Advice On How To Sell Poetry


Preparing Your Poems

  • revision
  • manuscription preparation
  • important note on formatting

Finding Your Markets

  • agents
  • where to find market information
  • investigating markets
  • reading periods
  • submission services

On Multiple Submissions

  • submitting to more than one market
  • sending more than one submission at a time to one market
  • sending sequential submissions to a market
  • previously published poems

Sending Them Out

  • cover letters
  • your submission package

Tracking Your Submissions

  • submission logs

Waiting It Out

  • how to wait
  • writing a submission status query letter
  • editor's revisions

Publication and Payment

  • acceptance letters
  • contracts
  • payment

Book Publication

  • book preparation
  • manuscript formatting
  • researching book publishers
  • sending your manuscript out
  • self-publishing
  • "vanity"/subsidy publishing
  • electronic-only books
  • agents
  • publication and payment


One Final Word

Preparing Your Poems


First revise your poems till they are the strongest, most individual, clearly written poems with the best imagery and language you are capable of in the form that best suits the subject and language. Put them away for a few weeks or months. Check again.

Show them to some intelligent friends (people who read a lot, not necessarily poets or even writers though that may work best for you) who will be honest with you about your work. Consider their suggestions seriously. If you want to try an online poetry workshop, I have heard good things about Eratosphere, though I personally have not participated in it. While I do believe workshops can be useful for poets they are by no means mandatory. Intelligent friends who are willing to read your work and make suggestions on how to improve them are invaluable wherever you find them.

Revise revise revise but don't kill the poems' energy. Check again — are they the best you can make them?

Manuscript Preparation

Important note on formatting: Read the market's submission guidelines. I repeat, read the market's submission guidelines — attentively and thoroughly, noting their submission requirements and follow them carefully. Your market's submission requirements override everything I will recommend in this section. Some places have very particular requirements, but many don't which is where what follows can give you some guidance.

Typing: Yes, you do need to type your poems into a computer file to submit them, even if the place you're submitting them wants them printed out on paper. Do not send in handwritten poems. In the olden days we used to type poems out using a typewriter each time we submitted them.

Page formatting: Have at least a 1-inch margin all the way around your page. In general, use the header area to put your name, address, phone, and email address in the top corner (some people use the left, I prefer the right for no good reason). Space down one line, then move to the main part of the page to type the title (your poems all have titles, right?), then space down another couple of lines again and type the poem.

About 98% of poetry markets are perfectly happy if you single-space lines within the stanzas of your poems. The other 2% insist on every manuscript being double-spaced. Personally, I single-space my poems because I can't stand the way they look double-spaced unless a particular market's guidelines demand double-spaced poems.

If your poem goes on to more than one page, make clear if the page break conceals a stanza break or not (I simply put "[stanza break]" or "[no stanza break]" at the bottom of the page). Some people put ".../2" to indicate the poem goes on to a second page at the bottom right of the page. At the top of following pages, put your last name, the poem's title, and the page number of the page of the poem.

Do not put a copyright notice on the page or on your cover letter. In the U.S. and Canada, your poems are already copyright protected the instant you write them down. Many editors see a copyright mark on a poem as the sign of an amateur who doesn't understand copyright law, and may be insulted that you think they might steal your work.

Font: Use a readable font (typeface) — no script or anything too fancy or quirky or it will attract the wrong kind of attention. You want your poems to be noticed for their own excellence, not because your font drew attention. Some markets specify Times Roman, so it's a good default font to use. In general, poetry editors don't seem to be picky about particilar typefaces, so all you need is an easy-to-read font in a legible size. Remember, editors have to read a lot and the easier you make it for them the better.

If your poetry might be difficult to typeset and the precise placement of the words and characters on the page affects the poem, I recommend using a non-proportional typeface (where each character, even "w" and "i", have the same width) like Courier.

