One tactic to selling and making money from your poetry is to pursue outlets other than bookstores. This post can help you think creatively about how to make a dime selling rhyme.
Many poets believe selling their poetry is as hard as… well… selling poetry. But if you look beyond the bookstore, you can find many sales opportunities in market segments that could prove very lucrative. Alas! There’s hope that you can make money from your poetry.
A basic tenet for selling anything is to first know your target market. No one can market to “everybody,” so consider the five “Ws” to describe people who might buy your poetry:
- Who is the typical reader you had in mind when you wrote your poetry? Is the person male or female? In what age group?
- Where do they shop?
- When do they buy? Is your poetry devoted to a holiday or a special seasonal period?
- What do they buy (printed books, eBooks, audiobooks)?
- Why do they buy? Are they seeking a relaxing message? A humorous diversion? This description can also help in your product development. For example, if you are writing poetry for seniors, you might consider publishing a large-print version.
Write a one-sentence description of your content and how your target readers will benefit from it. Use this sentence as a format: My poetry helps __________ who want ________ get _________.
For example, your sentence could be, “My poetry helps children who want to be entertained get more fun from having their parents read to them.” If seniors are a target segment, your sentence could be, “My poetry helps older adults who want to enjoy their golden years by reading and discussing poetry with a positive message in groups with friends.”
Given the descriptions above, what specific things must you do to reach your objectives? It is helpful to group these activities under two major topics: 1) where you will sell it and 2) how you will promote it. The sections below include examples to help you get started. Your own actions will vary according to your content and target readers.
Where will you sell?
- When you know where your readers shop, then you know where you want to have your book for sale. Examples of retail outlets for poetry could include Christian chain bookstores that sell poetry, such as Parable and Cokesbury. Look to independent spiritual bookstores such as Bodhi Tree Bookstore or sell your books in the Poetry Store.
- Do your potential readers travel? If so, seek distribution through airport stores for a relaxing read mid-flight. Do they shop in supermarkets? Then have your books there. The same concept applies to discount stores, gift shops, and parks.
- Examples of non-retail opportunities include schools, associations, and libraries. These prospects require direct selling since there are no distribution partners (except for libraries) that sell books to non-retail buyers. The Academy of American Poets provides a number of unique opportunities and benefits for businesses and corporations. Weddings, christenings, and retirements are historically good markets for poetry. Conduct an Internet search to find people who plan these events and contact them about using your poetry as a premium or to resell it. For example, the Association of Wedding Planners lists its members with hot links to their sites. You can even offer to customize poetry for their clients.
- Sell your poems to greeting cards companies. Here’s a blog post that lists eight companies that will pay you to write greeting cards.
- Contact Yankee Candle (or other similar companies) and get them to bundle your poetry with a candle to give their customers a soothing event. Offer to customize poems for them to help celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or another holiday.
- Join an association to network with other poets, speak at their conferences, and peruse their list of resources. Here are several examples: Visionary Poetry Association, the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association, and the National Association for Poetry Therapy. Discover the Poetry Foundation Library, the Midwest’s only library dedicated exclusively to poetry. Does your state have a poetry association, as Oregon and Ohio do?
- What other organizations could use the information in your book? Members of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy might use poetry as a membership premium or to resell to members.
- Do you write poetry for children? If so, check out the Poetry Foundation.
- Do you write niche poetry? Find paying markets for science fiction poetry at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association — there’s probably something out there for your niche as well.
How you will promote it?
There are many public-relations activities that can reach people in your target markets. A lot of media exposure is free so you can get maximum coverage on a limited budget.
- Write a one-page press release focusing on what makes you and your poetry unique, enjoyable, relaxing, and/or important. Begin with a simple statement or question (your hook) that will get the attention of the reader. Your hook is the key concept that makes you or your poetry unique and beneficial to your audience. Where to send it? Here’s an official directory of newspapers.
- And while you’re contacting newspapers, write letters to the editor or submit informative articles. What newspapers does your target buyer read? Could they review your book, write about it, or publish your articles about writing poetry?
- What magazines could review or write about your book, or to which you could send articles? Family Christian is a “digital magazine of fresh and vibrant voices to fuel your family’s life” or try Poetry Magazine (which pays for submissions). At Poets & Writers, you can “connect your poems, stories, essays, and reviews to the right audiences by researching over 1,200 literary magazines” in its database as well as get a jump on writing contests, grants, and awards.
- There may be plenty of other award competitions that could be right for your poetry. Poetry Magazine lists awards, and you can find poetry contests by state at the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. The Science Fiction Poetry Association has the Rhysling Awards and sponsors poetry contests.
- On what radio shows could you be a guest? Choose shows that people in your target audience will listen to. Search and get contact info for all U.S. radio stations at Radio Locator.
- Who could review your book? How about American Poetry Review, Critical Poetry Review Magazine or Poetry International? Discover more about these and other journals that review poetry at The Review Review. Then contact outlets to publish your reviews. For further reading on this topic see the Publisher’s Weekly article, “What Poetry Reviews Are For (and Up Against),” by Craig Teicher.
- Time the introduction of your book with special marketing periods (key dates, anniversaries, etc.) relevant to your title. Get on the air in April and talk about 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month and celebrate national “Poem In Your Pocket Day” (April 14). Find more examples at Holiday Insights.
- When you contact appropriate retail outlets, tell them you are willing to conduct an in-store event or poetry reading. The Poetry Foundation lists events at which you may read, and why not attend (or speak at) the National Association for Poetry Therapy’s Annual Conference?
There are so many more opportunities out there for you. Search the Internet for other options in other categories for your specific style of poetry and you may soon learn that rhyme does pay.
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