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If you’ve been writing poetry for any length of time, you’ve probably realized that there simply isn’t much money to be made in poetry. Poems are published primarily in literary journals and magazines that are affiliated with colleges and universities. Because those publications usually have a small subscriber base and work on a restrictive budget, writers are paid very little for their individual poems—if they are paid at all.
Also, because big New York publishing houses do not generally publish contemporary poetry (except for those elite poets who are household names), literary agents generally will not represent poets. Some authors may stand to make a small profit from winning poetry awards or publishing a book of poems, but few can quit their day jobs.
However, if you’re creative enough to be a poet, you may be creative enough to figure out how to make a little extra income by writing poetry. Although poetry, in its most literary forms, is usually limited to high-end magazines and literary journals, there are some practical ways that writers have been known to turn their poetic urges into dollars.
Write for the greeting card companies. If you love poetry, you can write greeting cards and verses. Every greeting card you read was written by a real-life human—not some impersonal poetry-generating robot. In fact, some greeting card writers even become relatively well-known, having their bylines written in the cards they pen. You may not be able to make a living by writing greeting cards, but you’ll have a good time indulging your muse—and getting paid for it! To get a foot in the door, approach a greeting card company like you would any creative writing publisher—with research and professionalism. Go to the store, jot down the names of greeting card companies, and look up their submission guidelines. Then follow those guidelines word-for-word. Poets are allowed to be creative in their writing, but in their submissions, professionalism is key.
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Teach. If you love language and literature—and you have the added bonus of being a people person—you just might find your calling in teaching. You can teach poetry at the high school or college level and beyond. Or you can teach just for fun on your own. Though you may not make oodles of dollars on your poetry, your poetry publications may earn you some money in the form of a nice, cushy teaching job (some positions will pay you to use your time to write and publish because your publications make the particular school look good). So even if teaching means you can’t spend every waking moment of your eight-hour day writing poems, you can, at the very least, spend your working day immersed in them. Not a bad gig!
Start your own business. Poets have long been forced to be creative and flexible, and because of that some poets can be great business people. Start a company writing personalized poems for people who might not have the same particular talent as you do. Are you naturally gifted at writing poems about mothers on Mother’s Day? Or what about writing poems as eulogies? Let out your inner entrepreneur and your muse at the same time!
Go into songwriting. Poetry and music are very close to one another in many ways. For poets who have a particularly musical ear, songwriting might be a good way to earn a little extra cash. Indulge your love of words, meaning, phrasing, metaphor, and depth. How do you start becoming a songwriter? It’s not the easiest journey. It may help to know how to read and write music, as well. But who knows? Write one song that takes off, and you might even go big-time!
Look for appropriate spin-offs of the poetry publishing biz. Would you want to work for a charity that supports the arts? How about a magazine that focuses on poetry? Those jobs are out there—it’s just a matter of being alert, open, and focused on getting them. You may need to build up a killer bio to nail a job related to the poetry business (and Writer’s Relief can help with that). But full-time jobs in the poetry business do exist. You’ll need to network with local poets, keep garnering publication credits, and be vigilant!
If you’d like to build up your poetry publications, remember to check out Writer’s Relief. We’ve got a great reputation for helping poets of all levels improve their bio so they can go on to get the clout they deserve. For more information, visit www.WritersRelief.com.