TItle formatting: Unless your market specifies otherwise, you can format your title however you prefer: in a larger font, all caps, underlined, boldface, as plain text, whatever you like. The only key here is not to get too fancy.

Italics and special formatting: In the text of the poem, use the formatting you want. Use italics to indicate italics — only occasionally you will run into a market that prefers you use underlining to indicate italics nowadays (underlining is easier for the editor to spot on the page, so using underlining for italics was standard in the days of typewriter-produced manuscripts). Unless your poem plays with typography, you shouldn't need boldface or other fancy formatting.

Paper: Should you need to print out your poems, use 8.5 x 11 inch paper in North America, or A4 paper elsewhere in the world. Use regular weight plain white typing paper (meaning not tissue paper or cardstock, and it's best to stay away from coloured, textured, or specially finished paper).

Line lengths: A few markets want you to include the number of lines you use in your poem. If so, don't forget to include them, but most markets don't ask you to.

Finding Your Markets


I have never heard of an agent willing to handle submissions of individual poems. Occasionally, for a famous person, an agent will be willing to handle book publication, but this is rare.

Where to find market information

I mostly find my markets through my own online reading; however, there are a zillion listings of markets out there. Poets and Writers has ads and announcements about various magazines, anthologies, and contests seeking submissions. Submittable has a newsletter, and there are many other places that list markets and/or have newsletters, like [places for writers]. The Grinder and Duotrope also have market listings (more about these particular sites later).

There are directories, like the Community of Literary Magazines and Small Presses. Back in more paper-based days, I used to use the Directory of Poetry Publishers and The International Directory of Little Magazines and Small Presses, both still published annually by Dustbooks. The Writers Digest's directories are carried by most public libraries, and are available for sale in both paper and online.

Browse. Check links from one magazine to another. Use the various search engines.

For Canadians, the National Media Foundation that supports the National Magazine Awards has a Guide to Canadian Literary Magazines. The League of Canadian Poets lists it and other writer's resources. In the U.K., see The UK Small Press Literary Scene.

Wikipedia lists literary magazines by country. I would appreciate if writers from outside North America would let me know which directories they would recommend for people in their geographic areas.

If you write speculative poetry (poems with elements of fantasy, science fiction, and/or horror), The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has a market listing and has a poetry section.

Investigating markets

Despite the usefulness of market listings and directories, it can be a good idea to see the magazines before you send your material off to them blindly — the directories aren't good at letting you know what paper magazines physically look like and whether they truly publish work like yours. Friends of mine have horror stories about having work appear in magazines that they were later embarrassed about, simply because they hadn't any idea what the magazine was about or what it looked like before they sent the editors their work. So do your research online. Even print magazines have websites, where they will have their submission guidelines, information about when they are reading submissions, and often samples from recent issues. Obviously, you can usually see entire issues of online magazines, though some require that you pay to see full issues.

For print magazines, besides looking at their websites you may be able to find physical copies at your local public library, college or university library, bookstore, or newsstand.

Find all the magazines that seem to be sympathetic to poetry like yours. Look at back issues and current issues. Check whether they have submission guidelines online. Write down the name of their current poetry or literary editor and be certain you have their current submission address — which may differ from the subscription address. If you're checking out issues in a bookstore or newsstand, buy the ones that interest you most; not only will you be supporting the magazine and store but you'll have a chance to read the issues cover to cover so you can get a stronger feel for the editors' tastes. Beyond this, when you find magazines you enjoy reading — subscribe. Literary magazines, even online magazines, are expensive and time-consuming to produce and they will only survive if they have a strong subscription base. Thus you help ensure that the magazine lives long enough to print your work.

It can be a good idea to start with local magazines and anthologies — they can be more open to work by a local writer.

Do beware of scam sites which exist to publish anything submitted to them and charge hefty fees to the authors to get copies of these publications. They're making money off their anthologies, recordings, and conferences. Stay far away. See SFWA's Writer Beware site and Critter's General Guildlines & Tips on Avoiding Scams.

