First Step to Publish Poetry Book

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Thread: First Step to Publish Poetry Book

  1. #1

    First Step to Publish Poetry Book

    Sorry, slightly misleading title.

    Basically I have a lot of material and wondering where I should send it? Iíve found a couple of places that look over books of poetry but assumed some folks here could point out other publishers that are willing to look at my stuff.

    My poems are not all one theme or style, so it will be something of a hodgepodge of loosely interconnected pieces. From what Iíve read 40-50 pages seems to be the standard.

    All advice welcome, thanks.

    note: I never set out to try and publish anything, but given a friend of mine has tried I thought why not? What I have got to loose

  2. #2
    If it's like books of short stories, they greatly prefer you to have some of the poems published in litmags etc. first.

    You could start looking on, the submission grinder or poets and writers. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Buy a copy of Writer's Guide. They prolly have a version for poetry (or include it in the fiction guide.)
    Also consider getting the Writer's Guide to Agents, since nowadays you have to be agented before publishers will even talk to you.

    Either that or go Indie...but I dunno how well that's work for poetry.

  4. #4
    Short story collections by one relatively unknown author are a hard sell for publishers and poetry collections are an even harder sell. There's just not much of a market for them. People who do buy poetry collections tend to want to read the work of someone well known or an anthology (with works by a lot of different authors). Getting an agent or the type of large publisher that typically deals with agented works is, in my experience, unlikely at this point. Self-publishing is the most likely route, in my opinion.

    As I said, it would increase your chances with a decent publisher if some of the poems were published elsewhere first though, especially in prestigious places. Doing public readings would help, too. You could think of each poem published as a little advertisement for your name and your work. Scatter enough of them around and you would no longer be an unknown poet. You'd at least have some kind of demonstrable following as well as other respected publishers who have vouched for your work. There are many decent poets out there and even the presses who would consider a poetry collection can only take a few of them. So you have to think about what would make them pick yours over the hundred or thousand or more others they could pick.

    That said, there's no harm in trying to go for an agent or larger/prestigious press right off the bat, if that's the route you really want to try. has about 300 total places listed that publish poetry collections, for example. I think it's $5 a month for a duotrope subscription and you can just buy one month's worth. The one Ralph mentioned above might be good, too (I'm not very familiar with it). University presses might be a good bet as well. There are also other places that list the names of publishers/agents and what they're interested in. Query Tracker (online) is one for finding agents.

    Another way is to just go on Amazon and look up recently well published poetry collections, then see who published them. Sometimes they'll state their agent's name in their acknowledgements too, if they have an agent.

    Also, be wary of anyone who wants you to pay them to publish your work' that's a vanity press, not a legitimate publisher but they're slick about what they present themselves as. Also keep in mind that a tiny micro-press that's really just someone who self-published their own work, then decided to publish other people's work, would just be putting your options (and profits, if any) into the hands of someone who has no clout in the industry and doesn't know much more than you do about it all. The same is true for "co-ops" where a few self-published authors get together and form a micro-press. You can easily do everything they can do on your own, including coming up with a publishing company name so your book does not appear to be self-published. Then you retain control of your work plus receive 100% of your profits. Or, if you do go with one of them, be sure to take your time so you fully understand what you're getting and what you're giving up.

    Finally, before approaching anyone, don't skip the step of a simple internet search to see what others have had to say about them. There are a lot of scammers out there preying on people's hope. Sorry if you already know all this; I don't know where you're at with it.

    ETA: Also, if you decide to self-publish your collection, I suggest studying some recently well published books of poetry to see how they hang together. For ex., do the collections tend to be on one topic or theme or just whatever the poet has written (it could be you'd do better with more than one collection, if you have a lot of poems). How many of the poems have been published elsewhere first? (They're usually listed). Do the covers have anything in common? Also notice how they're arranged. With short stories, for example, it's common for the collection to be named after one of the stories (though not always). It's also common to find the very best stories at the front, then again at the very end, with those that aren't quite as shining in the middle. Hope this helps.
    Last edited by Ma'am; October 14th, 2019 at 12:46 AM.

  5. #5
    Badger, why not submit individual poems to various magazine/journals etc.

    We have the Outside Invitations and Calls for Submissions board on WF . If people are interested I'll post more requests. Or, why not self-publish? I can think of at least three members here who have taken this route with their poetry.
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  6. #6

  7. #7
    We poets often take a different route to publication.
    - create chapbooks, and send them in for contests
    - send in small collections of poems to online magazines
    - find a publisher, but that is for poetry even more difficult than for fiction/non-fiction
    - publish a different way, like has already been mentioned
    - or start a blog, and publish that way. Don't underestimate that option, it's a great way to gain a following and build a portfolio

    But a real good way is the option I made bold. There are good magazines out there, just make sure to check whether they ask for a fee to send in work. Often they also organize contests, like this one does:

    Happy searching

  8. #8
    We have 2 writers who have published poetry collections via
    But I cannot say how well they sold. you would have to check their sales figures on Amazon.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Washington State
    Button Poetry is the most successful version I've seen and they have an annual book contest where the winner gets publication and all sorts of press. That's where I buy lots of my poetry collections. I'll also disagree that there isn't a market - contemporary poetry has become hugely successful with more poets like Rupi Kaur being published AND a lot of novels experimenting with form - a good friend of mine is doing a book mostly told in verse and with artifacts. It's being pubbed by a big 5 and is one of a group of a books rolling out/has rolled out recently. Also, last time I went to the PNWA conference, there were agents there looking at poetry work too. Good luck and keep at it!


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