Tips for Self-Publishing Poets

December 2003
by David O. Offutt

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These days, more and more poets take the road to self-publishing. Many get lost.

The main problem is that few poets–startlingly few–give any thought to what they plan to do once they have their collected poems in their hands as a book. Let’s take a look at some things to consider well before publication and some measures to take to reach enthusiastic readers afterward.


Who is your book for? A poem can be like a letter: personal, reflective, plaintive, or humorous. Still, it had better have some surface attraction that speaks to someone. How do you define that someone?

In the world of poetry, niche markets might include ecological, ethnic, feminist, gay/lesbian, spiritual, and the time-honored religious. I know of a bookstore in Austin that deals exclusively in feminist writing; there must be more. In Corpus Christi, Texas, religious bookstores far outnumber the secular.

Regional niches work for poetry too, particularly now because people want the reassurance that familiarity and tradition offer. Can you pitch yourself as a poet of your community, state, or region? If so, you may want to send fliers and even sample copies to historical societies, parks and recreation departments, museums, civic groups, and libraries in your area.

Look for the odd but related venues–hotels, for example, or out-of-doors events that invite vendors. The computer is your friend in this search. If possible, send your pr…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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