Reading periods

Remember to check the directory entry or magazine guidelines to see if they have a specific reading period. Many magazines don't read over the summer, and others may have a specific time period which is the only time they will consider submissions — don't waste your time preparing a submission to them if they just closed to submissions a week ago. You might want to note in your calendar when they say they will reopen, instead.

Submission services

There are submission management services. The biggest of them all, at least until it started charging for its services in 2013, is Duotrope, which has a robust market list and offers a submissions tracking service. It offers a free trial, so you can try before you invest.

A donation-funded alternative is The Grinder, which is somewhat smaller but growing.

On Multiple Submissions & Previously Published Poems

Submitting the same work to more than one magazine at a time

Some magazines don't mind multiple submissions. If a magazine explicitly says they don't mind, go ahead and submit your poems to them and to another market that also allows for multiple submissions. Most places who do this will ask you to note on your cover letters that they are multiple submissions.

If the magazine doesn't say whether or not they accept multiple submissions, assume they don't.

If the magazine says they don't accept multiple submissions, don't do it, unless you don't care if you get caught. Some writers say that they aren't willing to put up with long response times and take their chances, even with markets that won't accept multiple submissions. However, if a poem is accepted in two places you have a dilemma — who are you going to disappoint and perhaps lose as a future market? The writing world is smaller than you'd think, and I'd rather not risk losing future potential sales and friends, myself. Especially if it's a place that might otherwise have published your work!

Sending more than one submission at a time to one market

Unless the magazine specifically says they don't mind, don't do it. Wait until one submission comes back before later sending a new, different submission.

Sending sequential submissions to a market

If one submission is rejected it is a good idea to wait a few weeks or months before submitting to the same market unless the editor has specifically never send the same poems back unless they're revised to the point that they aren't recognizable as the original poem. If you have an acceptance from a publication it's a good idea to wait, at the least, until the work appears before sending another submission unless, of course, the editor has asked you to send more work sooner. A few places now specifically request that you wait a certain period before submitting again; it's a good idea to follow the magazine's guidelines on this as well.

Previously published poems

Never send out work that has been previously published in any form, whether it's "only on my blog" or "only in a limited-edition chapbook/small local magazine and the editor will never know any better", unless the publication specifically allows that. For example, some magazines will specify that they want First North American rights — thus if the poem has been previously published in paper in England, that would be fine. I would note that previous publication in a cover letter, however.

Sending Them Out

Cover letters

Some people say it's best not to include a cover letter until you have some publication credits. I have heard of a few rare editors who will not look at a submission that includes a cover letter; I have also heard of editors who won't look at submissions without them. Check the publication's submission guidelines.

The most important thing is to keep the letter brief and to the point. Cover letters should be addressed to the poetry editor or magazine editor, as appropriate, by name. Offer the editor the poems for publication in their journal. List up to three recent publishing credits if you have them. Thank the editor for his/her time. That's all.

Don't explain your poetry or ask for critical feedback, or use any attention-getting devices as they'll likely draw the wrong kind of attention. Don't apologize for or boast about your work. Keep your letter clear, simple, and professional. If the editor has previously rejected your work but included a personal note (not just something in the publication's form rejection saying to try them again sometime) saying s/he would like to see more of your work, by all means mention this in your cover letter. If you're resubmitting work with changes suggested by the editor (n.b. do not otherwise resubmit work) tell him/her that you're doing so and thank the editor for the suggestions. If you are sending poems for a specific issue of the magazine, do say so. For example, if the magazine has announced plans in a previous issue or a market report or press release that they're accepting submissions for a special issue on beekeeping and you're sending a submission of poems about beekeeping that you want them to consider for that issue, tell them.

Your Submission Package

Wow, these really vary nowadays. Follow the publication's guidelines.

For submissions send to an email address, be careful to check whether they want poems all included in the body of the email (and don't want any attachments), and if they do want poems submitted as attachments (this is rare due to virus precautions) be sure to follow their directions about whether they want all the poems in one attachment, whether they want the cover letter there or in the body of the email message, etc. Be sure to use a file format the publication is willing to accept.

Many publications use Submittable. If they do so, they will include a link to their submittable page in their guidelines. Publications pay for this service and may sometimes pass that cost on to those submitting to them. For submittable, you will need to put the poems you're submitting into one file (again, be sure to use a file format the publication is willing to accept). You will need to have your cover letter ready to paste into a space provided. Most places will ask you to list the titles of the poems you have included.

For a paper submission (yes, some places still insist on these) you should included in your envelope:

  • your cover letter (if you have one)
  • your poems (about 5 poems or pages)
  • a stamped self-addressed envelope (SASE) with enough postage for the return of your poems (alternatively, you might send a letter-sized #10 SASE and tell the editor in the cover letter that the manuscript material is disposable. Or check — despite insisting on paper submission, the magazine may be willing to respond via email. Remember if you're sending submissions to a foreign country that you either need to include International Reply Coupons (IRC, which you can buy from your local government post office, though usually not from substations) or enough stamps in that country's postage to get the package back to you. For example, if you were sending a submission from the U.S. to Canada, you would send the package out with U.S. stamps on it and your SASE would have either 2 (or more) IRCs attached or enough Canadian stamps to get the material back to you in the U.S.
  • (optional) a paper clip to hold the previous items together (DON'T staple your poems together)
Your exterior envelope should be addressed to the poetry editor by name or to the publication's editor if there is no specific poetry editor. Fiction writers are advised never to fold their stories — it does make them harder to read. I suggest either sending poetry submissions flat in a 9 x 12 manilla envelope (or the appropriate envelope for A4 paper) or in a 4 x 6 envelope with the poems folded in half rather than using a regular letter-size (#10) envelope and crunching your poems inside it. Make it easy on your editor.

Remember to put enough postage on the exterior of your envelope, too. You don't want it to arrive postage due — if that happens don't be surprised if your submission comes back to you with the envelope unopened and marked "Refused — Return to Sender".

Don't use a return label or stamp that has a cute design or saying on it — it will draw the wrong kind of attention. Make sure everything you're sending looks professional. Plain return labels or stamps are, of course, fine.

Track Your Submissions

Submission logs

Do keep track of your submissions. There are some computer programs for this, but I've never found my submissions difficult to track so I've never investigated these programs. You can easily set up your own in any database or word processing program. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Do whatever works for you here, but do keep track. Submittable will track submissions send through them. Once you've created an account with them, your submissions will appear there. The Grinder and Duotrope both have submission trackers. You can use a paper notebook.

My spreadsheet simply includes: the date I send the submission out,the name of the place I sent it, exactly what I sent, the date I got a response, and what that response was. I have an extra place for notes, for example if I get a rejections that specificall requests I send more work. You might want to add the market's usual response time to this to help you keep tabs on that. Keep especially clear track of when your work has been accepted for publication. You might want to expand your submission log to include when you expect the published works to appear or keep a separate listing of acceptances.

Waiting It Out


Once your work is out there be patient and above all, keep writing. If one or two of the poems from your submission are accepted, rejoice and send the rest out with replacement poems (and you might want to take a look at the publication and payment section of this document). If they all are rejected let yourself be sad for as brief a time as possible, but put on your writer's secretary hat and send them out again as quickly as you can. I try to do it within 24 hours.

Remember that the editors are snowed under with poetry submissions and it's all a matter of taste and how much space the magazine has for new poems right now and whether the editor is trying to cut back on caffeine and whether their children kept them up all night. Or maybe they've published so many poems about beekeeping they're tired of them. Or maybe they just don't "get" your kind of poetry. Do more research on poetry magazines, but don't give up. A successful writer's most valuable trait is persistence.

