Getting your poems published is the easy part. Getting paid for them ... well ... that takes a bit of planning on your part. Me, I do not write poems for money, but I am always pleased when I get some ...
by Ted L Glines
Recently, someone said, “There is no market for poems anymore.” Of course, he could not have been more mistaken. I told him to play a CD, listen to any music-radio station, go to any concert, and listen to those song-lyrics. Poetry, alive and well! Times have not changed the needs of publishers. The next song-release is only a blank disk until some singer gets your poem and your verses sing through his voice. The next literary magazine issue is only a hundred blank pages until your poem arrives in its editor's mailbox (postal or email). Greeting card companies will pay as much as $100 for a verse which you can write on one side of a 3x5 index card, and the upcoming holiday publishers crave all-new verses (yours).
Some time back, I stumbled upon Bat World Sanctuary, a non-profit organization here in Texas. Bat World rehabilitates abused bats. They carried a story about Bentley, an African straw-colored flying fox (sub-saharan flying fox, large fruit bat, body about the size of a small cat, makes a loyal and friendly pet) Bentley had been born and raised in an American zoo, and had been abused terribly by them (Bentley's story is typical of man's inhumanity to dependent animals). This poor creature was rescued by the folks at Bat World, who rehabilitated him, and Bentley spent his remaining four (happy) years at the sanctuary, until he passed away. I read all of Bentley's sad story and discussed it with a friend in Oregon, and she said, “I think you feel a poem coming on!” I did write a poem. I sent the poem to one of the directors of Bat World Sanctuary. Next thing I knew, my poem was published on Bentley's Memorial page! This one surprised me because I had meant the poem as a thank-you to the volunteers for a job well done. (http://www.batworld.org/in_memory/bentley.html) Getting published in the more traditional poetry market is even easier.
One fellow poet told me, “I wouldn't stoop to writing those trite greeting-card verses.” His statement ranks near the top of my list of stupid things uttered by an intellectual mouth (right with the quote at the top of this article). How would you like to find something stunning, something which really speaks to your heart, when you browse those racks of greeting cards? Well, so would American Greetings (and they pay well)! They receive hundreds of trite verses every week, but they are always looking for something special. They are waiting for you! Figure about six months lead-time for holiday-specific verse.
College and private literary magazines are always seeking new poems from new talent. In the case of college literary magazines, the school is funding publication and circulation costs, and they will usually send you a complimentary copy of any issue where your work is published. Private literary magazines work under more stringent conditions - where the magazine owner funds all costs of publishing and circulation out of his/her wallet. A larger literary magazine may be 100 pages and total printing/circulation costs may run as high as $12 per circulated copy of each issue. In either case, subscriptions do not even pay postage costs. Soooo ... it is easy to be published in the private literary magazines but you might want to subscribe (to assure yourself of getting your copy) and maybe support them in other ways (they will appreciate your help). The look and feel of literary magazines is evolving as they are transiting to Webzine design with POD capabilities.
That brings us to the POD book publishers like Publish America, Lulu, etc. They do their job and they do it quite well. They attractively publish your book of poems, stories, articles, or even your novel or scholarly textbook, at little or no ($$$) cost to you. It is a wonderful thing to hold a book in your hand with a great title, great cover art, and your name featured on its front cover - as the author! Yes! The POD book publishers will give this gift to you. They will list your book on Amazon.com, on Barnes & Noble, on Books-a-Million, etc., and on their own Websites, as well. But they do not edit your work, so the quality of your book will remain entirely your concern. Faulty grammer, spelling, word-context, will be yours to perfect, on your own, and your book will die because of such faults. The major bookstores will not stock your book on their in-store sales shelves because the POD book publishers cannot offer “return” guarantees. Further, the POD book publishers will not, can not, market your book beyond the above Website listings. Fact is, the actual proactive marketing of your book, along with its internal quality, will be in your own ballpark (which is as it should be - after all, your earnings require your own efforts). Without going to near-book length, this article cannot cover marketing strategies. But, a good start (now that your POD book is out there and available) would be working the marketing turf provided by your own local writers groups, guilds, and posting your book-link on every Website in the world! Bragging works wonders!
Finally, at the bottom of my list, are the anthologies promoted by Poetry.com and their ilk. No matter what you send to them (stunning or trash), they will publish it in one of their many anthologies. Three poems to a page. Tiny print. Thick hard-bound book. And, for $39+, you may receive a copy of ”your” book. I am looking at “my” book right now. I have put a placemark in it to be able to find my own poem. It put a damper on my pride when I realized that hundreds of other poets also had placemarks in their “own” books (they likely never read my poem), and when I realized that I had never seen this anthology listed for sale anywhere. Hmmm ... and still, after all these years, I receive my “special invitations” to receive grand poetic awards at their Las Vegas conventions. Every poet should do this once ...
Frankly, getting published is easier than writing your work. Mostly. Have you ever noticed that those poems which wake you up, already written and singing in your mind, are the ones which are accepted for publication first time out? Gotta listen to that muse!