Ideas for marketing your POETRY during National Poetry Month
I mentioned in a recent post that while I’m not much of a poet, I do recognize and delight in good poetry – when read aloud or performed at a slam. Well, it’s the perfect time for me to go out and get some exposure to poetry, because April is National Poetry Month. Established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is a time when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools, and poets around the country organize to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and nonprofit organizations also participate with readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.
If you’ve ever thought about dabbling in poetry, I found a great little book called Poems from Homeroom: A Writer’s Place to Start, by Kathi Appelt. It has three parts: Introduction, Poems, and Writing Prompts. Each of the hundreds of writing prompts ties back to one of Appelt’s poems, on subjects ranging from cyberlove to the driver’s license to the science fair. This poem caught my eye because it reminds me of someone I used to know:
What He Took with Him
His Pink Floyd T-shirt and two more,
a week’s worth of clean boxer shorts,
his toothbrush and half a tube of Colgate
with baking soda, a stick of Old Spice
Original, same brand his father used,
forty-one dollars and some change,
a fresh pack of Camel Lights in a box,
a book of matches, some mismatched socks,
the Tao Te Ching, one blue marble, his mother’s heart,
his father’s broken one, all their dreams.
What he left behind:
the cream-colored cat, wild in her loneliness,
his CD collection, quiet; the air,
wondrous for his being there.
What follows next are some ideas for marketing your poetry. For those non-poets still hanging with me, you’ll probably want to keep reading, as many of these things would apply to other genre,s as well. Some are fairly unsophisticated, some tried and true. Try the ones that appeal to you and let the others go. My goal is simply to inspire you to go out and find a way to make a name for your poet self and let the world know about your work.
1. Start a Notebook on Poets.org. The Poets.org site allows users to build their own personal online commonplace book out of the materials on their site. The Notebooks feature serves as a scrapbook, enabling you to bookmark links to things like poems, biographies, upcoming events, and audio clips. Users create a user name and password and are able to create as many Notebooks as they want.
2. Participate in an Open Mic Night. Yes, lots of poets do them – but if it’s the only exposure I really get to new poetry, it may be the only exposure a lot of people get to new poets and poetry. Sometimes open mic nights have a featured reader or writing workshop, but generally there is a sign-up sheet for anyone interested. Each poet is called to step up to the microphone and read a poem or two. Check your local newspaper or library, ask at your local coffee house, or scan Meetup.com to find an open mic night in your area.
3. Be a guerilla marketer: put your poem on bookmarks or postcards and leave them in unexpected places.
In my view, books should be brought to the doorstep like electricity, or like milk in England: they should be considered utilities, and their cost should be appropriately minimal. Barring that, poetry could be sold in drugstores (not least because it might reduce the bill from your shrink). At the very least, an anthology of American poetry should be found in the drawer of every room in every motel in the land, next to the Bible, which will surely not object to this proximity, since it does not object to the proximity of the phone book.
— Joseph Brodsky, from An Immodest Proposal
Find unusual places to leave your poems: with the receipt for your dinner when you go out to eat, in restrooms of public venues, on subways and buses, in coffee houses and art galleries. Just get a bunch and carry them with you everywhere!
4. Another term for guerilla marketing is mischief marketing. Embrace the mischievous child in you and write a line or two of your poetry on a public sidewalk. Get some really colorful chalk (or something that will contrast well with your chosen sidewalk). Choose a large, clean piece of sidewalk or pavement to write on. Add drawings or arty flourishes for added interest and fun. If you’re not really an artist, do you have an artistic friend you could enlist to help? Make sure you include your name, Facebook link, or website.
5. Organize a reading or slam. Earlier we talked about participating in an open mic night. That’s phase one. The next step is putting your name on the whole show. This will take some initiative and an investment of time and perhaps money – but it will also help you begin to create a brand as a poet who supports other poets. Invite poets whose work you admire or select poets you know from writers groups, workshops, local colleges, and universities (both professors and students), or announce a call for readers via Craigslist and your social media outlets. Consider your local library, coffee shop, bookstore, art gallery, bar, or performance space for venues.
6. Teach a poetry class. This may not be for everyone, but if you have a gift for writing poetry and the ability to share some of your secrets with those who want to learn, it could be a great way to further band yourself. Community colleges are often looking for interesting new classes and can be fairly easy to get into. Also consider simply renting some space at your local library or bookstore meeting room. Put ads on Craigslist or Meetup and use your social networks to promote your class.
7. Add a line, stanza, or whole poem to your e-mail signature. This is a simple thing to do and, while it may not make a huge difference immediately, the branding imprint can add up over time. Consider the fact we must see a new advertising message about 21 times before it really registers with our conscious brians – which is why you see the same commercials again and again and again, often through lots of different media. Your e-mail signature can have a similar effect.
8. Submit, submit, submit!! Get a copy of the 2012 Poet’s Market, published annually by Writer’s Digest. Poet’s Market contains detailed information about more than 1,200 poetry publishers (book publishers, magazines, newsletters, journals, etc), including contact information, the kinds of poetry they’re looking for, deadlines, and submission guidelines. Whether your goal is to publish individual poems or a book, Poet’s Market has all the information you need to find the right publisher.
All of the following come from a post called “How to Market Your Poetry Online” from The World Class Poetry Blog. These are just the first few sentences of each tip the author shared. PLEASE visit the actual post for the rest of the info, as it is REALLY good!
- When you get an acceptance letter, buy yourself a beer (or a coffee if you don’t drink); if you’re Mormon, drink Kool-Aid. DO NOT publish your poem on your blog before it appears in the journal that accepted it.
- Record yourself reading your poem. All you need is a little digital recorder. Nothing fancy, just a little digital recorder you can get at RadioShack for $40.
- Write a few articles about poetry. Nothing elaborate, just short pieces about the kind of poetry you like, who your influences are, etc. However, avoid making the article about you; make it about your subject.
- Get an inexpensive webcam or digital camcorder and make a video of yourself reading your poem. Upload the video to YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo! Video, and other video sharing sites.
- Repeat all of the above for every poem you get published.
As with any book, your goal with your poetry is to get the word out there about your work so that the right people can find you and buy it – or hire you to perform at their company picnic. Set your goals first, and then create a plan. Poetry may be a bit more challenging than other writing to sell, but if you have the desire and a well-crafted plan, you can do it.
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
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