Many people find it useful to paln ahead where they're going to send the poems out next. Some have lists where they send their work out in order of preference. Once it comes back from their first place, they send it to their second, and so on. If you are patient, persistent, and the poems are good they will eventually be published. I have published over 150 poems in various literary magazines, been in about 20 anthologies, placed in a few contests, and have also published two chapbooks (small collections of poems), three full-length collections of poems, a CD of me reading my poems, and have two full-length collections forthcoming, but that's many years of slow writing, drastic revising, and keeping my finished poems out with publishers. Persistence in submitting your work is more important in getting poetry published than nearly anything.

If you have some money to spend on sending your poems out, you might want to consider some of the various poetry contests. Check out Poets and Writers magazine for the best listings of these. Do beware of entry fees and what you get for them. Do beware of scams. Most of these contests have specific guidelines for submissions — follow them carefully.

Keep writing and sending your poems out.

Writing a submission status query

Some magazines are slow to respond to submissions. Many are incredibly slow. Most literary magazines don't pay their editors, many are run by graduate students, all editors have many things to do besides read your submissions, and almost all magazines get way, way more submissions than they can read through quickly. And submissions get lost — either on their way to the magazine, at the magazine's offices, or on their way back to you.

Most books of guidelines include a "response time" section. The Grinder and Duotrope show real-world response times from other writers' submissions. If I haven't heard back on a submission, I generally wait a month or two longer before querying to find out what happened. In your message simply ask if they received them since you haven't heard from them. You can also say that if you don't hear from them within a set amount of time (two months?) you will assume the poems are lost and will re-submit them. Keep the note short and simple. If you're doing this by postal mail, send an SASE for their reply. If you don't hear back from them within the amount of time you've specified, you can assume that you're not going to.

Depending on the publication and the circumstances, I usually resubmit the work elsewhere rather than to the original publication.

Editor's revisions

Sometimes your poems will come back either provisionally accepted or rejected with some suggested revisions. It's entirely up to you whether you make the revisions. Sometimes it means losing the sale if you don't, but that's your choice.

If the editor rejects your work but suggests some revisions and says s/he would be happy to see the work again if you revise it, again it's up to you whether or not to make the revisions, and then whether or not to re-submit the work. If the editor suggests revisions but doesn't indicate any interest in seeing the material again, don't send it back, whether you revise it or not.

Publication and Payment

Acceptance letters

You've received an acceptance letter! Congratulations! Now what?

First, double-check that you're clear on exactly what the publication has bought and what the terms are, and if that's all ok with you. Remember never to pay to have your poems published, and if the publication doesn't pay you with either money or copies, for goodness sake don't buy a copy of the publication just to see your name in print. There are several places out there that make money by printing every poem that comes to them and getting the authors to buy their expensive publications. While they don't require the authors buy the book for their poem to appear, enough desperate authors will pay the price to see a copy of their words typeset and bound and their name in print that the publishers make a tidy profit. Don't be one of them, or if you want to be, be sure that's what you want. No one is going to be impressed with that publication credit, except maybe your mom.


Most literary magazines won't offer you a contract, but many will. Some won't even outline their terms in their acceptance letters. However, if a publication offers you a contract or "agreement to publish" check it carefully to make certain you agree with the terms. I recommend never agreeing to sign over your copyright to a publication unless they pay you a lot of money — this means if you later want to include that poem in a book you will have to write the publication for permission and may even have to pay them a permission fee to republish your own work. However, most places that ask for copyright will grant you permission in their agreement with you for you to use your work later in a collection. Still, I personally would rather keep my copyright.

Never sign over moral rights to anyone — this means they can alter your poem, publish it under someone else's name, turn it into a banner and hang it on Main Street — do anything they want to it and you have no legal recourse to prevent them. Print magazines often now also ask for the right to publish your work on the web or in other electronic forms as well as in their paper publication. Be certain what they're asking for (a limited time? Forever?) and whether you want additional payment to appear in other media or not or whether you're just as happy to have the additional exposure. I'm fine with magazines putting my poems on the web for promotion for their journal.

Pay attention to when the magazine expects to publish your poem.


Few small literary magazines pay in actual dollars; some do, but don't expect to get rich off them. Most paper publications pay their contributors in copies. Many web magazines don't may at all. If the magazine does pay real money, most tend to pay at the time of publication rather than on acceptance.

Most literary magazines pay per page, some pay per poem, and a few pay per word or per line. Contest prizes can vary from tens to thousands of dollars but nearly all of them require entry fees, which can add up pretty quickly — for them and for you.

Book Publication

Book preparation

Once you've published a significant number of poems in individual magazines, you might want to consider putting a book together. Trust me, this is a process that takes several months of work. First you get your best poems. Then you start trying to see what ties them together, and arranging them in an order that makes sense. Then you see what you've got. You tear it apart several times, change titles hundreds of time, show it to lots of people all of whom suggest different things.

Manuscript formatting

Formatting a book manuscript is like formatting individual submissions, so please check the general advice offered there. Remember to leave big margins, use a clear font, plain white paper if you're submitting on paper, etc. Do remember to have a running header on your pages, with your last name, book title, and page number.

When sending on paper, I use a binder clip to keep the pages together. This makes the running head particularly important because the possibility of your manuscript coming apart.

Remember to include an acknowledgements page, listing where the poems in the manuscript have previously appeared — not only does this thank the magazine editors who have published your work, but it also shows a book editor that you have readers out there and that your work is known.

Researching book publishers

Once your manuscript is ready, you start researching publishers. Find out who actually publishes poetry still. Then which of those publishers might be sympathetic to your work. Then you search the web or your research books to find the press's guidelines.

You will be amazed at the publishers who say they're booked up several years in advance and aren't going to be looking at manuscripts for a few years. You will be amazed at the number who are no longer publishing poetry, or those who only publish one book a year, or those who only publish books through contests. Some may only be open to reading submissions at a particular time. Once you locate those few who are open and reading, you start sending your manuscript out. Make certain to follow the press's guidelines. Some may want to see a query and/or a few sample poems first.

It's also a good idea to look at a few books published by that press to see what their general editorial slant is, and of course if it really is a press you'd like to appear with.

Publishing collections of poetry is difficult. There are few publishers out there because books of poetry just don't make much money (how many books of poetry did you buy this year?), and there is a lot of competition out there for those publishers. I know of several poetry manuscripts that were I a publisher I would have published in a minute, yet the manuscripts have not yet found a publisher who feels the same way.

There are lots of book contests, most of these are looking to publish first books by new authors. Check out Poets and Writers. If you do try contests, be sure to log the submissions, returns, and contest fees to be sure it's worth it to you to continue doing this.

The whole thing is a matter of luck and timing, but you can luck out and run across the right editor who has the time money to publish a book right when your manuscript is ready. I did. Six times so far, for five books and a CD.

Sending your manuscript out

Always write a brief cover letter addressed to the poetry editor or editor of the press as appropriate. You don't need to be elaborate here, but simply offer the manuscript for the editor's consideration, list a few of the best-known places where the poems included have been published (not them all, you have the acknowledgements page for that), list any awards the poems have received or any important poetry-related awards that you have received (not that you got third prize at the county fair, but that one of the poems was shortlisted for a major regional or national prize, that sort of thing).

If you're sending on paper, always include an SASE, either for the return of the entire manuscript or tell the editor that the manuscript may be recycled and ask them to respond using a #10/A4 SASE that you enclose.

Again, remember to thank them for their time, and be certain that you have given as much contact information as possible — best to include phone and e-mail as well as your mailing address.


Self-publishing is possible, but even now the there are self-published bestsellers you won't get much respect for it in the poetry world. This is sad because there's so much good work that never sees the light of day.

