How Can I Publish My Poetry with a Reputable Publisher?

Poetry publishing companies abound, both in the print market and online. Unfortunately, there is much confusion about which publishers are legitimate, and which companies are scams that only seek to collect money from desperate poets. But whether you want to produce a chapbook of your poems to sell in bookstores, or get your poems published in literary magazines, there are ways to sort the honest publishers from the snake oil salesmen. Use these tips to stay savvy.

The first stop in your Internet research should be the website of CLMP--Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers. This non-profit literary organization has listings of small presses and lit mags that publish poetry. This is a professional organization of legitimate publishers who pay authors, not the other way around! One thing to be mindful of, is that these presses are very small, and therefore quite selective about what they publish. Research each press to understand the editors' tastes before submitting a manuscript or set of poems.

Submit your work to poetry contests offered by established literary journals and publishers. Although the Internet is rife with scam competitions, many reputable publishers hold yearly contests with low entry fees. The prizes are usually cash, as well as a small print run of your manuscript. You may also receive contributor copies. Placing in poetry competitions is a great way to establish credentials to get published in more prestigious journals. You can verify that a journal is real by checking if any libraries stock back issues.

If you have a larger manuscript of poetry you'd like to publish, submit query letters to literary agents. While most agents represent authors of fiction and non-fiction, there are many who represent poets on a limited basis. The job of an agent is to pitch your poetry to publishing houses on your behalf. You can find agent listings in the current guide to literary agents.

If you cannot find editors and publishers to print your poetry, investigate self-publishing. Print-on-demand (POD) and self-publishing houses only charge you for the physical printing costs; you retain complete control over the book from cover to cover. Depending on the company you choose, you may or may not get help with distribution and selling, so read the fine print before committing to a self-publisher. Amazon has also stepped into the self-publishing market, and readers can buy your poetry books easily online.

Avoid anthology publishers. Most of these are simply scams that prey on desperate authors. "After careful selection," they will print your poems in an anthology alongside other "carefully selected" poems. Then, they will charge you $20-$30 for a copy of the book. The books are cheaply made and crammed with awful poetry.

The number one rule for determining whether a publisher is legitimate is to note in which direction the money flows. Reputable poetry publishers make sure that the money flows toward the author.

© Had2Know 2010