Want Cash For Your Poems? Learn About Commercial Magazines

Category: Publish Your Poetry

A beginning poet will earn the greatest income from publishing in textbooks, commercial anthologies or commercial magazines.

WANT CASH FOR YOUR POEMS? LEARN ABOUT COMMERCIAL MAGAZINES

Ways to Publish Poetry
This Article Is Part THREE Of A Series
by Don J. Carlson, Contributing Writer


A beginning poet will earn the greatest income from publishing in textbooks, commercial anthologies or commercial magazines if he can get published there. It is likely that first publication will not include these, as commercial writing has demands that are not at first evident to the brightest or most skilled beginner. Mainstream publication yields little income per poem and requires an organized effort to keep sending poems to potential publishers.

Pay is often by the word; but lengthy poems do not sell as readily as short or moderate length poems. The Poet’s Market gives the prices paid by various publications; so it is not hard to figure how many poems you need to publish to earn a specific amount of money. You must write a lot, write very well, appeal to a large segment of the public, and promote your work enthusiastically and effectively. You must also come to know the requirements of the various publishers and know what to send to each. Even then, you may not get 100 percent acceptance.

LEARN FROM THE BOOKS AND WRITER’S MAGAZINES
There are numerous new books that explain the ins and outs of getting published. It is wise to take a lot of time scanning contents and skimming through the books in the bookstore, to select books that will be helpful to you in your quest for publication. Subscribe for a year to one or two writer’s magazines. Writer’s Digest is a standard that is helpful to new and experienced writers. Visit your local bookstore or magazine stand and see what is there. Many supermarket or department store magazine racks may not include anything as specialized as Writer’s Magazines, so you may have to shop around. The magazine rack in your public library may have more variety of magazines than anyplace else in town. If you can’t find them in your area, try surfing the net for a magazine.

There are many websites on the internet which give articles about writing and publishing. Learn to use search engines to find them. Writer’s Digest can be found online at http://www.writersdigest.com and gives an opportunity to browse through back issues. The browsing however seems to be more in the form of descriptions of articles, than actual articles.

COMMERCIAL MAGAZINES
Commercial magazines make their profit from advertising and subscriptions. They do not try to make poets pay to be published. They do not depend so much on subscriptions as do literary magazines. Literary magazines earn a significant portion of their support from subscriptions; and operate on tiny budgets, often subsidized by grants, donors, and alumni, whereas commercial magazines do not. Nor do they ask poets to subsidize them by any method other than providing writing for which they can expect to receive a standard pay rate. If you feel you are subsidizing a publisher, you probably are.

LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A POETIC BASS BOAT AND A CRUISE SHIP
Commercial magazines are much more varied in their appeal to readers and they usually reach a far greater readership. Comparing the budget of Reader’s Digest to a university literary magazine is like comparing a cruise ship to a bass boat. You can get a beverage on either, but it will be served with considerably more style on the cruise ship. Remember, though, that the bass boat may be more likely to have your usual brand or flavor.

You may decide that your niche is to appeal to one, or a few, preferred literary magazines. A person who starts out expecting to make a lot of money writing poetry is not likely to follow through with the work necessary to accomplish it. Besides, most poets just want to court the muse and join the ranks of other poets. Poets are not among the most greedy members of society- but we are talking commercial here.

THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY PUBLISHING COIN
The cruise ship does not need to resort to amateurs for entertainment, but can hire the Las Vegas acts. When you submit your writing to the commercial magazines, especially the ones with great circulation, you are in heavy competition for popular writing. For every poet who submits to your favorite literary magazine there are many who submit to the slick magazine. They can pick from many poets but they don’t quibble over pay. The literary magazine prints many more poems than a slick magazine. The literary magazine may print 60 to 100 poems per issue while the commercial magazine prints a half dozen.

WHO IS YOUR PROMOTER?
The commercially successful poet writes prolifically, promotes in all directions and seeks opportunities to read poems to others. First, he reads a lot of poetry without pay while paying his dues. When asked what he charges for a reading he is not hesitant to name a price, nor is he hesitant to renegotiate, or do freebies.

DO YOU HAVE A LITERARY DEGREE OR A HANDICAP?
There are many poets who do not have a literary degree for each one who does. If you have such a degree you will have laid the groundwork for a more successful career as a poet, most likely teaching poetry, as well as taking your writing on the road and sending it to publishers. If you start young, and learn writing skills in the universities, you will likely find many opportunities. If you are also talented and interesting, you will have the skills to take advantage of those opportunities. Many skilled academic poets have few promotional skills. Poetry is not generally considered a very lucrative field, but fulfilling for other reasons.

IDENTIFY YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS
There are many poets who did/do not have academic degrees. It is possible in our age of literacy to have a lot to offer as a poet without having accumulated high honors in college. Each poet must consider his ambitions and goals. Many write for modest reasons and are satisfied to write for a small readership. Some have hopes of great acclaim or a best seller poetry book. Knowing what must be done to achieve a goal can help the poet along the road or make him realize that he did not want it all that badly.

EDITING AND DISTRIBUTION: THE REAL ADVANTAGES OF PUBLISHING
It may sound as if the prospects of commercial success for a poet are pretty dim unless he teaches college. Yet many poets continue to write, hoping for wider publication, and at least some monetary rewards. Few poets become fabulously wealthy from their writing; but a good poet with skills in writing poetry has a great number of related and marketable skills. He can therefore make a significant mark in writing by starting with writing poetry.

LEARN TO APPRECIATE ANY PUBLISHER WHO PRINTS YOUR WORK
In the current series of articles the author attempts to point out some factors that will help the poet approach profit making in a more rational way that can produce results. Learn the dead ends and the opportunities first. Persist in the right directions when you have learned them. Be very appreciative when you find publishers willing to publish your work or to pay for it. Such people can be of great value in helping you to steer your career wisely.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOUR EDITOR
A reputable publisher will help you with editing and distribution. You must try to learn to write so well that editing is not necessary, and then utilize the skills of the best editor available, to make your writing even better. Even when editing is not necessary it can be helpful. An editor can help the writer understand better how an intelligent reader might misunderstand what the poet has written and therefore enable the poet to correct the problem before it gets into print.

YOU WILL LEARN TO DO MUCH MORE THAN WRITE

LET YOUR READERS KNOW YOU
Distribution also is partly the poet’s responsibility. If you get a book published you must go out and promote it at poetry readings, book sales and signings. Even a small scale publication will sell much better when the readers have a chance to get to know the poet.

© 1999 Don J. Carlson


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