If you do decide to go the self-publishing route, remember that you're taking on several more time-consuming jobs besides those of writer and writer's secretary: book designer, financier, distributor, and promoter. This is a lot of work. The good thing is that with print on demand you don't need to fill your basement with books anymore. I don't personally know of any high-selling self-published poetry books. That doesn't mean you can't be the exception, just that it's going to take an awful lot of work to get your book in the hands of readers.

I recently considered doing this, and was delighted when a publisher decided to pick up the book and saved me the pain of following through. There's still a lot of work involved in helping promote and sell poetry books and that's enough for me.

"Vanity"/subsidy publishing

Vanity/subsidy publishing is when you pay a publisher to publish your book. There are a variety of arrangements that can be made from options where you and the publisher share the financial risk of the publishing the book to those where you pay the whole shot. It's buyer beware out there with such publishers, so be careful that the deal is one you can live with and that the publisher really does follow through on promises. Definitely find other authors the publisher has worked with, and ask them about their experience.

Again, you will be fighting against prejudice here, just as with self-published work, since most vanity publishers will accept any manuscript that the author is willing to pay to have published. There are exceptions, though, and publishers out there who are willing to edit and promote books the author helps pay to publish.

Things are changing out there.

Electronic-only books

There are more and more publishers out there that only do electronic books. For me there's something about paper and the scent of ink and the convenience of paper book formats   as well as the excitement of holding a physical copy of my work   that I'm not willing to give up, but it's your choice, and certainly there are exciting things happening in this field.

As with any form of publication, do read e-publishing contracts carefully.


Only rarely will you find a legitimate agent who is willing to submit poetry books to publishers on your behalf, and then generally only if there is some particular reason that your poetry book is definitely going to make a big splash, for example if you have had a platinum-selling pop album or you're in a hit tv series or you're a former U.S. president or you've hit a topical subject at exactly the right time (though even this isn't likely to impress the public when your medium is poetry). There are many writers who have agents for their fiction but sell their own poetry. There's just not enough money in poetry for a small percentage of it to be worth an agent's time.

If an agent offers to handle your poetry for you and you're not famous, check the contract carefully. Never pay an agent to handle your writing for you — a percentage of your income (10%-15%) on the materials they represent is the standard arrangement. For more information on agents, see the Association of Authors' Representatives page. It's also always worthwhile checking out SFWA's Writer Beware site and Critter's General Guildlines & Tips on Avoiding Scams.

Publication and payment

Always get a contract for a book publication, so that both you and your publisher are clear on what you both have agreed. Note that nowadays most publishers want both paper and electronic rights for your book. Most writers' groups have sample contracts for you to look at as do many writers' books. Payment for poetry books vary, most literary publishers offer a straight royalty of 10% of the cover price for each book sold. Some small publishers offer you 10% of the print run to sell yourself. There are all kinds of variations on this.


Chapbooks are smaller collections of poems, usually around 24 pages, though this varies. They range from inexpensive photocopied booklets to elaborate finely printed works of art themselves. Writers generally use them to put out preliminary collections of poems, longer poems that don't fit in a book manuscript, smaller thematic collections, or simply to have something special to give to their friends. and sell at readings.

They generally get poor distribution, so you only find local ones at bookstores. To submit a chapbook manuscript, treat it as you would a miniature book, and like books, there are a large number of chapbook contests out there you might want to try.

One Final Word

Whatever you do, do it because you believe in your work and you love writing. If you're doing it for recognition and glory you'll burn out fast. Above all, keep writing and loving it.

Good luck out there!

If you have any questions or comments or additional resources, feel free to email me. Please do not send me your poems and ask my advice where to send them. Instead, I recommend re-reading this document and following the advice offered here.

You might also be interested in reading my essay, "The Making of Poetry: Form and Free Verse."

This work is copyright © 1998-2017 by Neile Graham. It may be copied for personal or classroom use as long as this copyright notice remains attached.

Other guides to marketing poetry: