorts of good uses, but I don't like to post unpublished poems. Most editors of poetry journals or e-zines will not accept poems posted on a blog. So my Bible People blog has previously published poems only - with the exception of the prose poem about Lot's wife, who never could get it right :)

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