By Michelle True
Whether you just published your first book or your tenth, whether you write poetry, fiction or non-fiction, the key to book sales is marketing and promotion. Poetry is not going to make a writer rich. However, being recognized as a published poet can lead to paid gigs. There are a number of things you can do as a poet to market yourself. Many of these tips also apply to writers of all genres.
I know of a number of authors who "say" that they never make an appearance, write an article, etc unless they are paid for it. I donít know whether this is true, but if it is, these people are missing out on some extraordinary opportunities. As in any profession, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door as a writer. Once your foot is in, you can generally manage to sneak in your whole leg and eventually your entire body.
If you know where to look, there are many opportunities for poets to self-promote. Take advantage of them all, because one can often lead to another, more lucrative one.
For example, I started a local poetry writers group in 2003. No one pays any fees and I don't earn a single penny from it. In 2004, someone in the group referred me to a local library that participates in the Inside Writing & Publishing series for the North Suburban Library System. In March and April every year, they sponsor 10 or so local writers to present a variety of writing-related workshops. They pay the writer $50 per hour for each workshop. The library contact called me and asked if I would present a poetry-publishing workshop.
I developed a 2-hour workshop, presented it at four libraries in March/April 2006, and earned a total of $400. I put together a flyer stating what was covered in the workshop, listed a number of the comments from the workshops (which were all extremely positive), and added a new workshop I was asked to develop - an introduction to poetry writing. I started sending that out to park districts, writing groups and other places that teach writing classes in the Chicago area, and already have commitments to present my workshops to various places starting this fall.
Below are a few ideas to get you started. Some of them do not pay, and some of them do pay. Remember, doing something you are NOT paid for can easily lead to something you ARE paid for!
1. Start and run a poetry-writing group.