When I first started writing poetry, it was for a poetry class in college. I took the class because I had wanted a source of motivation to begin writing haiku, free-form, and traditional poetry. I soon discovered that I loved writing in these styles, and I received lots of praise for my efforts from my fellow classmates, my professor, and published poets. I enjoyed it so much that I kept doing it after the class had ended. My poems began to pile up, and before long I wondered if I could make any money with my stylized verses. After doing some research, I uncovered a few decent ways to earn some money for a poet of promising skills—of course, not enough to support one's lifestyle, but perhaps to enjoy a steak dinner at a cheap restaurant every Friday night.
Here are 10 quick tips that may inspire you.
1. Sell a Poem to a Magazine or Anthology
Okay, not many mainstream magazines buy poetry these days, but plenty of literary publications of high literary merit, like The New Yorker, still do. You can sell poems to magazines and literary journals, both large and small, print or digital, for cash. Pay rate, on average, is between 50 cents to $2 per line. Check out submission guidelines for Poets & Writers magazine, Poetry magazine, The Sun magazine, and many more. Also check out my Poetry Call for Submissions to keep yourself current with what poetry publishers are seeking and their deadlines.
2. Sell a Book of Poetry
I know, not many large presses risk their money on publishing books of poetry collections, but you can find plenty of niche publishers that do. This is, perhaps, the most difficult way to make money off of poetry because the rejection rate is so high. Small press publishers, with specialized genres, are more likely to buy your collection of poetry if you are "notable" in your field and have an existing platform of fans. You'd be lucky if a small press publisher gave you an advance against royalties; otherwise, payment is usually in royalties, 30-50% per copy sold. Refer to Poets & Writers' Small Presses Database for a list of poetry book publishers.
3. Self-Publish and Sell Your Own Chapbooks
You don't have to wait for a publisher to package and publish your poems. You can print up your own books of poetry, which are known as chapbooks, and sell your titles as ebooks or print-on-demand books. Use popular services offered by Amazon.com's CreateSpace.com, Smashwords.com, BookBaby.com, or LuLu.com for both printing and distribution.
4. Start a Poetry Blog
You can publish your poems on a blog and make money off of the advertising. You can use Google's Adsense, Amazon's affiliate program, affiliate links offered by CommissionJunction (CJ.com), or any other pay-per-view or pay-per-click ad service. The downside: you are in charge of generating readership.
5. Win a Contest
A gazillion, billion poetry contests welcome poets to submit their poetry for a chance to win cash prizes and publicity. Of course, poetry contests that insist on having applicants pay an entry fee could put you in temporary debt, but luckily, many popular contests offer free entry. Check out my compiled list of free poetry contests here, here, and Creative Writing Contests.
6. Place Your Poetry on Content Sites
A number of "pay-per-view" and ad-sharing sites like Yahoo! Voices, Bubblews.com, Hubpages.com, and Squidoo.com offer payment, albeit very small, for content that generates readers, views, and likes.
7. Write Greeting Cards
If you are good at writing sentimental poetry that rhymes, you can make some money by selling your poems to the greeting card companies. I often list these "call for submissions" here, at WritingCareer.com. A few greeting card companies that buy poetry-inspired verses are Hallmark, Blue Mountain, Designer Greetings, Amber Lotus Publishing, and many others.
If you like to help others, you can receive both financial and emotional rewards from sharing your knowledge of poetry with others. Some of my most satisfying moments in life have been seeing my students discover the joys of completing their own poems and sharing them with the class.
9. Write Songs
Poets are naturals at writing lyrics. Hang out at music clubs or poetry slams in your area if you want to meet local musicians who will pay someone like you who can write lyrics well. Post an ad on CraigsList.com advertising your availability to write lyrics for local or national bands.
10. Publish Your Own Poetry Magazine or Anthology Series
Starting your own poetry magazine or anthology series may sound costly (and, perhaps, really nuts), but some poets do with the help of fundraising campaigns on KickStarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Fundable.com where you can raise funds from sponsors. Successfully funded poets have earned money by selling single issues and digital subscriptions though popular distribution platforms like Zinio.com, Issuu.com, Amazon.com, and Apple's iTunes store.
11. Bonus TIP: Zazzle It
Print and sell your poetry verses on t-shirts, coffee mugs, wedding invitations, and office products by using Zazzle.com, an online retailer that lets you upload text and images to create your own merchandise and sell it worldwide.
If you are having fun writing poetry, you will find that you will naturally uncover resources to earn some money with your writing talents. The energy you bring to your poetry is contagious. Others will want to share in the joy, and they will be willing to pay for that privilege.
- Brian Scott
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