I don’t know about you, but I wrote poems for years before it ever occurred to me that I might want to publish them. My poetry wasn’t written for an audience or publication. It was personal self-expression. I often used poetry to explore ideas and experiment with language. It seems that this is not uncommon. A lot of poets first come to the craft for the sheer pleasure of composing poetry.
But eventually, many poets decide to try to get published, and there are a variety of ways to do that.
The fastest and easiest path to publication is to self-publish. However, if you’re looking for clout or if you want to reach a broad audience, publishing through a more traditional route might be the better way to go. In order to get traditionally published, especially by a quality publication, your work needs to reach a high level of craftsmanship. Even if your poetry skills are advanced, each publication has its own preferences, so you’ll need to find one that is a match to your style.
Seven Ways to Publish Your Poetry
Here are some ways that you can publish your poetry:
1. On a blog
This is your fastest and easiest route to publication. If you don’t already have a blog, you can set one up in minutes (although it will take longer if you want to build a high-quality website). Be aware that just because you’ve posted your poetry and made it available to the public doesn’t mean people will see it. You’ll need to find a way to get traffic to your website.
2. Create a chapbook
There is a long tradition of chapbooks in the literary world, and they are not exclusive to poetry. A chapbook is a short collection of written works, in this case, poetry. Writers often bring their chapbooks to open mics, where they read work from the collection and have copies on hand to sell to attendees. You might also be able to get your local bookstore to sell your chapbook (or offer it for free), and you can, of course, create a digital version (a PDF or e-book) to make available online.
3. Submit to literary magazines and journals
Submitting your work to literary magazines and journals is the most traditional method of publishing your poetry. It’s also a good way to get your work noticed in the poetry world, and it increases the chance that you can eventually get your poems into an anthology or other collection. Make sure you read several issues of each publication to make sure your work is a good match, and then carefully review their submission guidelines before sending your poetry to them.
4. Self-publish a collection
If you have enough completed works, you can self-publish your own collection of poetry. There are two options here: you can publish your own work, or you can invite other poets into the mix and become the editor of a multi-poet collection (be cognizant of drawing up a contract and managing costs as well as payments to other poets).
5. Submit your poetry to a publisher of poetry books
Some book publishers produce poetry collections with open submissions (as opposed to sending out exclusive invitations). They are often looking for poets whose work has been previously published in esteemed literary magazines and journals, so be sure to check the guidelines before you submit your work.
6. Enter a poetry contest
Be careful here. There are a lot of scammy writing contests, especially those that pose as publishing houses or that collect exorbitant fees from submitting poets. However, entering a poetry contest can be a good way to get eyes on your work.
7. Slam poetry
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention slam poetry (or performance poetry). In the world of slam, poems are heard (or watched), not read. Your work should be written to be performed, and then you have to get on a stage and perform it. Some of these performances might be produced as films, documentaries, or streamed online. There are also plenty of slam poetry contests you can enter. While not a path to publishing in the conventional sense, this is a good way to get your work in front of other people.
Publish Your Poetry
Once you self-publish your poetry, a lot of publications will not accept it as a submission. Publications tend to prefer exclusive rights, and speaking of rights, be sure to check the fine print — you might be barred from publishing your poem elsewhere for a designated amount of time.
Have you ever published your poetry? Have you ever tried? Do you want to get your poetry published? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing!